NFL Background Check Expansion Highlights Issue of Violence in Society

This year, the NFL draft had a broader focus than simply recruiting elite college players from around the country. The league wanted to send a message to its prospective players and the national community about the its expansion of background checks on all attendees of the draft: violent behavior is a serious issue and will be treated with severity by the NFL.

All attendees of the 2015 NFL draft were subject to extensive background checks that focused on violent behavior. Any draft pick found with a record of criminal violence was subject to further screenings. A history of violent behavior does not necessarily prohibit a player from being drafted onto an NFL team, but any candidate with a violent record will have his individual situation assessed with the prospect of recommended counseling upon entering the league. NFL administration has provided all teams with the tools and information they need to help draft picks with violent histories to adhere to the NFL’s intolerant standard of violence.

Players who attended the NFL draft were required to attend a domestic violence and sexual assault session. The NFL wants to inundate new players with the key role they can play in advocating against domestic violence, sexual assault, and child abuse through outstanding personal conduct and community outreach. These players play a societal role just as much as they play an important role on the field.

The NFL’s new focus on eliminating violent behavior in its prospective and current athletes is a partial result of past controversies in prominent players like Ray Rice, who was caught on film in an aggravated assault against his then fiancee, now current wife. Rice lost his contract at the time, but is still allowed to play in the NFL for any team who is willing to contract him as a free agent.

Conducting thorough background searches on their prospective athletes and educating them on the seriousness of violent behavior assists NFL players in conducting themselves properly and avoiding any legal issues. More importantly, the NFL’s new stance on eliminating violent behavior in the league highlights the issue of violent behavior in society, particularly in the domestic sector. These problems may have a greater promise for change with major organizations like the NFL behind them.

Landlords Value Rental Histories Over Credit Scores

For those who elect to rent their place of residence, whether by choice or necessity, no statute or law exists that dictates how landlords and property management companies determine which applicants qualify for housing. Records and agencies exist that assist property owners in evaluating an applicant’s personal and financial background. The most common screenings a landlord will perform include:

  • credit checks
  • criminal background checks
  • evictions/rental history
  • employment/salary verification

Fortunately for renters who may worry that a bad credit score or other screening will affect their ability to obtain housing, landlord references provide a broader picture of a potential tenant’s reliability. Credit reporting bureaus (i.e. Experian) can also contain rental information in addition to credit history. This information proves helpful to landlords who often prioritize rent being paid on time and rental unit care above an overall credit score. An individual with a history of late rent payments, early lease terminations, and/or evictions has a higher probability of being turned down for a lease than someone who pays rent on time and has a poor credit score.

Even though property owners and management companies can determine the level to which they screen their rental applicants, they must follow the laws regarding running background checks. These screenings must comply with the FCRA, and a rental applicant is entitled to written notice when he or she fails to qualify for a lease. Additionally, the application process must be uniform for each applicant to avoid any discrimination. Property management companies cannot require a criminal background check on one applicant and fail to conduct one on the next.

Individuals who wish to lease housing should ask the landlord or property management prior to consenting to a tenant screening (and consent is required in accordance with law) about which criteria will be evaluated. Each check comes with a fee, and landlords may charge prospective tenants more money to apply if they are running the full gamut of background screenings. Also, research allows tenants to know if certain screenings may automatically disqualify them from obtaining a lease, though individuals with poor credit with solid landlord references still have reasons to feel confident about finding housing, particularly if they can prove solid income.

Internal Workplace Investigations Should Be Direct and Efficient

Depite their best efforts to conduct the most comprehensive background check that would indicate an individual’s tendency toward inappropriate or illegal behavior, employers still find themselves having to conduct internal investigations in the workplace due to a multitude of infractions (i.e. theft, violence, sexual harrassment).

When situations that warrant an investigation arise, employers have the opportunity to make or break their workplace etiquette based on how they handle the investigative process. Not only does an employer have the opportunity to improve workplace conditions when an investigation is needed, but he or she has a legal obligation to be fair and thorough. Though no law mandates a formula for how an employer or HR department should conduct internal investigations of employee behavior, some simple guidelines help ease the process and avoid liabilities.

  1. Employers should try to be objective throughout the entire investigation. Doing so is difficult because ferreting out the truth is an ardous task to put on anyone’s shoulders considering the multitude of incident that can arise in a workplace and the fact that individuals may not be completely honest when trying to protect their livelihoods.
  2. Documentation is critical. Employers should document their employees’ previous behavior by conducting thorough background screenings, make a record of actions and conversations during an investigation, and use good judgment about which documents from the investigation to maintain.
  3. Internal workplace investigations should come to a clear conclusion that stands up against the law. If an investigation is not conducted properly, the employer could wind up with a negative reputation or expensive lawsuit. Clear, calculated decisions help avoid litigation and stand up better in court if a party takes legal action.
  4. Employees should be trained to anticipate and avoid any behavior that might result in an internal investigation. Ignorance about workplace laws and statutes is not an excuse in a court of law.
  5. Employers should be aware of the legal evolution that surrounds employment laws so that they are adhereing to such standards.
  6. Before conducting interviews or taking action, an investigation must be planned.

Free Background Checks on Private Gun Sales in Nevada Provide Political Middle Ground

The disparity between political views on gun control seems to grow with every national tragedy or school shooting, but Nevada state senators show signs of finding middle ground between the right and left wings where gun control is concerned. Recently, Republican Senate Majority Leader Michael Roberson sponsered and helped pass a bill (SB 240) that made background checks free for private gun sales in the state of Nevada. Private gun sales account for about 40% of gun sales nationwide.

While this move to make the gun acquisition process more streamlined seems to reflect the stereotypical Republican views, SB 240 comes with some additions that feed into Democrat desires on gun control. Democrats were not able to amend the bill to include private gun sales to prohibit convicted stalkers from acquiring a gun or individuals with a restraining order from having to relinquish their own firearms, but Roberson was very passionate about increasing safety protocol in requiring the bill to prevent mentally ill convicts from purchasing a gun in private gun sales. SB 240 also enhances the requirements on reporting criminal records dealing with mental illness. Roberson wanted to address current safety issues with gun acquisition without violating constitutional rights.

SB 240 may make background checks for private gun sales in Nevada free (the previous fee was $35), but it does not make these screenings mandatory. Private gun sales can still commence without a required background check, and the 2016 ballot will include a statute mandating background checks for these sales.

The matter of requiring background checks for all firearms transactions in the private sector becomes problematic because the goverment considers any sale not conducted in a federally-licensed facility to be private. Thus, while private arenas like gun shows could use more regulation in screening buyers, sales between family members and friends are much harder to control and some argue that managing these transactions through background checks could infringe on constitutional rights.

The details of Roberson’s bill appear to address the desire of many Americans to maintain the right to purchase a firearm while considering safety concerns that have contributed to past crises. Eliminating the cost of a background check when purchasing a gun in the private sector also eliminates some of the hesitation in consenting to such a screening. Criminal background checks for firearms certainly help to ensure that those guns do not fall into dangerous or criminally insane hands, but small adjustments in legislation can also provide safety measures without encroaching on citizens’ rights.

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.