Backgrounds Online Blog

  • U.S. Employers Must Use the New Form I-9 as of 9.18.2017

    September 19, 2017
    The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) agency updated Form I-9 for Employment Eligibility Verification. Employers must now use the revised form.
    Backgrounds Online | September 19, 2017

    The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) agency updated Form I-9 for Employment Eligibility Verification. Employers must now use the revised form.

    Updates to Form I-9

    The Department of Homeland Security website, https://www.uscis.gov/, states that employers who recruit, refer potential employees (for a fee) or hire must complete a Form I-9 for each candidate to help verify the person's identity and their authorization to work in the United States. As of September 18, 2017 employers must use a revised version of the Form I-9.

    Employers can find a copy of the updated form here: https://www.uscis.gov/i-9. The USCIS also created a handbook for employers that answers questions about Form I-9 and provides guidance for properly completing all relevant documentation. See that handbook here: https://www.uscis.gov/i-9-central/handbook-employers-m-274.

    Regulations Regarding Retaining Form I-9

    U.S. employers must retain a copy of every employee's Form I-9 for as long as the person is on payroll or receiving any form of remuneration. When that employment ends, the employer must keep the I-9 form for a period of time. The USCIS provides a simple method for determining how long employers must save each Form I-9 for previous employees.

    Regulations Regarding Storing Form I-9

    The USCIS provides rules for storing these forms. They must be:

    • Kept at the work site or off-site at a storage facility.
    • Retained either in a single format or via multiple formats such as paper, electronically, microfilm or microfiche.
    • Accessible for review within 3 business days in case a government official asks to inspect the documents.

    If the Form I-9 and related documents are available on paper, they may be kept with other personnel records. However, they should be separated to easily facilitate an inspection request.

    Form I-9 Inspections

    Government officials from various departments, including the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Labor, have the right to review and inspect an employer's I-9 forms and accompanying documents. In most cases, a government official will provide written notice of their inspection request and give the employer 3 business days in which to collect the necessary materials. In some cases, subpoenas and warrants may be issued to supersede the 3-day time frame.

    When asked to provide I-9 forms and related documents for inspection, employers must:

    • Collect and make available all relevant documents within the required time frame.
    • Retrieve and/or reproduce forms that are stored electronically.
    • If necessary, provide hardware or software to enable viewing of electronically stored documents.
    • Provide an electronic summary of the data contained on the Form I-9 if a summary exists.

    It is a violation of law for employers to either delay an inspection or refuse to collect and present the requested documentation.

    Staying Compliant with New and Ongoing Regulations

    When new state and federal laws are created, or existing laws are updated, employers must be aware of and compliant with those changes. Backgrounds Online endeavors to keep up with these laws and provide relevant information via our website, blog and Newsletters.

    Check our State Law section for important information about laws that that affect employers, background screening and hiring. Watch this blog for new articles about topics that might impact you. If you have questions about how we can help improve the background screening portion of your hiring process, please contact our team for assistance.

  • Avoid These Four Mistakes During Your Hiring Process

    September 13, 2017
    Many employers make the same basic mistakes when hiring new employees. Understanding and avoiding these mistakes can save your business time and money.
    Backgrounds Online | September 13, 2017

    Many employers make the same basic mistakes when hiring new employees. Understanding and avoiding these mistakes can save your business time and money.

    1. Being Unprepared For Interviews

    Failing to prepare for an interview is one of the most common hiring issues. Before scheduling an on-site appointment, think about what you'd like to tell each applicant and what you want to learn about them. Strategize on the best way to get information that helps you determine whether or not the person is right for your business.

    Prepare questions that are designed to encourage applicants to talk - not just answer "Yes" or "No." Create ways to test their knowledge about the type of work they would do if hired. Have them perform a task that is similar to one they might encounter on the job.

    Stay away from personal topics, such as asking the applicant about their family or marital status. Create a plan that keeps the interview focused and advancing forward to ensure you get everything you need during your allotted time. Listen carefully to each person so you can properly assess their performance.

    2: Hiring Too Quickly... Or Too Slowly

    When a hiring need arises, employers can be so eager to find someone that they rush through the process. While this may result in faster hires, it is unlikely to result in the right hire.

    Conversely, taking too long can cause your business to miss out on qualified candidates. If you keep an eligible applicant waiting too long, they are likely to accept another offer.

    Finding the right balance is tricky, but possible. Start by writing a thoughtful job description that provides a detailed picture of your expectations. Post the opening on various platforms to attract a wide range of applicants. Though it can be time consuming, go through each resume and schedule interviews with people who appear to be qualified. When possible, schedule phone interviews first to help optimize the list of people you will meet in person.

    3: Not Understanding Background Screening Laws

    Even when the hiring process appears to go smoothly, you can still encounter problems if you are not compliant with background screening laws. You may be familiar with the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) - federal legislation that is designed to protect consumers such as job seekers - but you should also be aware of relevant state laws.

    Here are a few federal and local laws you should know about:

    • Ban The Box - many cities and states have laws that prohibit questions about criminal records on job applications.
    • Disclosures - when asking an applicant for permission to run a background check, you must provide a disclosure document. This must be a standalone document that does not contain any additional requests, waivers or content.
    • Marijuana Usage - a few states have legalized medical marijuana usage, which has led to some changes in laws about marijuana-related misdemeanors. If you live in one of these states, make sure you are up-to-date on relevant laws.

    4: Using Outdated and Illegal Practices

    The background screening industry is constantly evolving. Some practices that were once acceptable are now prohibited in various cities and states. Examples include:

    • Asking about salary history. While this is still allowed in many places, a growing number of cities and states are banning this practice.
    • Making choices based on the applicant's personal traits. Hiring decisions should never be influenced by a candidate's gender, ethnicity, religion, age, marital status or similar factors.
    • Denying employment due to any criminal conviction. Numerous states have implemented laws to help people with non-violent criminal records find employment. While these laws vary, best practice is to consider each conviction individually. Factors to review include the type of offense, how long ago it occurred and whether or not the individual may pose a safety risk to others.

    Hiring is an often difficult but essential process for every business. Take time to develop a strategy, prepare for each interview and comply with relevant laws. These simple steps will help save your business time and money while empowering you to make informed hiring decisions.

  • Court Delays in TX & LA Due to Hurricane Harvey

    September 5, 2017
    Hurricane Harvey has caused countless tragedies in Texas and Louisiana. One side effect of this disaster is that many courthouses have been temporarily closed.
    Backgrounds Online | September 5, 2017

    Hurricane Harvey has caused countless tragedies in Texas and Louisiana. One side effect of this disaster is that many courthouses have been temporarily closed.

    Court closures will cause delays for all background checks that are being run in the affected locations. No rush orders can be accommodated in those areas at this time.

    Court Delays in Texas

    The Supreme Court Of Texas and the Court of Criminal Appeals Of Texas issued a joint order to suspend court proceedings. This order called for court closures in the following cities/counties:

    Aransas, Austin, Beaumont, Brazoria, Chambers, Fort Bend, Galveston, Goliad, Hardin, Harris, Houston, Jasper, Jefferson, Matagorda, Palo Pinto, Refugio, Victoria, and Wharton.

    On August 23, 2017 Texas Governor Greg Abbott declared 30 counties to be disaster areas. Three days later, 20 more were included. As the full extent of storm damage is determined, additional courts could be temporarily shut down.

    Court Delays in Louisiana

    Multiple courts in Louisiana are also experiencing temporary closures due to Hurricane Harvey. The list includes:

    Allen, Beauregard, Calcasieu, Grant, Jeff Davis, Natchitoches, Vernon, and Winn.

    Most Louisiana courts were closed on Tuesday, August 29. This is likely to cause minor delays in areas that are not listed above.

    Keep up with the Closures

    Backgrounds Online will be watching for news about new court closures in areas that have been hit by Hurricane Harvey. We will post additional blog entries as needed. If you have questions about the status of background checks in these or other areas, please contact us.

    Our thoughts are with the people who have been impacted by this tragic event.

  • New Spokeo Opinion: The Plaintiff Established Actual Harm

    August 29, 2017
    Spokeo v. Robins is a nationally known lawsuit that's been making headlines for over a year. A recent Court Opinion created a new chapter in this landmark case.
    Backgrounds Online | August 29, 2017

    Spokeo v. Robins is a nationally known lawsuit that's been making headlines for over a year. A recent Court Opinion created a new chapter in this landmark case.

    A Brief History

    This high profile case began when Thomas Robins filed a lawsuit against Spokeo, alleging that they violated the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). Spokeo is a website that offers people search reports with data such as addresses, phone numbers, birth dates and more. Robins' lawsuit was based on his claim that the site published incorrect information about him.

    A district court initially dismissed the case, stating that the plaintiff was unable to show any actual or imminent harm due to the incorrect data. Robins wasn't ready to give up. He went through the appeal process and his case was eventually heard by the Supreme Court.

    In May 2016, the Court ruled in favor of Spokeo. A 6-2 decision stated that Robins did not meet the requirements from Article III of the FCRA, which says a concrete injury (or actual harm) must occur to establish a violation. It seemed Robins had lost and the matter was concluded.

    The Case Receives a New Opinion

    The Spokeo case wasn't over yet. It was remanded to the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for reconsideration. Robins continued to claim that Spokeo did cause a concrete injury by having incorrect information about him on their website.

    Robins argued that Spokeo created a detriment to his ability to find work. Allegedly, the website implied that he was wealthy and had a graduate degree, which limited his employment options and caused him anxiety and stress. To determine whether or not any actual harm might have occurred, the Court examined Article III of the FCRA.

    The Appeals Court provided a new Opinion on August 15, 2017. They concluded that the "ubiquity and importance of consumer reports in modern life" demonstrates that an inaccurate report is a "threat to a consumer's livelihood." Therefore, they determined, certain types of inaccuracies in reports can constitute a concrete injury.

    In Robins' case, the Court agreed that the incorrect data found on Spokeo's site did cause harm. It was also noted that not every inaccuracy can result in a concrete injury. For example, an incorrect zip code on a people search report is not likely to lead to any real or potential harm.

    What Employers Should Learn from This Case

    Since the Spokeo case first made national news, we've seen a large increase in the number of class action lawsuits that allege FCRA violations against employers. In some instances, the courts have sided with the employer and dismissed a case because no actual harm occurred. Other courts, however, have sided with plaintiffs that can show an employer violated the FCRA in any way.

    Every employer should know that not following FCRA laws could lead to lawsuits, fines and related issues. It is essential to only use background checks that contain accurate, reportable information. Refusing to hire someone based on incorrect or outdated data can also be seen as a violation of the FCRA.

    To protect your business, best practice is to use a reputable Consumer Reporting Agency (CRA). This is a company that is authorized to produce background checks for employment and business-related purposes. They work diligently to keep up with new and evolving laws that affect their customers.

    Backgrounds Online is one of the few CRA's to be accredited by the National Association of Professional Background Screeners. Our entire staff of screening professionals has earned their FCRA certification. We are here to partner with and help guide you throughout the background screening process.

    If you have questions about following FCRA regulations during your screening process, please contact us for assistance.

  • A Man Applies for 562 Jobs and Files Class Action Lawsuits

    August 23, 2017
    After applying for numerous positions, a job seeker filed lawsuits against potential employers. He claimed these businesses violated the FCRA.
    Backgrounds Online | August 23, 2017

    After applying for numerous positions, a job seeker filed lawsuits against potential employers. He claimed these businesses violated the FCRA.

    A Lawsuit Based on Disclosure and Authorization Documents

    According to a recent article published by JD Supra, a man named Cory Groshek applied for 562 jobs over a period of one and a half years. He filled out applications, authorized background checks and initiated class action lawsuits against Time Warner Cable, Inc. and Great Lakes Higher Education Corporation (henceforth referred to as "The Appellees").

    These lawsuits stemmed from the Disclosure and Authorization forms Groshek was asked to review and sign. Such documents are used to obtain permission for an employer to run background checks on potential employees.

    Later, Groshek initiated class action lawsuits based on alleged technical violations of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). The FCRA states that a disclosure must be a "clear and conspicuous" document that is provided on a "standalone" form. Groshek claimed the disclosure documents he received did not fit this description. At Backgrounds Online, we've seen a sharp increase in lawsuits that suggest an employer did not meticulously follow FCRA regulations with their disclosure document.

    Groshek admitted that he authorized background investigations for employment consideration purposes. He also agreed that he was not confused by the disclosures he received. His only claim was that the prospective employers had technical violations of the FCRA.

    The Seventh Circuit Court Rejects This Case

    When Groshek filed a class action lawsuit against The Appellees, his claim was reviewed by the United States Court of Appeals For the Seventh Circuit. They rejected Groshek's standing and dismissed the lawsuits.

    The reason for this dismissal was that Groshek did not establish an "injury-in-fact." Since he admitted that he understood the documents he received and agreed to the screenings, the employer was deemed to have committed no injury against him.

    Instead, the court found that this was a case of a "statutory violation completely removed from any concrete harm or appreciable risk of harm." Since there was no harm or intention to cause harm, the court ruled that the plaintiff would not be allowed to proceed.

    Another Reminder for Employers

    It is unclear whether or not the candidate was specifically looking for potential FCRA violations. Regardless, this case serves as yet another reminder about the importance of adhering to federal laws that cover the screening process.

    Every employer is responsible for following FCRA and relevant state laws. As we've stated before, we recommend fully documenting your hiring and screening policy to help ensure it is followed each time you hire new employees. When creating or updating this documentation, make sure it covers specific FCRA laws such as providing a standalone Disclosure.

    Understanding and following all the laws that cover background screening can be tricky. Backgrounds Online is here to help. We offer FCRA-compliant documents, such as Disclosure and Authorization forms, that our customers can use during their screening process.

    If you have questions about your screening policies or need assistance, please contact us. Our screening professionals are FCRA-certified and here to help Monday through Friday from 5am to 5pm PT.

  • A New Study Investigates Background Screening Trends

    August 15, 2017
    HR.com surveyed more than 1,500 HR professionals to ask if they ran background checks and, if so, why. Their results showed most employers do screen candidates.
    Backgrounds Online | August 15, 2017

    HR.com surveyed more than 1,500 HR professionals to ask if they ran background checks and, if so, why. Their results showed most employers do screen candidates.

    Statistics from the Study

    Background checks are an essential part of the hiring process. Results of the HR.com survey showed that 96% of the businesses they contacted do screen potential employees. The study also provided reasons why a few employers do not. Out of the 4% that don't run background checks:

    • 29% said they didn't have a budget for screening
    • 37% use their own methods
    • 27% did not provide a specific reason

    The Primary Reason Businesses Run Background Checks Is:

    Safety. Nearly 90% of the respondents said they screen applicants to help ensure the safety of current employees, customers and others. Criminal background checks show employers if an applicant has a serious misdemeanor or felony on their record. This information helps them make educated hiring decisions and create safe working environments.

    There are numerous reasons to run background checks. Another common survey response was that businesses screen candidates to improve the quality of their hires. A background report can confirm a person's identity, employment and educational history. Employers use this information to see if an applicant is properly qualified for the position to which they are applying.

    Background checks are also used to verify mandatory licenses or credentials. They can be easily customized for any type of position in every industry. For example, employers who hire drivers can run a Motor Vehicle Record Search to confirm a candidate has the proper type of license and learn if they have reportable convictions, infractions or accidents. Employers in the medical industry can run a FACIS® Search to verify an applicant's qualifications and ensure they are not banned from participating in federally funded healthcare programs or from being awarded federal contracts.

    When Do Employer's Run Background Checks?

    The study showed that 86% of respondents initiate the screening process following a successful interview. Nearly 55% stated that they only run background checks after extending a conditional offer. In both scenarios, the employer is looking for the facts they need to make the best hiring decisions.

    If the results of a background check are clear, the candidate is likely to get hired. If the results raise concerns that cause the employer to consider denying employment, then the applicant must receive a pre-adverse notification, a copy of their report and a document that lists their rights under the Fair Credit Reporting Act. When this happens, the applicant must then have time to review their report and file a dispute if necessary.

    Are Background Checks Affordable?

    Background checks can be customized to suit specific positions and accommodate budgets. A basic screening package starts at $29.95 and Custom Background Checks are priced based on the searches they include.

    At Backgrounds Online, we think of background checks as an essential investment into the safety and success of every business. As the HR.com study showed, they are used to create a safe working environment and to improve the quality of hires. Not running background checks can be a far more costly and problematic situation.

    Hiring someone who is not qualified can lead to a multitude of unexpected costs. Every employer invests time and money into hiring and onboarding people. If a new employee doesn't work out because they lack the background or education they need to succeed, the employer must go through that process again.

    Hiring someone who has a history of violent criminal activities can damage a business' reputation and, in worst-case scenarios, lead to a hostile or dangerous work environment. The potential outcome of this scenario cannot be quantified.

    That's why, out of more than 1,500 employers surveyed by HR.com, the vast majority ran background checks on all prospective employees. These reports involve a small one-time cost that provide real, ongoing benefits and reduce the risk of unexpected expenses.

    Have Questions?

    The screening experts at Backgrounds Online are FCRA-certified and here to help. We are available Monday through Friday from 5am to 5pm PT.

    If you have questions or would like to discuss your background screening needs, please contact us.

  • An FCRA-Based Lawsuit Could Have More Than 40,000 Plaintiffs

    August 9, 2017
    When a California man learned he was denied employment due to information that should not have been in his background check, he took action.
    Backgrounds Online | August 9, 2017

    When a California man learned he was denied employment due to information that should not have been in his background check, he took action.

    What Prompted the Lawsuit

    According to an article published by JD Supra Publications, a California resident applied for work at a large company in 2011. He received a preliminary hire approval and was asked to report to an orientation. Later he was told to not show up.

    No explanation was given, so the man contacted his potential employer. He learned that he'd been denied employment due to a criminal record on his background check. There were three problems with this scenario.

    Before his background check could be run, the man had to sign a disclosure and authorization document. The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) stipulates that these authorization and disclosures, which are used to confirm an individual authorizes a report, must be provided in a standalone document. The document cannot contain any additional content, waivers or other information. The lawsuit alleges that the authorization included a liability waiver - a statement that said the applicant understands all employment decisions are based on legitimate and non-discriminatory reasons.

    Although the applicant was convicted of a crime in 1998, he later had this record expunged. By 2010, that record could not legally be included on a background check. If this conviction was divulged on the background check, that constitutes another FCRA violation.

    The third problem was the way the applicant was denied employment. He was not informed that the employer was considering an adverse action and therefore had no opportunity to review his background check. The FCRA stipulates that a consumer must receive pre-adverse notification, a copy of their report and a summary of their rights. Consumers must then have a "reasonable" amount of time to review and respond. Had this happened, the man could have informed the employer about the mistake on his report and taken steps to get it resolved.

    When he learned why he was denied employment, the applicant initiated a dispute. By that time, the employer was no longer hiring.

    Potential Impact of the Class Action Suit

    This lawsuit could have a massive financial impact on the employer. Since the plaintiff initiated a class action suit, everyone who had a similar experience was eligible to participate.

    There were two ways for potential plaintiffs to join. Anyone who signed the authorization and disclosure, which allegedly contained additional content, had the right to take part. Nearly 42,000 people were deemed eligible for this group. People who were denied employment without first having an opportunity to review their background check could also sign on. This group included about 715 individuals.

    The FCRA allows for statutory damages of $100 to $1,000 for every violation. If the plaintiffs win, this employer could face substantial monetary penalties.

    Why This Matters to Your Business

    As more FCRA-based lawsuits are filed against employers, more job-seekers become aware of their right to sue. That makes it critical for every employer to be aware of and compliant with federal and state laws that cover the hiring process.

    The FCRA is intended to protect consumers. The laws it creates are meant to ensure that people who seek jobs, credit and other necessities are treated fairly. Business must comply with these laws to avoid the threat of legal action and large fines.

    To help ensure compliance, it is best practice to document your screening and hiring policies – and review them periodically to ensure they are up-to-date. It is also advisable to document each hiring phase, including details about why candidates were denied employment. If an applicant is denied employment based on their background check, it's also a good idea to document what led to the decision, when the candidate was notified and what was done to ensure FCRA compliance.

    The screening experts at Backgrounds Online are all FCRA-certified. We watch for new laws that cover the screening process and provide information to help our customers remain compliant. If you have questions about how we can help you, please contact us today.

  • A New Study Shows Ban the Box Policies Are Working

    August 2, 2017
    According to a recent study, Ban the Box laws are helping job seekers who have minor criminal records without increasing discriminatory practices.
    Backgrounds Online | August 2, 2017

    According to a recent study, Ban the Box laws are helping job seekers who have minor criminal records without increasing discriminatory practices.

    Terry-Ann Craigie, an Assistant Professor of Economics at Connecticut College, published the results of this study in January, 2017. It advocates Ban the Box laws and suggests they increase the probability that individuals with minor convictions will be able to obtain employment.

    Ban the Box Laws Are Spreading

    Some job applications include a question that asks if the applicant was ever convicted of a crime. If the answer is yes, the job seeker must check a box. This box allows employers to immediately see if the person has ever incurred a criminal record. Ban the Box laws prohibit questions about criminal convictions on applications and call for the removal of these checkboxes.

    The movement to Ban the Box has grown exponentially in recent years. The National Employment Law Project (NELP) notes that more than 150 cities in 28 states have adopted Ban the Box laws. Similar laws are expected to be passed in additional cities and states.

    Ban the Box laws are designed to help people find employment if they have minor criminal convictions on their records. The goal is to prevent employers from automatically disqualifying candidates with minor or irrelevant convictions without first conducting interviews and learning more about each applicant. Although many people see these laws as a positive step forward, there are critics.

    Criticisms of Ban the Box

    One criticism of Ban the Box is that there are no standard guidelines. Laws have been implemented in numerous locations and there have been scenarios in which local regulations conflict with state or federal laws. This can make it difficult for employers to comply.

    A few studies have concluded that Ban the Box laws can prevent some demographic groups from receiving employment opportunities. A study conducted by the National Bureau of Economic Research, suggested that these laws inadvertently lead to discriminatory practices against the people they are designed to help.

    These conclusions stem from a concern that employers might make assumptions about the names of their candidates. Ban the Box critics caution that hiring managers could see names that are commonly associated with Hispanic or African-American men and make uneducated guesses about whether or not each person has a conviction. If that happens, people might not be considered for employment based on nothing more than their name.

    The study published by Terry-Ann Craigie of Connecticut College disagrees with those conclusions.

    About the Study

    Craigie used data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, which followed the lives of almost 9,000 people born between 1980 and 1984. All the participants have been interviewed biennially about their education, employment history, criminal records and other topics.

    Results of these interviews, along with additional research and data, helped Craigie reach the conclusion that Ban the Box laws have helped individuals who have minor criminal convictions. In her 44-page document, the author finds numerous positives stemming from the Ban the Box movement. It proclaims that these laws have led to a 40% increase in the probability that individuals with criminal records will find employment in the public sector.

    Craigie's study also investigated the issue of statistical discrimination. In direct contrast to what critics have said, Craigie concluded that Ban the Box laws do not discriminate against any demographic group.

    What This Means for Employers

    Studies that support Ban the Box laws could encourage more cities and states to adopt similar policies. These laws impact the hiring process.

    Employers must be aware of laws that cover employment and background screening policies in areas where they operate. Businesses with locations in multiple cities and states must comply with laws that are in effect wherever they hire and host employees. Failing to follow relevant laws could lead to class action lawsuits, fines and other issues.

    It is best practice for employers to document their hiring policies and watch for new laws that will affect their business. When relevant laws are passed, it is equally important to update that documentation and make sure everyone who participates in the hiring process is informed.

    If you have questions about Ban the Box laws or need assistance putting together a background screening plan, contact us for assistance. All of our screening specialists are FCRA-certified and ready to help with your background screening needs.

  • South Carolina Pushes for New Background Check Laws

    July 25, 2017
    Lawmakers recently proposed a bill that would require background checks and follow-ups for state-licensed workers who deal with the public.
    Backgrounds Online | July 25, 2017

    Lawmakers recently proposed a bill that would require background checks and follow-ups for state-licensed workers who deal with the public.

    The Proposed Bill

    Bill Sandifer, Chairman of the House Labor, Commerce and Industry Committee, sponsored the bill. Its purpose is to implement mandatory background checks for individuals who need state-issued licenses for their careers. This includes pharmacists, hairdressers, medical examiners and other professionals.

    The bill went to the House and was approved by a large margin. It was rejected by the Senate, but could be considered again at a later date. Sandifer hopes the bill will be made into law when the Senate reconvenes in January.

    What Caused the Discussion

    This bill was prompted by the terrifying story of a man named Todd Kohlhepp. He was arrested in South Carolina following a missing person investigation. Police officers were dispatched to Kohlhepp's property and when they arrived, they found the victim locked in a metal box. She had been imprisoned there for two months.

    Kohlhepp owned a home in Moore, South Carolina. The property was searched thoroughly based on a tip from the person Kohlhepp had kidnapped. She told authorities that she had reason to believe multiple bodies were buried on the grounds. A search that lasted several days confirmed her statement.

    Prior to his arrest, Kohlhepp worked as a self-employed Real Estate Agent. Despite having a criminal background, he was granted a license in 2006. After receiving his license, Kohlhepp opened TKA Real Estate and ran the business from his home.

    In February, 2017, Kohlhepp was convicted of murder and various other charges. He was sentenced to serve seven consecutive life sentences plus an additional 60 years. The option for parole at any point was denied.

    A New Law for Real Estate Agents

    While still a minor, Kohlhepp was found guilty of serious crimes including rape and kidnapping. In 1987, he was sentenced to serve 15 years in an Arizona prison. He was released in 2001 and had no other known arrests until 2016.

    News about the kidnapping and murders shocked the South Carolina community where Kohlhepp lived. His story raised an important question: how was he granted a real estate license with his serious criminal history?

    Lawmakers set out to establish new regulations for real estate agents. They recently passed a bill that will require South Carolina residents to undergo a background check before receiving a real estate license. Licensed agents will also have to submit to fingerprinting and follow-up screenings every six years. This applies to everyone who wishes to renew their license, whether they were initially screened or not.

    The new bill was sponsored by Representative Chip Huggins. It goes into effect at the beginning of 2020. According to Higgins, this bill is intended to help prevent another tragedy like the one that occurred in South Carolina.

    If You Have Employees Who Work with the Public

    It is essential to make sure your employees are properly screened before they are allowed to work with the public. If your employees will spend time in someone's home, offer rides to customers or have access to vulnerable individuals, then best practice is to implement ongoing screenings.

    Backgrounds Online can help you establish recurring screenings for your employees. All we need to get started are the names and email addresses for each person. We'll schedule the screenings and alert your employees in advance so they can provide consent.

    Regular screenings help you establish and maintain a secure and reputable work environment for your employees and customers. If you have questions about running background checks or recurring screenings, contact our staff today for expert assistance.

  • Raymond James Financial Sued for Alleged FCRA Violation

    July 18, 2017
    A man who applied to sell Raymond James financial products is suing the company over alleged violations in their background screening process.
    Backgrounds Online | July 18, 2017

    A man who applied to sell Raymond James financial products is suing the company over alleged violations in their background screening process.

    The Background Investigation

    Dustin Kampert is initiating a class action lawsuit against Raymond James Financial, Inc. He claims the company willfully violated the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).

    Kampert started working at Hake Investment Group LLC in 2015. One of his job duties required him to sell Raymond James financial products. Before he could begin, Kampert had to register with Raymond James and undergo a background check.

    A third-party prepared a background check on Kampert. The finished report contained criminal records. After seeing this, representatives from Raymond James reportedly denied Kampert's request to sell their products. This later caused Kampert to lose his job with Hake Investment Group.

    The Lawsuit

    According to Kampert, the criminal records that were included on his report had been expunged in 2008. If that is the case, then they should not have been available on any consumer report. Kampert also alleges that he did not receive a copy of his background report before an adverse action, denial of the ability to sell the financial products, occurred.

    In a statement, Kampert wrote: "Raymond's willful disregard of its duties violates the FCRA as a matter of law, and it exacts serious consequences on job applicants and interstate commerce." He believes that Raymond James knew, or at least should have known their obligations under the FCRA. Therefore, he concluded, the company is guilty of a willful violation.

    Kampert initiated the lawsuit against Raymond James, but hopes he won't be alone. He is trying to find others who may have had similar experiences. If he is successful, then the potential charges and fines against Raymond James could grow significantly.

    FCRA Regulations

    Based on Kampert's accusations, there are two FCRA violations in this scenario.

    The FCRA says criminal records that have been sealed or expunged may not be included on any consumer report. If Kampert's criminal records were expunged at any point, then they should not have been displayed on his background check. Consumer reporting agencies are required to make efforts to ensure that only reportable data is included in a background check.

    People make mistakes. If the company that compiled Kampert's background check inadvertently included data that should not have been available, then he should have had the opportunity to dispute the results of his report. FCRA law states that a consumer must have an opportunity to review their consumer report before any adverse action occurs.

    Kampert should have received a copy of his report, a summary of his rights under the FCRA and a letter that explained an adverse action (not allowing him to see the financial products) was being considered. However, according to the lawsuit, none of that happened.

    Keep Your Business Compliant

    It is imperative for every business to be aware of and comply with FCRA regulations. We've seen a recent increase in lawsuits based on alleged FCRA violations. That makes it more important than ever to work with a background check provider that helps keep you compliant throughout the screening process.

    All of the screening experts at Backgrounds Online are FCRA-certified. We compile background checks that contain reportable data you can use to make informed business decisions. If you have questions about background checks or the screening process, please contact us for assistance.

  • We Enhanced Your Backgrounds Online Account

    July 11, 2017
    Our team has been making exciting changes to the website. We are enhancing the site to create a better experience for you. Recent updates include...
    Backgrounds Online | July 11, 2017

    Our team has been making exciting changes to the website. We are enhancing the site to create a better experience for you. Recent updates include:

    We Added a New Search to Every Screening Package

    Backgrounds Online offers four convenient background check packages to help address all of your screening needs. We recently added the Terrorist Watch List Search to each one. This is a complimentary addition. We did not raise the price on any screening product.

    A Terrorist Watch List Search is used to identify individuals who are wanted for or have been convicted of terrorist activities. It consists of a search through multiple national and international databases. When you run any of our background check packages, this search is now included at no additional charge.

    Updated My Account Page

    Log in to your Backgrounds Online account to see your updated account page. It offers quick links to order new background checks, view your current reports, create Custom Background Checks and more. The page also provides links to your most recently ordered reports along with the current status of each one.

    Your account page includes a snippet of our latest blog entry so you can see the news and information we've prepared for you. We publish a new blog each week with information about compliance, FCRA regulations and other issues that affect your business.

    Remodeled Report Manager

    We're excited for you to see the enhancements we made to your Report Manager. The page has a sleek new look that makes it even easier to review, find and file your reports. You'll see the status of each report so you know if it is complete or close to being finished.

    We also updated the Completed, In Process, Needs Attention, Needs Review and Review tabs to make them easier to navigate and manage. You can quickly and easily move reports from one tab to another. For example, place a report in the Needs Review tab to indicate that you need to come back to it later. Once it is reviewed, quickly move it to either the Reviewed or Completed tab so you know it does not require further action.

    Order Reports

    Visit the updated Order Reports page to see all it has to offer. You can select one of our recently enhanced background check packages, click to create a Custom Background Check with all the searches you need for any position or order a single report.

    We also added a link to our API section. Take advantage of our API to order reports from your own system. This creates a seamless flow that delivers results directly to you using our simple XML. It's easy to implement so you can get started right away.

    Have Questions?

    If you need assistance or have questions, click the My Account link at the top right corner. From there you can click the Support link to see direct contact information for your account manager; click to view and update your account details; visit our Resources section; or log out.

    Thank You for Visiting

    We hope you'll enjoy our recent updates. We're working on even more enhancements to provide the best screening experience possible.

    If you have questions about the site updates, your account or backgrounds checks, please contact us for assistance. We're here Monday - Friday from 5am to 5pm (PST) to help you.

  • Auditing Connecticut's Screening Policy for Daycare Workers

    June 27, 2017
    The Connecticut-based Auditors of Public Accounts are concerned that current screening policies could allow people with serious criminal records to work with children.
    Backgrounds Online | June 27, 2017

    The Connecticut-based Auditors of Public Accounts are concerned that current screening policies could allow people with serious criminal records to work with children.

    The Auditors Concern

    A recent article in the New Haven Register boldly begins with: "Could a felon look after your child at day care?" It quickly admits that is unlikely, but the message is clear. There is deep concern about the background screening process for daycare workers in Connecticut.

    This article was prompted by the results of an audit on screening policies at child care facilities. The audit revealed that applicants are screened, but the background check process takes 150 days on average. State law allows for people to start working before their reports are completed.

    Because of this law, people have been hired to work with children before anyone learned whether or not they had criminal convictions. Some individuals were employed for a few months before their report was available.

    What the Auditors Recommend

    John Geragosian is a State Auditor who reviewed the screening policies at Connecticut-based daycare centers. He believes that applicants should have to wait until their background reports are reviewed and approved before they're authorized to work with children. Geragosian expressed concern that people with serious criminal histories could have unsupervised time with minors.

    The recent audit wasn't the first time these concerns were voiced. Geragosian wrote about this several times following previous audits. This situation was also brought up in the Annual Reports to the Connecticut General Assembly and even referenced in proposed legislation.

    A recent bill included this statement: "No such prospective employee shall have unsupervised access to children in the childcare center or group child care home until such comprehensive background is completed and the Commissioner of Early Childhood permits such prospective employee to work in such childcare center or group childcare home." That bill, however, did not pass.

    The Need for Workers

    Catherine Ferraro runs a childcare center in Connecticut. She was surprised by the length of time it takes to complete a background investigation on potential workers. Ferraro also discussed an ongoing need for workers in that industry.

    According to Ferraro, new workers are needed immediately. The people who run these facilities cannot wait more than 100 days for a background check to be processed. Which prompts the question - why do these screenings take so long?

    A potential explanation is that the Connecticut childcare system does not have a standardized method for screening candidates. Applicants go through three different screenings that are conducted by separate agencies. Collecting and compiling the results of all three, it seems, can be a lengthy process.

    Potential Solutions

    The people who run daycare centers in CT are trying to create internal solutions. One option is to have each facility run a criminal background check on potential employees. This would allow them to see if an applicant has a relevant conviction before making a final hiring decision.

    The state might be able to help as well. A recently proposed bill includes language that says no person will be allowed to have unsupervised access to children at any daycare of similar facility until their background check is reviewed. People could still be hired at locations that provide child care, but hey would not be left alone with minors until they were screened and cleared.

    Another section of the bill calls for ongoing screenings for all daycare workers. Anyone who works at a facility would be asked to approve a background investigation every five years. This would allow facility managers to find out if someone who works for them incurs a new criminal conviction of which they should be aware.

    The Background Screening Process

    Most background checks take 3 to 5 days to complete. These reports show employers if an applicant has reportable criminal convictions and contain facts that help hiring manager make informed decisions. Annual or recurring screenings are useful for existing employees. They are used to confirm whether or not current staff members remain eligible for employment.

    If you have questions about background checks or the screening process, please contact us for assistance. We're here Monday – Friday from 5am to 5pm PT and ready to help.