April 25, 2017A recent decision declared that a plaintiff must allege and show harm to pursue a case in which a background investigation may have been improperly disclosed.Backgrounds Online | April 25, 2017
A recent decision declared that a plaintiff must allege and show harm to pursue a case in which a background investigation may have been improperly disclosed.
The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires employers to obtain permission before running background checks on potential or existing employees. To begin, the employer must provide a disclosure that explains their intent to run a background investigation and require written authorization to do so.
The Case Against Mondelez Global, LLC
In 2017, a job seeker named Johnny Vera applied to work at a food manufacturing company called Mondelez Global LLC. Vera says he went through their online application process and reached a page that contained a statement about background checks. The page required him to scroll down to see the entire statement and a screening disclosure.
This statement, according to Vera, included language that was intended to authorize "all companies, credit agencies, educational institutions, persons, government agencies, criminal and civil courts, and former employers to release information they have about me and release them from any liability for doing so."
Vera believed that the statement did not constitute a standalone disclosure. Therefore, he concluded, it violated FCRA regulations. He filed a class action lawsuit on this basis. Mondelez sought to have the suit dismissed and argued that Vera did not allege or prove any actual harm.
The Court Sides with Mondelez
After reviewing this case, the court sided with Mondelez. It referenced the Supreme Court decision in the case of Spokeo v. Robbins which said that Spokeo's failure to precisely follow FCRA regulations in regards to the collection and reporting of background information did not cause harm to the consumer as long as that information was accurate. The court explained that, similarly, no harm occurred in the case against Mondelez.
Since Vera authorized the background investigation, and no false or inaccurate data had been reported, the court dismissed this class action lawsuit. The decision stated that no actual harm was caused during the pre-screening or screening process. While the court did recognize that the employer was guilty of a procedural violation, it stated that this could not be considered an injury in fact.
What You Should Know About Disclaimers
According to the FCRA, the disclaimer must be a standalone document that does not contain any other content or information. It specifies that this document must consist "solely of the disclosure."
Failure to do this could lead to a lawsuit. We've seen several recent class action suits that were initiated by people who alleged they received disclosures with additional content, which is not permitted by the FCRA. The suits suggest that this is a willful violation of federal regulations.
At Backgrounds Online, we stress the importance of following federal and state regulations throughout the screening process. Every business is responsible for complying with the FCRA and other applicable laws. We help with your compliance efforts by offering educational resources, securing our data and providing background checks that contain accurate, current and reportable data.
April 18, 2017An elementary school Teaching Assistant was recently accused of assaulting a special needs student. The man was hired in 2014, despite his criminal record.Backgrounds Online | April 18, 2017
An elementary school Teaching Assistant was recently accused of assaulting a special needs student. The man was hired in 2014, despite his criminal record.
The Alleged Assault
Kristopher McCray was working as a Teaching Assistant at Ashley Elementary School in Fayetteville Colorado. In February, 2017, he was accused of placing his foot underneath a student's desk and violently flipping it over. The student in question was a 12-year-old with autism. According to court documents, the student's head hit the wall and floor during the incident.
A representative from the Sherriff's Department stated the incident was captured by the school's surveillance cameras. These videos have not been released to the public. McCray has since been charged of assaulting a handicapped person.
McCray's Criminal Record
Sources indicate that McCray's record of criminal offenses dates back to 2006. Most of the charges against McCray were dropped, and therefore not available to the public, but his record allegedly includes assault, embezzlement and felony breaking and entering.
Sean Swain, a spokesperson for the local Sherriff's Department, was surprised to see someone who was employed at a school had such a lengthy criminal record. "I don't know what the hiring process is at the school," said Swain "but it would surprise me that he'd be teacher's assistant at the school system."
The District Superintendent for Cumberland County Schools addressed this situation. He confirmed that McCray did go through a background screening in April, 2014. Following the background check, McCray was authorized for employment.
Following the incident, McCray was placed on a three-day suspension with pay. One day after being suspended, McCray resigned from his position. Since then, he has maintained a low profile and refused to give statements or interviews to local press.
After being charged, McCray's bail bond was set at $1,000. He is currently out on bail and has a court date scheduled for April, 2017.
Important Hiring Considerations
Many of the older charges that had been issued against McCray would not have been available in a background check. Since the charges were dropped and did not lead to a conviction, they are not deemed reportable. However, any convictions for serious criminal offenses would have been available in a background report as long as they occurred during an approved date range. Background reports typically provide data about criminal convictions from the last seven years.
When employers run a background check and discover an applicant has a criminal record, they must then decide how to proceed. In some cases, a conviction may not warrant denial of employment. Under extreme circumstances, however, a serious criminal record may cause the employer to decide they will not hire the applicant. Before denying employment based on the results of a background check, it is essential to comply with federal law and initiate a pre-adverse action process.
Regardless of the final outcome, it is important to run background checks on potential employees. These reports confirm an applicant's identity, verify their levels of education and employment and provide useful details about reportable criminal records. Rely on a background check to show you important information about your candidates that can help you make informed hiring decisions.
April 11, 2017Two job seekers in Chicago claim they were denied employment due to background checks that contained non-reportable criminal records data.Backgrounds Online | April 11, 2017
Two job seekers in Chicago claim they were denied employment due to background checks that contained non-reportable criminal records data.
Both individuals filed lawsuits that alleged their rights under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) were violated.
Years ago, a man named Ahmad Khalid was convicted of crimes in Cook County, Illinois. After the appropriate amount of time had passed, Khalid petitioned to have those records sealed so they would not show up on a background check or any other consumer report. The judge agreed to this request and initiated the process.
That should have been the end of this story. When records are sealed, they should not be available to the public. Knowing this, Khalid applied for work through a staffing agency in December, 2016. He was on track to become a maintenance worker at a local apartment complex.
The staffing agency ordered a background check on Khalid. His report allegedly contained information about his criminal convictions. According to the lawsuit, these convictions were also listed multiple times, thus giving the impression that Khalid had additional convictions on his record.
None of the convictions should have been displayed in a background report. Upon learning that they were, Khalid sought assistance and filed a lawsuit. The suit claimed that Khalid was denied employment because his background check provided information that should not have been included.
The circumstances of the second case are similar to the first. Jeneen Scott was convicted of a crime in Cook County about a decade ago. Since then, she petitioned to have her criminal record sealed. A judge agreed, and the conviction was officially removed from public view.
In 2016, Scott applied for a job and went through the standard interview and background check process. She was subsequently denied employment. According to Scott, this happened because her report revealed a criminal conviction that should not have been accessible to potential employers.
After being turned down for employment, Scott sought legal assistance. She filed a lawsuit through the same firm that is handling Ahmad Khalid's case.
What We Can Learn from These Lawsuits
The lawsuits were filed on the same basis: criminal records that had been officially sealed were made available in consumer reports. Both individuals who were negatively impacted are seeking monetary damages for their losses, as is allowed by the FCRA.
It is essential to remain compliant with FCRA regulations. Had the companies that prepared the background checks followed proper procedure, they could have avoided these lawsuits and accompanying complications. In both cases, electronic updates were available that confirmed the conviction data was not to be used in any consumer report.
Protect Your Business
We've seen a sharp increase in FCRA related lawsuits recently. If your hiring and screening policies are not compliant with state and federal laws, then your business could also be at risk.
The screening experts at Backgrounds Online work hard to keep up with relevant regulations and build background checks that only contain current, accurate and reportable data. We help our customers remain compliant throughout the screening process. If you have questions or would like to discuss setting up a screening account, contact us for assistance.
April 4, 2017A recent state audit revealed that several Brevard School employees did not go through the state-mandated background screening process.Backgrounds Online | April 4, 2017
A recent state audit revealed that several Brevard School employees did not go through the state-mandated background screening process.
Results of the Audit
Florida state law says that coaches and staff at public schools must be screened every five years. The audit revealed that at least 27 instructional employees did not go through the required screening process. At least one employee had not been screened for ten years.
The lack of screening was attributed to communication issues between the Human Resources Department, School Security and the District Office. Upon learning about this gap, the three departments worked together and ordered background checks on employees who were overdue.
One section of the audit addressed the need for ongoing background checks. Without them, the author suggests: "There is an increased risk that individuals with unsuitable backgrounds may have direct contact with students."
Tragically, a serious criminal case reminded the community that it is possible for potentially dangerous people to gain employment within a school system.
An Elementary School Principal Was Arrested
The need for comprehensive background checks and ongoing screenings was recently addressed at a community forum within the Brevard Public Schools district. One of the primary topics focused on a shocking event that occurred during the summer of 2016. The principal of a local elementary school was arrested on charges of child pornography.
During the arrest, officers inspected the principal's computers. They discovered over 1,100 files contained child pornography. It was later learned that while this principal was a teacher at another elementary school, he had been reprimanded for talking inappropriately and giving gifts to a six-year-old student. That fact was not known by the Superintendent when the district selected this man to be promoted to principal.
The state audit covered the 2015 - 2016 school year, so it occurred before the principal was arrested. Since then, the district has become diligent about running background checks. Regular performance checks were also approved. Both will now be more frequent and strictly regulated in all Brevard Public Schools.
The district is also actively working on improvements to the process used to select new principals.
Why Ongoing Background Checks Are Important for All School Employees
Schools have many employees who are not teachers. The staff includes coaches, cafeteria workers and others who deal directly with students. It is imperative to run background checks on anyone who is being considered for employment at an educational facility, and to conduct regular screenings on existing employees.
Ongoing screenings can show you if an employee incurs a criminal conviction or another negative mark on their record. This allows administrative personnel to stay informed about the people on their staff and to verify that each person remains eligible for employment. In school settings, the safety of students is of paramount importance.
If you have questions about scheduling ongoing screenings, please contact our team for assistance. Our team can also help you determine what types of searches should be run for specific positions. This might include county and statewide criminal searches, motor vehicle searches for employees who drive students or co-workers during business hours, or any other search that provides information you need to know about potential and current staff.
March 28, 2017Lawmakers in Massachusetts are trying to help former offenders find employment opportunities. A recent study suggests an unexpected outcome to their efforts.Backgrounds Online | March 28, 2017
Lawmakers in Massachusetts are trying to help former offenders find employment opportunities. A recent study suggests an unexpected outcome to their efforts.
Since 2010, when Massachusetts started passing laws to help job seekers who have criminal records, the employment rate for former offenders has decreased by 2.6%.
They Started by Banning the Box
There has been a lot of talk about the Ban the Box movement. If you're not familiar, the idea is to remove a question from job applications that asks applicants to check a box if they were ever convicted of a crime. The goal is to give people with minor convictions a chance at getting interviewed.
When applicants check that box, they are unlikely to be considered.
Several cities and states have implemented Ban the Box laws. Most locations are seeing positive results. Recent studies in the District of Columbia and North Carolina showed a noticeable increase in the number of people with criminal records securing stable employment.
The same cannot be said for Massachusetts.
Employment Rates for Ex-Offenders In MA
Massachusetts has a proprietary database called the Criminal Offender Record Information system (CORI). It includes: "records and data in any communicable form compiled by a Massachusetts criminal justice agency" regarding arrests, criminal charges, sentencing and related topics. In 2010, updates were made to CORI for the purpose of banning the box from job applications.
Two years after this change, the employment rate for people who have a criminal record actually dropped. This was the opposite of what lawmakers expected to see.
The group that conducted the study has theories on why things have not improved:
- Business could be requiring education or work experience that ex-offenders do not have.
- People with records may be interviewing for "harder-to-get jobs and turning down lower-paying opportunities they may have settled for in the past."
- MA has not done enough to encourage employers to hire people who have a criminal record.
Another common theory is simply that employers are hesitant to hire anyone who has a conviction. Pauline Quirion is the Director of the CORI and Re-entry Project at Greater Boston Legal Services. According to Quirion, "The reality is employers don't like to hire anybody with a record."
Additional efforts may soon be considered to provide more assistance to MA job seekers who have minor convictions.
Helping Former Offenders Find Jobs
Millions of Americans have criminal records. Many are for crimes that would be considered minor. However, the stigma of a conviction often causes employers to pass over otherwise qualified candidates.
Ideas like Ban the Box have been promoted heavily in recent years. The people behind these efforts list several potential benefits, such as:
- An increase in the number of candidates for open positions
- A larger workforce, which means more people paying taxes, buying goods and supporting the economy
- Recidivism rates are likely to drop
To help even more, advocates are lobbying to reduce the amount of time that must pass before people can have misdemeanor and felony records sealed. They also hope to gain the ability to have charges for resisting arrest removed from CORI. Currently, such charges remain on the person's record permanently. Advocates hope these changes will bring additional positive results.
One current positive seen in Massachusetts is a decrease in recidivism. Experts believe this is because people with criminal records are now more likely to apply for jobs. In the past, many people may have felt like they had no chance. Ban the Box and related laws can encourage people to at least look for employment.
What Your Business Should Know
Although Ban the Box and related laws may not be successful in MA, they are producing positive results elsewhere. Similar laws are likely to be implemented throughout the country. When they are, it will be imperative for your business to comply with all relevant regulations.
At Backgrounds Online, our team strives to keep up with new and changing laws that impact our customers. We stay aware so we can help our clients remain compliant throughout their hiring process.
If you have questions about background screening or federal laws that affect your business, please contact us for assistance.
March 21, 2017It doesn't happen often, but now and then an applicant disputes the results of their background check. This occurs after they receive a pre-adverse notice.Backgrounds Online | March 21, 2017
It doesn't happen often, but now and then an applicant disputes the results of their background check. This occurs after they receive a pre-adverse notice.
Here's what to expect if one of your applicants initiates a dispute with us.
It Begins with Pre-Adverse Notification
As you go through the hiring process, you watch for candidates who seem to be properly qualified for an open position. You read resumes, conduct interviews and run background checks. After reviewing an applicant's background report, you may believe the person is ineligible for hire.
It is important to note that you cannot immediately rescind a provisional job offer. You must first issue a pre-adverse notice to inform the applicant that an adverse action is being considered but has not yet begun. Along with this notification, the applicant must also receive a copy of their background report and a Summary of Their Rights Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act. The applicant must then have time to review these documents.
The Dispute Process
After reviewing their background report, an applicant could decide they have a reason to dispute the results. He or she may believe that some of the data on their report is about another person or that the report contains information which cannot legally be used to make a hiring decision.
The applicant must initiate a dispute with us. We will ask the person for written authorization to perform a reinvestigation and a copy of their driver's license or another form of identification. We'll also ask the applicant to explain why they are filing a dispute and collect any other information we need.
Once we have the required documentation and permission, we research the dispute to ensure it is valid. If it is, we'll notify you immediately and start an official reinvestigation. The FCRA allows up to 30 days to complete this process, but our team usually resolves disputes within two to three business days. There are two likely outcomes:
- The applicant was incorrect and the background check was factual. When that happens we will inform you immediately and you may proceed accordingly.
- We determine the background check has invalid or non-reportable information. After the erroneous data has been revised, we will run a new background check for the applicant.
When we determine that a criminal record or another document was incorrect, we look up which court or public records source provided the data. Then we inform the applicant so he or she can take steps to resolve that issue. Backgrounds Online does not create or maintain these records, so we are not able to update them in any way.
Your Responsibilities During a Dispute
If one of your applicants files a dispute, your business may not make employment related decisions about that person while it is in progress. Should you find yourself in this situation, you may wish to seek advice from your legal counsel on the best way to proceed. Backgrounds Online manages the dispute process for our customers, but we are not able to provide any legal guidance or recommendations.
When we're dealing with a dispute, we keep our customers informed about the progress so they know what to expect. Our team provides ongoing assistance to all of our valued customers. If you have questions about disputes or anything related to background screening, please contact us.
March 14, 2017Recently approved regulations clarify how CA employers may and may not utilize criminal records data when making employment related decisions.Backgrounds Online | March 14, 2017
Recently approved regulations clarify how CA employers may and may not utilize criminal records data when making employment related decisions.
They were sanctioned by the California Fair Employment Housing Council (FEHC) in January, 2017 and are expected to be enforced as of July 1, 2017.
The new regulations have roots in the Civil Rights Act of 1964, a federal law that protects people from discrimination based on race, color, religion, gender, or national origin. A key purpose of this Act is to help prevent discriminatory practices against job applicants and employees.
In 2012, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) created a document called the "Consideration of Arrest and Conviction Records in Employment Decisions Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964." The purpose was to "consolidate and update the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's guidance documents regarding the use of arrest or conviction records in employment decisions."
Many of the EEOC's recommendations were used to help create the FEHC regulations.
What California Employers Should Know
Once they go into effect, the regulations will impact the hiring process for employers in the golden state. They cover arrests, criminal convictions and related topics. Key examples include:
- Selection and Testing. It is unlawful for an employer to develop or utilize any policy or practice that adversely impacts an individual's employment opportunities unless it is both job related and consistent with the needs of the business.
- Promotions. It is not legal for an employer to restrict information about promotional opportunities if doing so would be considered a discriminatory practice.
- Arrests. Employers are not allowed to consider arrests that did not result in convictions.
- Convictions. Employers may not consider convictions that have been sealed, expunged or otherwise overturned.
- Juvenile Records. No juvenile record may be considered during the hiring process.
- Individual Assessments. If an employer is considering adverse action based on the discovery of a criminal conviction, they must assess the situation and notify the individual that an adverse action is being considered. At that point the individual must have a "reasonable opportunity" to dispute the situation and/or demonstrate that their conviction should not be used as the basis of an adverse action.
- Disparate Treatment. Employers are prohibited from treating applicants or current employees differently when reviewing and considering an individuals' criminal conviction history if doing so is motivated by a reason that is covered by the Act.
- Burden of Proof. California employers will be responsible for proving that their hiring and screening policies are both job related and consistent with the needs of the business.
About the FEHC
The FEHC is connected to the Department of Fair Employment and Housing, a department that is committed to protecting civil rights. FEHC members have two primary duties. They create and publish anti-discrimination laws that cover employment and housing in California. They also conduct inquiries and hold hearings about civil rights related issues within the state.
Their mission is to protect California residents from "unlawful discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations and from hate violence and human trafficking." Learn more about issues regarding workplace discrimination.
Stay Compliant When Hiring in California
Businesses that hire within California should be aware of the new regulations that go into effect in 2017. It is critical to remain compliant with laws that govern screening, hiring and other employment related practices.
At Backgrounds Online we strive to keep up with laws that affect our customers. Whether you hire in California or anywhere else, or team is dedicated to providing compliant background screening services that deliver useful, reliable information. If you have questions about our screening packages or state and federal regulations that cover your business, please contact us for assistance.
March 7, 2017In a recent decision, the Ninth Circuit appellate court ruled that including a liability waiver in a background check disclosure violates FCRA regulations.Backgrounds Online | March 7, 2017
In a recent decision, the Ninth Circuit appellate court ruled that including a liability waiver in a background check disclosure violates FCRA regulations.
Based on this decision, a class action lawsuit against an employer will now be allowed to proceed.
About the Lawsuit
A man named Sarmad Syed applied for a job at M-I LLC. He went through the standard interview process and was asked to grant permission for a background check. Syed reviewed the documentation he received from the prospective employer. One of the documents was a "Pre-Employment Disclosure Release", which informs applicants that data will be collected by a screening company and used to compile a background check report.
The disclosure included a liability waiver. It stated that applicants who sign the document thereby waive their right to sue for any violations of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). Mr. Syed signed the document and later initiated a class action lawsuit against M-I LLC. The basis of his suit was a "sole disclosure" requirement in the FCRA. According to the lawsuit, adding a liability waiver to the disclosure document was a direct violation of the FCRA.
The Court's Ruling
The district court that initially heard the case ruled against Syed. They stated that the law was not clear and the lawsuit did not provide proof of a willful FCRA violation. Mr. Syed's lawsuit was dismissed.
However, that was not the end of this case. It was picked up by the Ninth Circuit, a federal appellate court. Their decision allowed the lawsuit to be reinstated and they issued a ruling about the legality of including waivers in background check disclosures.
The Ninth Circuit's Decision
The Ninth Circuit determined that including a liability waiver was a willful violation of FCRA law. This decision was made because the FCRA states that disclosure documents must consist solely of the disclosure. Including anything else in the disclosure, such as a liability waiver, was deemed a willful violation of the FCRA.
There is only one exception to the "sole disclosure" law, which was granted through an amendment made by Congress in 1988. The amendment allowed for disclosures to include a request for the applicant to authorize a background check. It is essential for employers to obtain consent before screening a candidate. However, no other exceptions, including liability waivers, were allowed. As such, the Ninth Circuit declared that it is unlawful to have liability waivers within a disclosure.
How This Impacts Background Screening
Any company that includes a liability waiver or any other documentation with their disclosure should be aware of this case. Employers are encouraged to review their applications and related documentation to ensure that they are compliant with the FCRA.
It is also worth noting that businesses should stay aware of new and changing regulations that impact the screening process. Backgrounds Online provides weekly blogs and monthly Newsletters to keep you informed of new laws and rulings that could impact your hiring practices.
Potential Repercussions of Violating FCRA Regulations
According to the FCRA, individuals who are impacted by violations of their rights may seek actual damages between $100 and $1,000 as well as relevant punitive damages. The case that Sarmad Syed initiated is a class action lawsuit. That means anyone who was denied employment by M-I LLC could be eligible to participate. Every plaintiff in the case will have the right to seek monetary compensation.
It is essential for employers to remain compliant with FCRA regulations throughout the hiring process. If you aren't sure if your employment practices are in compliance, contact the screening experts at Backgrounds Online. We are happy to discuss how we can help you remain compliant with federal and state laws that cover the background screening and hiring process.
February 28, 2017A recent lawsuit claims that UPS denied employment based on the results of a background check without allowing the applicant to review his report.Backgrounds Online | February 28, 2017
A recent lawsuit claims that UPS denied employment based on the results of a background check without allowing the applicant to review his report.
The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) states that applicants must be made aware that an adverse action is being considered. They must be also be allowed to see their background check and dispute the results if necessary.
Basis of the Lawsuit
A man who applied at UPS and was denied employment says the company violated his FCRA rights. According to his complaint, he received a tentative job offer but it was unexpectedly revoked. This occurred after the employer reviewed the results of a background check that was run by a third-party screener.
Businesses run background checks to review their applicants' backgrounds and make final hiring decisions. This is a standard part of the hiring process. However, in this case UPS is accused of not notifying the applicant that they might rescind an offer based on something in the applicant's background report.
Why Employers Must Allow Applicants to Review Their Reports
The FCRA was created to protect consumers and ensure that employers, credit providers and other entities do not make decisions about individuals based on incorrect information. While the FCRA does allow businesses to deny employment for a variety of reasons, it also stipulates the consumers must be allowed to review their reports before an adverse action, such as denial of employment, occurs.
Per the FCRA, consumers must have a reasonable amount of time to inspect their background report and given the opportunity to file a dispute. This might be necessary if a report contains information about the wrong individual or if it displays information that should not be included, such as a criminal record that was expunged.
According to the lawsuit: "It was unlawful for defendant to terminate plaintiff's employment or deny plaintiff employment on the basis of information contained in a consumer report, without first providing plaintiff with a copy of the report, notifying plaintiff of his rights under the FCRA, and giving plaintiff a reasonable opportunity to respond."
What This Could Mean for UPS
If it can be shown that the applicant did not have a chance to review his background check before the job offer was revoked, the lawsuit is likely to advance. To make matters worse for UPS, more plaintiffs could get involved. Not only is the applicant seeking damages for himself, he is also pursuing a class action lawsuit. Anyone who went through a similar situation with UPS during the last five years would be eligible to participate.
The applicant is asking for statutory damages between $100 and $1,000 for every FCRA violation. He also seeks punitive damages and relevant attorney's fees. If others join this lawsuit, they will seek similar compensation. This case, John Riley et al. v. United Parcel Service of America Inc., was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida.
What Your Business Should Know
There are numerous laws that govern the background screening and hiring process. They cover what employers can and cannot do when determining whether or not to hire an applicant. When businesses don't follow FCRA and local regulations, they can face potentially severe repercussions such as class action lawsuits.
The best way to avoid issues like this is to remain compliant at all times. Background Online provides secure, FCRA compliant background checks that can help you make employment-related decisions about hiring, promotions and other key topics. If you have questions about how we can help you develop a reliable, compliant screening plan, please contact our expert staff for assistance.
February 21, 2017An investigation showed that numerous applicants were hired at a Veteran's Affairs Medical Center in Atlanta, Georgia without any form of background screening.Backgrounds Online | February 21, 2017
An investigation showed that numerous applicants were hired at a Veteran's Affairs Medical Center in Atlanta, Georgia without any form of background screening.
This issue was investigated and confirmed by the Office of the Inspector General.
The VA's Screening Process Gets Audited
The investigation occurred after allegations that the VA had numerous unadjudicated background screenings. This goes against the facility's written policies and could have allowed people to be hired even if they were not eligible to work in the healthcare industry.
Investigators also discovered that VA employees who were hired during a six-month time frame were not tested for potential drug usage. Despite being mandatory for new hires, drug screens did not occur between November 2014 and May 2015.
A Breakdown in the Background Screening Process
According to the results of the investigation, many of the people who received jobs at the VA were screened, but not until long after they started working. Some did not get background checks until several months after they were hired. At the time of the investigation, a few hundred current employees had not yet been screened.
VA policy stipulates that if a background check is not completed within 90 days it is considered to be backlogged. Investigators noted that the facility had a backlog as far back as 2012, but a lack of proper records made it difficult to acquire specific information.
A report summary issued after the investigation explained that "records within the personnel security program were inadequate, policies were not implemented as required and HR staff were not adequately trained." It also noted that the former Coordinator left in 2014 and VA administrators did not take the steps necessary to ensure background and screening policies were properly followed.
VA officials have expressed that they intend to resolve these issues. A spokesperson for the VA, Greg Kendall, said that they remain committed to "ensuring a drug free workplace" at the facility. Officials have agreed to follow the investigator's recommendations, which include assessing the Human Resources program and making sure staff members are properly trained on background screening policies going forward.
Why the Backlog Could Be an Issue for the VA
At this time, it is uncertain whether or not someone with a serious criminal record was able to get a job at the VA and provide treatment to a veteran. The Atlanta facility serves around 130,000 veterans. It takes a large number of employees to staff the medical center, so there could be reason for concern that someone who worked at the hospital should not have been granted employment.
The lack of screening could also have allowed people to receive job offers even if they are not qualified or eligible. Some individuals are prohibited from participating in federally funded healthcare programs or federal contracts. A background screen for the medical industry typically includes a check to see if the applicant is on a list that shows they should not be employed in the healthcare industry.
Why Background Checks are Essential
Backgrounds checks are used to verify identities, confirm levels of education and experience and uncover relevant criminal convictions. Businesses rely on these reports to help them make educated decisions and, when necessary, determine if someone is not eligible for employment.
If you are hiring for positions in the medical industry, turn to Backgrounds Online for authoritative and FCRA compliant background checks. Our reports provide the facts you need to make crucial hiring decisions and help you find the most qualified candidates for any position.
February 14, 2017In 2015, the University of Illinois adopted an expanded background check policy. Since then, 11 job applicants have been officially disqualified.Backgrounds Online | February 14, 2017
In 2015, the University of Illinois adopted an expanded background check policy. Since then, 11 job applicants have been officially disqualified.
University officials reviewed their results one year after implementing the new policy.
Why the University Expanded Their Background Check Policy
Most employers run background checks before extending job offers. These reports are used to confirm identities, verify qualifications such as licenses and diplomas and to check for criminal convictions.
Until 2015, the University of Illinois did not run background checks on everyone who was being considered for employment. Only individuals who applied for positions that involve “sensitive” duties, such as handling money or working in a hospital, went through a screening process.
The campus senate discussed the risks of hiring people without screening them first. They concluded that it was important to run background checks before extending official offers for university positions. Their primary goal was to search for criminal convictions, not just arrests, and other relevant data that would help them make the best possible hiring decisions.
Step one is to put applicants through the initial interview process. Those that do well are asked if they will grant the university permission to run a background check. Applicants must provide written permission before an employer can initiate a report.
Results of the Background Check Policy
Within one year of adopting their new policy, the University considered nearly 80,000 candidates. Just over 11,800 background checks were run for people from that group. Based on the results of those reports, 11 applicants were denied employment.
There were nine candidates who were not hired due to criminal convictions. The convictions included weapons charges and child endangerment. Those candidates were deemed to be too high of a risk for the campus positions to which they applied.
Protecting Students and Faculty
University Trustee, Patrick Fitzgerald, expressed concern about the severity of the issues they discovered during the background screening process. Had these records not been seen, these applicants would have likely been hired and allowed to have contact with students. Fitzgerald feels that the school’s efforts have been worthwhile.
The new background check policy is designed to look for issues such as serious criminal records. This will help the university protect students and faculty while avoiding potentially dangerous candidates. Applicants who have minor criminal convictions will have the same opportunity to win employment as someone who does not have a record. Thus far, the number of people who were denied employment at 3 University campuses accounts for about 0.01% of the individuals who have been screened.
The Importance of Thorough Employment Screening
When hiring people who will interact with your customers, associate with your current employees and represent your brand, it is critical to make the best decisions possible. Applicants may exaggerate on their resume, not possess the required qualifications or have a criminal record that could negatively impact your business.
During a hiring cycle, candidates can be withdrawn from consideration for a variety of reasons. Those that pass through the initial process should be asked if they will approve of a background check. Employers can then use the background checks to make their final hiring choices.
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February 7, 2017A Pennsylvania District Court heard a case that involved "accuracy" and "complete, up-to-date information" as it applies to the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).Backgrounds Online | February 7, 2017
A Pennsylvania District Court heard a case that involved "accuracy" and "complete, up-to-date information" as it applies to the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).
After studying and interpreting the FCRA, the Court released their decision.
Accuracy and Complete and Up To Date Information in Background Checks
The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania heard the case of Kelly vs. Business Information Group. This was a lawsuit brought on by Michael Kelly, who alleged that he was denied employment due to incorrect information on his background check. He asserted that his report included data about his son and that this data is what caused him to be denied employment.
The lawsuit claimed that since the report included information about another person, it was not complete and up to date. Therefore, it concluded, the reason Kelly was denied employment was a violation of FCRA law.
The Court's Decision
The Court ruled against Kelly and stated that there is a difference between data being up to date and accurate. According to the Court's decision, the lawsuit was invalid because it claimed the report was not up to date when the data within the report was current. Nothing in the lawsuit questioned the accuracy of Kelly's report.
In their official statement, the Court noted the section of the FCRA that was most relevant requires "that the consumer have been the subject of a report that was not 'complete and up to date' and that 'completeness' refers not to accuracy nor to inclusion of identifying information as to the consumer, but rather the current public record status of the item that is attributed to the consumer."
Kelly's attorneys expect him to request an appeal. They feel the Court's decision could be overturned, but for now their ruling sets the precedent.
Interpreting the FCRA
To reach a decision in this case, the PA based Court had to interpret multiple sections of the FCRA. There are sections that cover the need for "maximum possible accuracy" in background check data and others that mandate the need for data to be "complete and up to date."
Specifically, the primary sections the Court considered were 1681k(a), which discusses the need for current information, and 1681e(b), which covers accuracy. An attorney who worked on the case stated: "Claims under Sections 1681k and 1681e(b) are different, which can have different challenges when trying to certify a class action under each section."
Current and Accurate Data is Essential for Background Checks
When a Consumer Reporting Agency prepares a background check, it is critical for them to be as thorough and precise as possible. This includes taking reasonable steps to ensure the data in every report is current and correct.
At Backgrounds Online, we have numerous policies in place to make sure the data we provide meets FCRA requirements. When our customers run background checks to determine whether or not to hire someone, it is crucial that they receive the most reliable information possible. We work diligently to build trustworthy, compliant reports that can legally be used to make informed hiring decisions.
If you have questions about compliance or screening new and existing employees, please contact us for assistance.
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