Backgrounds Online Blog

  • Indiana Prohibits Local Ban the Box Laws in Favor of State Law

    June 20, 2017
    Local government agencies will not be allowed to create Ban the Box related laws. Instead, IN employers must follow laws that are passed by the state.
    Backgrounds Online | June 20, 2017

    Local government agencies will not be allowed to create Ban the Box related laws. Instead, IN employers must follow laws that are passed by the state.

    About Ban the Box

    Ban the Box is a policy that was developed to help people with minor criminal convictions find employment. Some job applications ask if the person has ever been convicted of any crime. If the answer is yes, the person is required to check a box. If an applicant checks this box, they probably won't receive further consideration, even if their conviction was minor or irrelevant to the position.

    The primary purpose of the Ban the Box movement is to remove such questions from job applications. Proponents believe this will give millions of people a better chance at finding work. More candidates would go through the initial hiring and interview process and those that pass would be asked to consent to a background screening.

    A background check shows criminal convictions that are reportable, meaning they can legally be used to make business decisions. This gives employers the data they need to make educated decisions. At that point an employer could consider a candidate's strengths and history to decide if a pre-adverse action is necessary.

    Why Indiana Implemented This Bill

    Numerous cities and states have implemented Ban the Box laws, but they are not consistent. It can be difficult for employers to comply with all relevant laws because they may vary drastically from one location to another. Indiana's new bill hopes to fix this issue.

    Senate Bill 312 prohibits local government agencies from developing and passing their own Ban the Box laws. Governor Eric Holcomb signed the Bill and it goes into effect on July 1, 2017. When it does, businesses that operate in Indiana must be aware of and follow state laws that cover the background screening process.

    What This Means for Indiana Based Employers

    This new law is expected to help create a smoother and easier hiring flow for employers in the Hoosier state. Without it, Indiana businesses would need to check for local laws that are in place anywhere they operate.

    As of July 1, Indiana-based employers will have to follow state mandated laws. This eliminates the difficulty of keeping up with differing laws that are passed in various cities. It also creates a consistent process for job seekers and is expected to help many people find employment.

    Indiana employers should prepare for the changes that come with Bill 312.

    Your Hiring Policies

    Every employer must be aware of Ban the Box and related laws that are in effect wherever they operate. Not following these laws could lead to lawsuits and other legal issues. We recommend fully documenting your entire screening process and updating it when existing laws change or new bills are passed.

    The screening staff at Backgrounds Online works diligently to keep up with laws that impact our customers. Your account manager can help you create Custom Background Check Packages that include the searches you need to make informed decisions while you remain compliant with local and federal regulations.

    If you have questions or need assistance, please contact us today.

  • Lawsuit Claims Macy's Screening Policies are Discriminatory

    June 13, 2017
    A lawsuit that was filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission claims Macy's background screening policies discriminate against minorities.
    Backgrounds Online | June 13, 2017

    A lawsuit that was filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission claims Macy's background screening policies discriminate against minorities.

    A Three-Pronged Complaint

    Outten & Golden LLP filed the suit on May 17, 2017. They alleged that Macy's has three prominent issues with their screening policies. Their first claim is that the company asks job applicants to disclose criminal convictions for an overly long period of time. There are laws that detail how long criminal convictions can be included on consumer reports.

    A second complaint suggests that Macy's asks applicants to disclose convictions that should not be revealed or considered during the hiring process. Various federal and state laws discuss what types of criminal records can be used to help make employment-related decisions. According to the suit, Macy's may have been asking for information that they could not legally request.

    The third complaint states that Macy's did not take "mitigating circumstances" into consideration. Examples of circumstances the retailer is accused of not considering include time served and rehabilitation.

    What Led to the Lawsuit

    Outten & Golden LLP helps people who have criminal records to reintegrate into society. Their website states that they are "advocates for workplace fairness, our passion and our profession is to help advance the goals of employees and protect their rights against injustices in the workplace."

    Members of the firm investigated the screening policies that Macy's uses during their hiring process. Attorney Ossai Miazad said that their policies have a "disparate impact on black, Latino and male job seekers." Miazad helped initiate the lawsuit, which alleges that numerous applicants were turned away even though their criminal convictions occurred many years ago or are irrelevant for the positions to which they were applying.

    The Movement to Help People with Criminal Histories

    There are several ongoing efforts to help Americans with criminal records find jobs. In the past, this has a problem for thousands of individuals. Even minor convictions have prevented people from obtaining employment.

    Concepts such as Ban the Box are intended to help people who have minor criminal convictions. The goal is to remove questions such as "Do you have a criminal record?" from job applications. If an applicant indicates they have a conviction, they are unlikely to receive further consideration. Even if the conviction occurred while the applicant was a minor or was not relevant to the employer's interests.

    In 2015, the White House launched the Fair Chance Business Pledge. It asks businesses to ban the box and take other steps to "make sure Americans who've paid their debt to society can earn their second chance."

    The attorneys at Outten & Golden LLP also focus on issues that negatively impact job seekers, employees, executives and other individuals. Their practice covers a wide range of workplace-related issues.

    What You Should Know about Criminal Background Checks

    Fairness is a hot topic in regards to background screening. Multiple laws are in place to help establish fair and consistent hiring practices. Businesses should be aware of Ban the Box and other relevant laws that exist in any location where they hire and have active employees.

    Adhering to these federal and state laws may seem difficult, but the screening experts at Backgrounds Online are ready to help. If you have questions or need assistance with putting together a Custom Background Check, please contact our friendly and experienced team.

  • A Class Action Lawsuit Over Inaccurate Background Information

    June 6, 2017
    A woman applied for a nursing job in Booneville, Indiana, but was turned down. When she found out why, she initiated a class action lawsuit.
    Backgrounds Online | June 6, 2017

    A woman applied for a nursing job in Booneville, Indiana, but was turned down. When she found out why, she initiated a class action lawsuit.

    Unexpected Background Check Results

    Michele Petry is a Nurse who hoped to work at Cathedral Health Care Centers. Her interview went well. She was given a provisional job offer, pending the results of a background investigation. Petry waited for the final decision and it was not what she expected. Employment was denied. The reason provided was that her background investigation uncovered multiple felonies.

    According to Petry, her record is clean. Her background report, however, showed crimes such as theft and possession of drug paraphernalia. A representative of Cathedral Health Care Centers told her she was not eligible for hire. Petry claims she never received a copy of her report and company that compiled it has not been identified.

    The Lawsuit

    Petry launched a class action lawsuit again Cathedral Health Care Centers. It alleged that she was wrongfully denied employment and did not have an opportunity to review her report before an adverse action was taken. This goes against FCRA regulations.

    The details of the lawsuit are not known to us at this time, but class action suits can be costly and time consuming. This case will be reviewed at a U.S. District Court in Indiana, where they will make a decision about her allegations.

    How Could a Background Check Include Incorrect Information?

    There are various ways that a background check could include erroneous information. A Social Security Number could be entered incorrectly, so the report would contain results for the wrong person. In some cases, more than one person might be connected to the same Social Security Number. This is rare, but can happen when people apply for joint credit.

    It's also possible for a background check to contain information that is correct but not meant to be available to the public. This can happen if the person conducting an investigation does not follow due diligence and confirm that the records included on a background check are current and reportable.

    At Backgrounds Online, we have a team of specialists who take extra efforts to ensure that every background check provides information about the right person. We also have security checks in place to make sure our reports only include valid, authenticated records that are publicly available.

    Protecting Your Business

    One of the best ways to protect your business is to work with an NAPBS Accredited Consumer Reporting Agency. Backgrounds Online is proud to be accredited, and every member of our team who participates in the screening process has their FCRA certification. We go the extra mile to help protect you.

    It's equally important to follow the adverse action procedure that was established by the FCRA. This involves issuing pre-adverse notices; giving people a copy of their report and time to review; establishing a dispute process; and, when applicable, providing a final adverse notification.

    Every Backgrounds Online customer has free access to sample pre-adverse and adverse action letters. They are available within your Resource Center. Use them and follow FCRA guidelines throughout the screening process.

    The team at Backgrounds Online is happy to answer questions about adverse actions or any other aspect of the screening process. If you need assistance, please contact us.

  • Man with a Felony Record Becomes a VP in PA... For One Day

    May 30, 2017
    Freddie Dean Smith was issued an emergency citation to fill in as a Vice Principal. Soon after, school officials learned about his criminal history.
    Backgrounds Online | May 30, 2017

    Freddie Dean Smith was issued an emergency citation to fill in as a Vice Principal. Soon after, school officials learned about his criminal history.

    Investigating a New Hire

    After hearing that Freddie Dean Smith was asked to fill in as Vice President of a Pennsylvania High School, one resident decided to research his past. What the resident discovered prompted them to contact a local news team. Based on that call, a team representative launched a background investigation. It showed that Smith had a felony conviction for eluding police in 2002 and contained other items that caused concern.

    According to Philadelphia Action News, Smith was also charged with sexual-based crimes in 2001 and 2003. Whether or not those charges led to convictions is unclear. The news team also learned about one man who is determined to spread the word about Smith's past.

    Writer with a Mission

    Robert Cox, a writer for the online publication Talk of the Sound in New Rochelle, New York, has written about Freddie Dean Smith numerous times. Cox authors additional articles when he sees news that confirms Smith has obtained employment within another educational facility. He eagerly spoke to a member of the Philadelphia News Team.

    Cox claimed that Smith was denied a teaching certification in Maryland and Virginia. He also alleged that Smith was banned from working at or with schools in New Jersey or New York. The writer said that despite his record, Smith somehow slips through the cracks and finds jobs at educational facilities.

    According to Cox, Smith should not be allowed to work with children. He has called on media outlets throughout the country to run their own investigations into Smith's past. Smith has had multiple jobs at public schools. Cox hopes to prevent this from happening again.

    Smith's Latest Job

    In May 2017, Freddie Dean Smith was hired at Chester High School. Initially, the plan was to bring him on for a six-week period at the end of a semester. Before Smith started, the Principal left and the Vice Principal was promoted.

    Smith was granted an emergency citation to fill the Vice Principal position temporarily. School officials had started a background check on Smith, but did not have the results yet. His first and only day on the job was May 2, 2017.

    Fallout

    After day one, the results of Smith's background check were returned. The report included details of a criminal past. Smith was dismissed immediately.

    The school issued a statement that read: "Mr. Smith was only with the school district for one day as per diem assistant principal. He took part in training sessions, during which he had no unsupervised contact with students. He is no longer with the district. As always, the safety and well-being of our students is our highest priority."

    This statement also stipulated that the school district runs background checks on all new employees before their employment begins. After it was issued, Superintendent Dr. Juan Baughn reportedly said this about Smith: "He is not around our kids. He is not around our kids. He is not here."

    What You Should Know About Criminal Background Checks

    Criminal background checks provide information about convictions that are reportable. If an arrest does not lead to a conviction and the case is dismissed, it will not be reported in a background check. Convictions that later become sealed or expunged are also not allowed to be included in background checks or other consumer reports.

    When running background checks on people who might work at schools, we suggest a National Criminal Database Search in addition to local searches. If records are found anywhere in the country, they are confirmed with a County Criminal Court Search. This ensures accuracy as the data comes directly from the court where a case was handled.

    Learn more about our screening recommendations for the education industry.

  • Proposed Florida Law Would Seal Non-Conviction Arrest Records

    May 23, 2017
    A recently drafted FL bill calls for arrest records to be sealed if the subject was not convicted. It is expected to be signed by Governor Rick Scott.
    Backgrounds Online | May 23, 2017

    A recently drafted FL bill calls for arrest records to be sealed if the subject was not convicted. It is expected to be signed by Governor Rick Scott.

    About The Bill

    The purpose of the bill is to allow people who were never convicted to have their arrest records permanently sealed. If that happens, then those records could not legally be used in background checks or other consumer reports. This bill would also forbid businesses that post mugshots online from charging people who were found innocent to have their photos removed. Currently, most of these sites have a fee for mugshot removal.

    Both the House and Senate unanimously supported and voted for this bill. Now it's up Florida Governor Rick Scott. As of late April, the bill was still under review.

    Why This Bill Was Introduced

    Existing Florida law does not allow people to have their arrest records sealed if they aren't convicted. Therefore, people who were declared not guilty still have public records that show they were arrested and accused of a crime.

    Florida State Representative Scott Plakon supports the proposed law. He believes it will help people who received a not guilty verdict or had charges dropped. Plakon suggests that this bill will make it easier for people find employment, rent apartments and accomplish other common tasks without being hindered by an arrest record.

    Apt Example

    The Orlando Sentinel ran an article that showed an example of someone who could positively benefit from the passing of this bill. Demarquis Prince had been working at a local fast food establishment, but was fired by his manager Dexter Hughley. Not long after this occurred, Hughley was shot multiple times. When questioned by the police, Hughley pointed out Prince as the Shooter. Prince was arrested.

    Several months later, Hughley admitted that Prince was not the shooter. Although Prince was set free, his arrest record is still publicly available. If the new bill passes, then Prince and would have the right to get his arrest records permanently sealed. These records would be sealed automatically. Prince, and anyone else who qualifies, would have to submit a request to start the process.

    Another potential benefit for Prince would be the ability to have his mugshot removed from any websites at no charge. If a company that ran one of these sites refused to comply, Prince could file a lawsuit against them. The bill stipulates that businesses would be required to remove a mugshot within ten days or they could be fined $1,000 daily.

    What You Should Know About Criminal Records In Background Checks

    When you run a background check, you are looking for current, relevant data. These reports are used to help make employment, credit and other business-related decisions. Accuracy is paramount.

    Background checks can only legally display criminal records that are deemed reportable to the public. Records that have been sealed or expunged may not be included on any consumer report.

    If you need background checks to help make business-related decisions, contact Backgrounds Online. We make efforts to keep up with laws that impact our customers in every state. Our team is dedicated to building useful background checks that contain reportable data you can use when screening current or potential employees.

  • Reducing Your Turnover Rate for New Employees

    May 16, 2017
    Does your business lose people at a faster than average pace? Do new employees tend to leave after just a month or two? If so, it's time to figure out why.
    Backgrounds Online | May 16, 2017

    Does your business lose people at a faster than average pace? Do new employees tend to leave after just a month or two? If so, it's time to figure out why.

    The Importance of Improving Your Retention Rate

    Finding, hiring and training new employees is a complex process. Each person you hire represents an investment, and not just monetarily. Your existing staff must spend time learning about the individuals who applied, interviewing those who seem to be qualified and training people once they are hired.

    Losing employees soon after they start creates a difficult and frustrating experience for everyone involved. When this happens, it necessitates another hiring cycle that requires more time, money and resources. Every business should develop plans to improve their retention rate. Here are a few ideas to help.

    Don't Skip the Verifications

    Background checks provide essential information about prospective employees. These reports are commonly used to see if someone has a serious criminal conviction, but they can also include useful details about an applicant's education and employment history.

    Rely on verification services to confirm that your candidates have the experience and education they need to succeed. People sometimes exaggerate on their resumes. While this may be done with the best of intentions, some jobs require specific training and knowledge. Candidates who don't have the right background might not be able to handle the responsibilities of a position, which could cause them to exit quickly.

    Some positions also require licenses or credentials. Background checks can confirm that candidates are properly credentialed for any job. Add verifications to help pinpoint applicants who are qualified and likely to flourish with your company.

    Find People Who Are a Good Fit

    Someone who has the right experience and training for a position still might not be an ideal fit. Part of the hiring process includes attempting to identify people who will excel in your work environment.

    It's equally important to make sure candidates understand your company's culture, goals and expectations. Much of this can be done during the interview process, but it's also helpful to write about these concepts in every job description. Providing such information upfront helps job seekers determine whether or not they should apply.

    Review Your Onboarding Process

    Once you hire someone, what happens next? Do they get the tools, training and resources they need? Will someone spend time with them to ensure they understand what is expected? Is anyone available to answer their questions and provide guidance, especially during the first week or so?

    Onboarding can be critical to the success, or failure, of a new hire. If an employee doesn't feel they are receiving proper training or knowledge, they may opt to look elsewhere. Challenging people can be a fulfilling and rewarding experience. But 'tossing someone in the deep end' without preparing them can be a discouraging and scary situation.

    In the long term, establishing a thorough onboarding program is more beneficial and cost effective than going through the hiring process again and again.

    Develop Your Company Culture

    If you continuously have a heavier-than-average turnover rate, it's time to look internally. People leave new jobs for many reasons and are often willing to explain why during the exit interview. Listen to what they say; especially if you keep hearing similar stories.

    While reviewing your onboarding techniques and company culture, consider the following:

    • Do new hires understand what is expected of them?
    • Are people receiving the support and education they need to prosper?
    • Does your company offer challenges, room for growth and a clear career path?
    • Do competitors provide better salaries and benefits?
    • Is your staff working together to accomplish business goals?

    Determining what might be wrong with company culture, and how to fix it, is no easy task. But identifying issues that lead to a rapid turnover rate is a positive first step towards creating a better environment for everyone.

    Best of luck with all of your hiring and onboarding efforts!

  • The FTC Issued a Statement on Background Check Disclosures

    May 9, 2017
    The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently published an article that covered what employers may and may not include in their disclosure documents.
    Backgrounds Online | May 9, 2017

    The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently published an article that covered what employers may and may not include in their disclosure documents.

    The Background Screening Process

    Businesses that run background checks for employment-related purposes, such as to make decisions about hiring and promotions, must comply with federal and state regulations. The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) established laws that govern the screening process. A recent article from the Federal Trade Commission begins by reviewing key requirements of the FCRA:

    • Employers must obtain written authorization before running a background check on any person. This is typically done within a disclosure document that informs the recipient an organization would like to initiate a background investigation.
    • If a background check returns data that could warrant an adverse action, such as denial of employment or a promotion, then the employer must issue a pre-adverse notification, provide a copy of the report and give the individual time to review and refute their results.
    • Upon taking the adverse action, the employer must inform the person that this action occurred, in part or in whole, based on the results of their background check.

    What the FTC Wrote About Disclosures

    According to the FTC article, creating a compliant disclosure is an easy task. They confirm that the document should consist exclusively of the disclosure itself and it may include a request for written authorization to conduct a background investigation. However, some employers make the mistake of adding more information.

    The FTC advises employers not to include any of the following:

    • Verbiage that is intended to release the employer, employees or other entities from any form of liability.
    • Content that asks the individual to acknowledge the employer uses legitimate and non-discriminatory hiring practices.
    • Language that asks the subject of the investigation to confirm the information they provided on their application is accurate.
    • Any type of authorization requests (other than to conduct a screening).
    • Unnecessary legal jargon.

    In short, the disclosure should consist solely of the disclosure and it may include a request to authorize the background investigation.

    Why This Is Important

    The FTC suggests that including other information could make it difficult for the consumer to understand the primary purpose of a disclosure document. Their goal is to ensure disclosures are clear and simple.

    Employers should be aware that including additional information in a disclosure is a violation of the FCRA. Several recent class action lawsuits have been filed against employers that failed to comply with this requirement.

    Keep It Simple and Straightforward

    In their article, the FTC recommends keeping everything simple and easy to understand. They state that doing so is not only a good idea, it is also the law. And that a disclosure should only contain "notification that you will obtain a background screening report, perhaps with a simple explanation of what information will be included in the report."

    If you are a Backgrounds Online customer, then you can login to your account and see a sample disclosure in your Resource Center. We also provide documents for pre-adverse notices and adverse action notifications.

    About the FTC

    The FTC is a federal agency that is dedicated to protecting consumers without "unduly burdening legitimate business activity." It was initially established in 1914 to prevent unfair methods of competition, and has since grown in size and scope.

  • Thousands of MA Drivers Lost Jobs After Background Screenings

    May 2, 2017
    Massachusetts implemented a stringent re-screening process for rideshare drivers. Thousands were deemed unfit for employment. Many are appealing their results.
    Backgrounds Online | May 2, 2017

    Massachusetts implemented a stringent re-screening process for rideshare drivers. Thousands were deemed unfit for employment. Many are appealing their results.

    MA Becomes the First State to Re-Screen Rideshare Drivers

    We've seen multiple stories about rideshare drivers who committed serious crimes while on the job. That's led to ongoing discussions about whether or not companies like Uber and Lyft have sufficient background checking policies in place. Massachusetts recently became the first state to put drivers through a follow-up screening.

    The investigation was a two-step process. Step one was conducted by the employers. This included multi-state criminal checks, a review of motor vehicle records and a search of the national sex offender registry. Drivers that passed moved on to the second part, which was conducted by the state. This included a check for violent felonies, driving offenses and convictions for sexual crimes.

    Most background checks search for reportable criminal convictions from the last 7 years. The investigation conducted by Massachusetts looked for any conviction a driver incurred throughout their lifetime. Based on the results, more than 8,000 individuals were found to be ineligible for employment.

    Why People Lost Their Jobs

    During the screening process, officials searched for various convictions and violations. Eighteen separate items were considered serious enough to disqualify drivers. More than 10% of all MA-based rideshare employees did not pass.

    Most people who lost their jobs were flagged for suspended licenses. Others had not been licensed for at least three years, which is the minimum requirement set by the state. Nearly 1,000 drivers had convictions for serious violent crimes. An additional 51 drivers were found to be registered sexual offenders.

    Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker signed the law that required these background checks. He stood by the results. According to Baker, people did not lose their jobs over minor infractions such as a parking ticket. He said: "The simple truth is there were hundreds of people who were driving for Uber and Lyft who didn't have driver's licenses that were in force, OK. There were many more than 100 who had serious felony convictions. There were many who had other major crimes that I don't think anybody would want their son or daughter getting in the car to have somebody drive."

    Uber and Lyft Respond

    Representatives from Uber and Lyft issued responses to the screenings and the subsequent firings. Adrian Durbin, a spokesperson for Lyft, noted that they do run background checks but are limited to a 7-year time frame. Durbin said "The state does not face the same limitation, which likely explains why a small percentage of our drivers failed the state's background check while passing ours."

    Uber representatives criticized the unlimited time frame in which the state searched for convictions. The company issued a statement that read: "Thousands of people in Massachusetts have lost access to economic opportunities as a result of a screening that includes an unfair and unjust indefinite lookback period. We have an opportunity to repair the current system in the rules process so that people who deserve to work are not denied the opportunity."

    Hundreds of Drivers Appeal Their Results

    Drivers who lost their jobs have the right to appeal. They must provide the reason they are appealing along with their name and identification. Anyone who has a felony or sexual conviction will be automatically disqualified without a hearing.

    The appeal procedure is expected to take between 7 and 10 days. Thus far, a few hundred drivers have had their decisions overturned, making them eligible for re-hire. Many more are expected to go through this process.

    The Importance of Screening

    Lyft and Uber currently screen potential drivers. However, there has been much debate about whether or not these background investigations are sufficiently thorough for individuals who might provide transportation services to the public. Despite differences in opinions on how screenings should be conducted, the consensus is that background checks are an essential part of the hiring process.

    Background checks can show you if a prospective or current employee has a serious criminal conviction, confirm someone's employment or educational history and provide information that helps hiring managers make informed decisions. Backgrounds Online provides FCRA compliant background checks that show current, reportable records. If you have questions about the screening services we offer, please contact us for assistance.

  • Court Decrees Applicants Must Show Actual Harm in FCRA Lawsuits

    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.
    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.

  • Teaching Assistant with a Record is Charged with Assault

    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.
    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.

    Aftermath

    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.

  • 2 Chicago Based Lawsuits Filed Over Alleged FCRA Violations

    April 11, 2017
    Two 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.

    Case One

    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.

    Case Two

    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.

  • Brevard Public Schools in FL Failed to Run Background Checks

    April 4, 2017
    A 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.