Choosing the Best Background Protection for Your Business

There is no question that businesses need to perform background screenings on their employees. Working to avoid job applicants with questionable or criminal histories helps companies avoid safety issues and negative legal ramifications in the workplace. Delving into an employee’s history takes time and money. Consequently, more and more employers are turning to third-party background screening firms in order to make the hiring process benefit their need to focus on their company’s primary business.

The market for background checks falls into two main categories: self-serve online entities and background screening firms that perform the majority of the work for the contracting business. Online background screening services seem appealing because they are usually inexpensive and provide quick results. However, most of the time employers get exactly what they pay for with these sites and sacrifice quality for low cost. Additionally, most online services that allow businesses to check their employees’ backgrounds themselves do not comply with the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). Companies that do not adhere to FCRA standards open themselves up to a multitude of lawsuits.

Background screening firms provide a much more comprehensive service, and the additional cost is worth the money when one considers that these firms follow legal guidelines for vetting employees and provide thorough, specialized results. When choosing a background check company, employers should consider the following:

  • Legitimate firms will provide multiple checks, preferably from multiple vendors. These checks routinely include criminal, education/employment verification, and credit (about 47% of employers conduct credit checks on their employees); although a plethora of other checks exist that these firms can tailor to the employer’s needs.
  • Third-party background check companies will be FCRA compliant.
  • Employers should ensure that the cost of the service helps eliminate legal risks.
  • Employers should avoid contracting screening firms that offer social media checks for employees, because these checks can run the risk of equal opportunity employment lawsuits depending on the type of information the employee has on his/her social media profiles.

Because keeping the workplace safe and out of legal trouble is paramount in conducting business, employers not only need to screen their potential and current employees, but they need to do it correctly with the right firm and the proper resources. Doing so will provide peace of mind for everyone involved and allow employers to focus on their business and organizational needs knowing they’ve done their due diligence.

US Senate Calls for Stricter Background Check Regulations in Schools

Senate is getting serious about child welfare in public schools. Earlier this month, Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey and West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin proposed a bill that would require schools in all states to raise the bar when performing background checks on employees and volunteers. The bill would disallow public schools from hiring anyone convicted of the following:

  • Violent Crimes
  • Sex Crimes
  • Homicide
  • Crimes against Children
    • Abuse
    • Neglect
    • Pornography

The bill further requires the schools to pass on existing and prospective employees convicted of felony assault and/or drug offenses within the last five years. Additionally, school districts would no longer be able to engage in the practice of “passing the trash,” where employees suspected of child abuse are often sent to other school districts so that the current employer does not have to deal with the problem.

Currently, 12 states do not require any sort of background check on several non-teaching positions, including volunteers and classroom aides, and Toomey’s bill would aim to safeguard children on a much more comprehensive level.

Under the proposed bill, public schools must check all employees and volunteers against two state databases and two federal databases. Non-compliance with the bill would result in a loss of a portion of federal education funding.

Those opposed to Toomey’s bill cite three reasons for its rejection.

  1. If a school employee has committed a crime and paid his/her time, some members of senate believe that individual should not be further punished by being barred from gaining employment in public education. Toomey responded by stating that children should never be put at risk by exposure to anyone who has committed a violent or sexual crime against a child.
  2. Certain senators would like to see matters of public education handled at the state level, but Toomey argues the practice of passing the trash necessitates federal control in order to protect children (in 2014 alone, 459 school employees were arrested for crimes against children).
  3. Some contend that any provision that dictates how to handle school employees that are merely suspect of misconduct against a child and have not actually been convicted is an unfair and convoluted requirement. However, Toomey states that passing the trash occurs in many cases where sufficient evidence existed to terminate an employee but not necessarily to convict him/her.

The bill’s inception was inspired by a case of passing the trash, where an employee in Pennsylvania suspected of misconduct was passed to a school district in West Virginia. The employee ended up raping and killing 12-year-old Jeremy Bell in the district to which he was sent.

Though extensive background checks for employees and volunteers in public schools may seem controlling and invasive to some, the evidence indicates that the safety of children in schools is much more important than the convenience of the adults, and Toomey’s bill provides the perfect opportunity for the senate to show how much it values the well-being of America’s children.

How Outsourcing Background Checks Provides Increased Security

Though the practice has become standard, some employees might still feel a twinge of apprehension when they sign an approval to have their background screening performed by a third-party firm.

The Fair Credit Reporting Act requires businesses to inform employees and gain their written consent when conducting background checks through a third party, not because the third party is a risk in and of itself, but because these notices and authorizations provide safeguards for businesses and individuals. In fact, these third-party firms only increase the likelihood that all business transactions in the employment screening process will be performed with integrity and without bias.

Two main factors play into the decision regarding whether or not to outsource employee background screenings to a third party: time and money.

1. Using a third party to conduct employee background checks provides efficiency. Larger companies that deal with numerous employees, particularly corporations that have employees in different parts of the world, simply don’t have the exorbitant amount of time required to screen every one of them in-house.

The perceived risk: Third parties gain access to employees’ confidential information, creating a larger risk for that information to be compromised. However, some sources argue that third parties have more skill in reliability when dealing with sensitive information because the companies specialize in the sole process of screening employees. Additionally, as many components considered during a background check are a matter of public record, employees should rest assured that only information dictated by the Fair Credit Reporting Act will be investigated, and this law is especially strict in regards to third-party companies who perform the checks themselves.

2. Smaller companies might opt to perform their own background checks to save money. Because third-party organizations that provide background screenings generally charge a fee to screen each employee, companies with the time to conduct their own background checks save money.

The perceived risk: In performing their own background checks, some companies may attempt to circumnavigate the FCRA (Fair Credit Reporting Act) by failing to notify employees that their information is being sent to a third party, because the business conducts the screening itself. Companies who perform their own background checks run the risk of a perceived bias when selecting candidates for hire, because they do not employ an objective third party to conduct the background checks. Companies who conduct their own employee screenings also sacrifice valuable man hours that could be geared toward general business instead of human resources.

Surprisingly, though a third-party organization does gain access to personal information during the course of a contracted background check, the threat of compromised identity does not seem to be as big of an issue as one might think with all of the technological advances of the last 10 years. The safety of employee information does not seem to lie in the use or non-use of a third-party background screening firm, but of use of the right firm that adheres to Fair Credit Reporting Act.

Is Lying Ok on a Resume? Some Think So…

Though recent surveys reveal that resume fraud is on the rise, particularly since the 2008 recession, and despite more employers utilizing third-party firms that specialize in background and employment verification to vet job applicants, some employers say that they would still hire job applicants who lie on their resumes depending on the type of infraction committed.

In fact, not just some employers, but a reported whopping 40% said they would be willing to consider a job candidate with a lie on his or her resume, and 7% said they would overlook a lie entirely if the employer connected with the candidate.

While embellishing your resume with a few lies can certainly get you into trouble, the startling truth remains that many employers, in industries from high finance to retail, don’t care enough to drop a dishonest job candidate for one who with whom they may not get on with so well.

One might understand how an employer could let go an embellished skill set or job responsibility on a resume, but other common lies include fraudulent claims to academic degrees or professional licenses (yes, we are talking about doctors here). While the hope remains that medical facilities aren’t letting lying sacks without medical degrees operate on the unsuspecting public, the increase in employers’ willingness to overlook dishonest candidates proves just as frightening as the lies on the resumes themselves.

The Solution

Since a high enough percentage of employers value personal connection over personal integrity to prove alarming, an easy solution to avoid hiring a dishonest candidate is to conduct a thorough reference check, which will catch the majority of common resume lies, before sitting down with a job candidate. This fix may seem like a more tedious route, but verifying an appealing candidate on paper disallows that person from wooing a potential employer with further manipulation.

Additionally, checking a candidate’s academic background on a basic level (i.e. verifying his/her actual degree), seems well worth the effort, especially with so many third-party organizations performing the background checks on a potential job pool anyway.

The fact that job applicants should be honest on their resumes should go without saying, but the greater hope is that employers will initiate due diligence in the hiring process, through the use of thorough background screening, to create a safe and less-corrupt business environment.

Incomplete FBI Records Keep Qualified Citizens Unemployed

More and more companies are running background checks on applicants and longtime employees. This keeps a lot of people from getting jobs that they aren’t qualified for legally or otherwise. However, it can also keep someone who is qualified from getting a well-deserved job. Incomplete FBI records are reportedly keeping some 600,000 unemployed.

The problem with the FBI records is they often fail to include the end result of an arrest. Only one-third of arrests actually result in a conviction and even more are reduced from felony to misdemeanor offenses, but because some records are incomplete all an employee sees is that they were arrested for such and such offense—whether or not they were actually convicted. It is estimated by the Justice Department that approximately 50% of FBI records are complete.

Individuals who are affected by these incomplete records often miss out on jobs and many remain unemployed until they get their records corrected. Though it can be possible to correct a record, it is not easy and take years.

For example, a qualified nurse’s aide, Raquel Vanderpool, was fired when an FBI background check misreported a conviction from her youth that had actually been dismissed and sealed. It took Vanderpool four years to get her record corrected. And in the meantime she remained unemployed and sunk into financial ruin. Now that her record is corrected, Vanderpool is once again employed, but will likely spend many years getting out of debt.

Fortunately, several representatives are pushing legislation to change the way the FBI collects data. Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Virginia, has introduced a bill to clean up incomplete FBI background checks for employment. And Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minnesota, introduced the Accurate Background Check bill, which focuses on federal employment.