Little League Enhances Background Screening Policies
Background checks for Little League Baseball volunteers are about to become more stringent. Up until this point, background checks have only included searches of Registered Sex Offender databases. However, beginning in 2017, searches will also include various criminal background databases.
According to Stephen, D. Keener, president and CEO of Little League Baseball and Softball, “The highest priority of Little League Baseball and Softball continues to be the safety and healthy development of the millions of young boys and girls that take the field each and every day.” He goes on to state that, “While we have encouraged local leagues to complete national criminal background checks by providing 125 annual checks free of charge, this new mandate will help us ensure Little League programs are providing the best possible protection for all those involved in their communities.
Little League International was the first youth sports organization to require some sort of background checks, beginning in 2003. Little League currently prohibits participation from anyone who has a conviction, guilty plea, no contest plea, or admission to any crime involving or against a minor or minors.
The new rule beginning in January will require local leagues to take into consideration criminal records when making the determination whether the individual is unfit to participate in any manner in the league.
Thanks to Little League International’s lead, most other youth sports organizations across the country are requiring background checks for their volunteers in one form or another.
Individualized Assessments Gain Favor as Lawsuits Rise
A recent upsurge in litigation around violations of the FCRA (Fair Credit Reporting Act) has pushed companies towards use of more individualized assessments during the recruitment process.
The Fair Credit Reporting act is U.S. government legislation which was enacted to protect consumers from willful or negligent use of inaccurate information on their credit report. Good for the individual, but for companies, not complying with the rules can be a costly headache, as ridesharing company Uber has discovered.
Abdul Mohamed, a former driver for Uber, sued the company in 2014, for using his credit report in violation of the Fair Credit Reporting Act. Abdul Mohamed, who began driving for Uber in 2012, found his access to the Uber smartphone app cut off due to negative information found on his credit report. The previous year, he was required to sign two new contracts before he could sign into the app and do his work for Uber. One provision required him to submit to arbitration most disputes with the company, and another that he waive his right to bring disputes as a class action. Mohamed, in late 2014, filed a class action lawsuit in the Northern District of California, alleging that the use of his credit report violated the FCRA, and other acts. Uber later agreed to pay the full cost of the arbitration hearing – about $7,000 a day.
The FCRA rules regarding any action an employer takes with regard to an applicant’s credit report are clear. FCRA rules require a clear two-step process be followed when informing potential applicants about information on their credit report that could disqualify them. First, employers must send a “pre-adverse” action notice to the applicant who will be given five days to challenge or correct the record. The notice must include a copy of the credit report containing the negative information, as well as a document from the Federal Trade Commission outlining their rights. After five days, the employer is allowed to notify the applicant they will not be hired.
Ryan Howard, vice president of business development at Verifirst Background Screening in Philadelphia, explained that this two-step process also helps to minimize the risk of litigation, because if the report contains an error, the applicant has a real chance to correct it. “If it goes the way it should, litigation risk is minimized”, he said.
With the increased litigation, and new laws presenting more risk to employers, a new an important trend with many companies is to take an individualized assessment approach for determining what criminal offenses on a qualified applicant’s record would exclude them from employment with their company. Employers are moving away from sticking to fixed rules about what kinds of convictions would bar employees from certain jobs.
Explaining the benefits of this shift, Jackson C. Jackson, a lawyer with Morgan, Lewis, and Bockius in Chicago, said: “One, all things being equal, I think you’ll get a better decision. And you may reduce your susceptibility to class action at the same time.”
Background Checks to Face Challenges in New Year
With new legislation concerning background checks and privacy rights, as well as continued economic hardship for many Americans, 2016 has laid the groundwork for a unique set of challenges facing employers and screening services in the coming year. Kelly O. Scott and Patrick A. Fraioli Jr. of SHRM.org write that HR departments must prepare themselves to scrutinize their current employment practices more carefully as they navigate the new privacy laws.
Here is what you need to be aware of as we usher in 2017, concerning:
- Credit checks
- Criminal checks
- Social Media
According to SHRM research, about half of all employers use the results of credit checks as a criteria for applicant eligibility, but an increasing number of states are prohibiting the practice of making employment decisions based on credit reports. These states include California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington. The reasoning is this: in today’s economic climate, credit screening may be more likely to reflect hardship as opposed to a lack of judgement.
Dismissing applicants on this basis is deemed to be unfair, but even those employers who do use credit checks are required by the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) to provide:
- A copy of the credit report
- A written description of rights under the FCRA
- Opportunity to correct/explain inaccuracies before the hiring decision is made
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has made inroads in the past several years in their efforts to limit the extent that employers can make hiring decisions based on an applicant’s criminal history. These limitations include:
- Laws requiring companies to establish applicant eligibility prior to asking about their criminal background (passed in at least 24 states and 150 cities)
- FCRA prohibiting reporting of convictions after seven years
- Specific restrictions on the types of inquiries employers may make
- Prohibition of inquiries regarding sealed or expunged convictions and juvenile crimes
- Prohibition of using sex-offender info obtained from Megan’s Law websites
The Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACTA) requires the proper disposal of consumer data used for a business purpose. FACTA expects employers, who must keep applicant information by law including screening reports, to ensure that such data is protected from unauthorized access or use.
It is an established expectation to secure an applicant’s written permission before gathering their background information, but the protocols for conducting social media background checks are still evolving. For example, about half of all states prohibit employers from requiring access to an applicant’s Twitter or Facebook accounts. The reason being that it is difficult to combat the claim of hiring discrimination if the hiring manager becomes aware of the applicant’s political or religious views. Some companies use third party services to scan social media sites on their behalf, but it is important to be increasingly aware of your company’s procedures for gathering insight on candidates over social media.
Irregardless Isn’t a Word, and a Criminal Database Search Isn’t a Background Check
According to Richard White, Strategic Partnerships Director at VICTIG Screening Solutions, “Though commonly used, irregardless is not a word in the English language, and a database search is not a background check.”
Database searches are used commonly to do a criminal background check, but ironically, it is not a “real” background check. A “National Criminal Database search” sounds like it would be very inclusive of an individual’s complete criminal history. As those of us in the background screening and human resources industries know, this couldn’t be further from the truth.
Justifacts.com asks the question, “Do they (National Criminal Database searches) include the individual’s full criminal history? Is this information really available within a few minutes and only with the click of a button?”
The answer to this question is no. There is no such thing as a true “national” criminal database search. In fact, in many cases, there is no such thing as a true “state” criminal database search.
A database can be incomplete for a number of reasons. Here are several:
- A state’s criminal database may not contain records from all of the counties within the state.
- The records that are reported may be incomplete.
- Some databases only contain records when a state correctional facility was involved.
- The database is static and does not contain updates as a particular case progresses.
- The information in a database might be stale, and often times only updated on a monthly or quarterly basis.
With so many loopholes in background searches, it is important to work with a background screening company that understands the complexity of background checks, and one that will work with you to provide background checks that are as complete and accurate as possible.
Richard goes on to state that, “Here at VICTIG, while we can’t do much to help you stop using the word irregardless, we can help to provide you with the knowledge and expertise to deal with the complexities of the pre-employment screening process.”
Background Checks for Uber and Lyft Drivers in Massachusetts Now Strictest in U.S.
On November 28th, 2016, Governor Charlie Baker of Massachusetts reached a deal with the state’s ride service companies, including Uber and Lyft, that will require all drivers to undergo our country’s strictest background checks to date for ride sharing services.
The new mandate requires that drivers:
- pass state background checks
- are not registered sex offenders
- clear a search of their criminal records
- complete all checks between Jan. 6th and April 3rd 2017
This announcement comes only months after both Lyft and Uber discontinued their services in Austin, Texas following the defeat of Proposition 1, which would have exempted their drivers from fingerprint background checks. Proponents of the proposition argued that the mandates, in pushing Uber and Lyft out of the city, would expose people to a greater risk of drunk driving. Additionally, they argued that the current screening process was sufficient as well as more thorough than those imposed on taxi drivers.
Interestingly, however, a spokesperson for Lyft in Massachusetts stated, “We were pleased to reach an agreement with the Baker Administration that maintains the high safety standards we have always observed while keeping modern transportation options like Lyft available across the state.”
The Risk of Ride Sharing
The need for more severe regulations on background checks and screening processes in the ride sharing sector has become increasingly apparent to legislative bodies like the Baker Administration in Massachusetts. There have been upwards of 70 reported instances of sexual assault by Uber and Lyft drivers in 2016 alone.
In a statement provided to CNBC, Governor Baker shared his hopes that the agreement “will set a national standard for the most comprehensive state background checks for TNC drivers in the country.” TNC stands for transportation network companies, Massachusetts’ label for services like Uber and Lyft.
To set your own standard for safety and security within your organization, learn more about your screening service options.
Uber Driver Accused of Attempted Sexual Assault on Woman in Pennsylvania
Many states are currently fighting to require more stringent background checks of ride-sharing drivers, while Uber, the grand daddy of them all, is fighting it. A recent event, however, is not helping their cause.
Uber is now being faced with responding to allegations of incident assault against one of it’s drivers in Pennsylvania.
Collin Deppen of PennLive.com writes that “According to police, an Uber driver, 46-year-old Jehad Abdula Makhoul of Pittsburgh, stopped his car mid-ride and made unwanted sexual advances on the female passenger who was seated next to him in front of the vehicle.” The victim was able to push Makhoul off of her, after which he drove her to her destination. She immediately called police and informed them of what had occurred. She was unharmed, but Makhoul is now facing charges of summary harassment and incident assault.
This event is highlighting the ongoing question of safety when it comes to ride sharing services such as Lyft and Uber. There are ongoing efforts, most notably Maryland as of late, to institute more intensive background checks.
In Maryland, Uber is threatening to pull out of the state altogether as the state looks to require fingerprint-based background checks. Supporters of the measure say that Uber and Lyft don’t do a good enough job of screening their drivers. CNN reported on a story back in 2015 of sex offenders and a convicted murderer acquiring jobs at Lyft and Uber. An article in the LA Times in August 2015 reported that Uber approved 25 drivers with criminal records who provided thousands of rides to customers in LA and San Francisco.
According to Uber, their background checks are thorough enough, and include motor vehicle records, as well as county, federal, and multi-state checks going back 7 years. Critics, however, say they need to go farther. Taxi drivers, on the contrary, must undergo extensive fingerprint checks that are supposed to include a person’s complete criminal history in the United States, although there are loopholes in these extensive checks as well.
The debate will likely continue into the foreseeable future on whether or not the background checks of ride-sharing companies are “good enough”.
Background Screening in Today’s Internet Age
Believe it or not, it wasn’t long ago that an employer would fax an applicant’s information to their background screening vendor, and would receive results of the check weeks later in the mail. Before that, you had the analog world, but I won’t bore you with the archaic details. As those of us in the world of background screening and human resources know, that’s not the case in today’s technologically advanced world.
Access to the world wide web and integration with employers’ HR systems has dramatically improved turnaround times as well as convenience. According to Roy Maurer of SHRM.org, “When screening functions are linked to an applicant tracking system (ATS), candidate data flows directly to the vendor once an investigation is initiated and the results are immediately stored in the candidate’s file in the ATS.”
According to Raj Ananthanpillai, CEO and President of IDentrix, “With the speed and convenience that integration provides, some employers are opting to go above and beyond pre-employment background checks and instituting post-hire monitoring. One-and-done background checks are limited and expensive and don’t account for the dynamic nature of risk factors.” The convenience of integration is also prompting companies to perform background checks on those who they might not have before, such as temporary and seasonal workers. In many cases, these types of employees produce the same kind of risks as regular, full-time employees do.
Another added benefit of technology is the ability for a job candidate to go online and enter their own information. This makes it so the recruiter or HR Manager doesn’t have to do so, and also helps the applicant to feel like they are part of the process. This also helps streamline the legalities of the background screening process, as applicants are sent all of the disclosure forms for an electronic signature. “Technology that’s really making a difference to the process are the self-service applicant portals and a system that understands—based on the information provided by the applicant—all of the legal issues associated with the screen to ensure compliance for employers,” says Barry Boes, CEO of Austin, Texas-based Accio Data, a technology company that connects screening firms to data providers.
Finally, advanced technology in the background screening industry is helping employers to catch anyone who might be lying on their application. Roy Maurer informs us that, “According to a 2015 study by online job board and software provider CareerBuilder, 54 percent of small businesses have caught a lie on an applicant’s resume, most commonly related to their skills (61 percent) and past responsibilities (55 percent).” With emerging technology in the background screening industry, it’s becoming more and more difficult for people to exaggerate or “stretch the truth” when submitting a resume or job application.
New FTC Tenant Screening Guidelines
Earlier this week, the Federal Trade Commision issued new guidance to companies and individuals who screen potential tenants to help them comply with the FCRA.
What Landlords Need to Know
- There are necessary steps to take before getting a consumer report, and after taking any type of adverse action based on the results of the report.
- Before requesting a consumer report, you must certify to the company providing the report that the report is solely going to be used for housing purposes.
- If a landlord decides to take adverse action against a tenant or applicant, they must first give notice.
- When sending an adverse action notice, it must include contact information for the company that provided the report, as well as an explanation of the applicant or tenant’s right to dispute the report.
What Background Screening Companies Need to Keep in Mind
- According to Lisa Weintraub Schifferle who reported on the recent changes in guidance, reports a background screening company are covered by the FCRA ” if they’re used to decide eligibility for housing and include information ‘bearing on a consumer’s creditworthiness, credit standing, credit capacity, character, general reputation, personal characteristics, or mode of living.’ “
- If the tenant screening company is covered by the FCRA, it has several main requirements:
- Follow procedures and be accurate.
- Provide clients with information about the FCRA.
- Most importantly, honor the rights of tenants and applicants.
To see the FTC’s guide for tenants on complying with the FCRA when using consumer reports, visit this link.