It is NEVER a good practice to use databases as the sole source of criminal history information when conducting background checks on employees and applicants.
Criminal record databases may be valuable resources but the update periods are inconsistent or too infrequent. As a result, database searches alone are inherently unreliable. Information in databases is often outdated, incomplete and always second-hand, and should only be used to supplement real-time courthouse research of original source information. Any information developed from a database search must be verified and re-verified by court docket searches from the originating source. Further, this is the standard of care required under the FCRA.
You may be aware that there have been several high profile cases over the last several years where background screening companies have either been sued by the EEOC and/or FTC or involved in class action suits because they do not conduct background checks properly.
There’s a right way and a wrong way to conduct background checks! Recently, Sterling InfoSystems (now known as Sterling Backcheck) found that out the hard way.
According to the New York Law Journal, Kevin A. Jones brought a consumer class action lawsuit against Sterling InfoSystems alleging violations of the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (15 U.S.C. § 1681 et seq.) and the New York Fair Credit Reporting Act (New York State Consolidated Laws Article 25).
Jones was offered and accepted a job as a doorman with Halstead Management Co. but the offer was revoked because Sterling’s background report on Jones showed that he had a criminal record.
Not only was the information reported by Sterling on the wrong Kevin Jones, but, according to Jones’ attorney, “the consumer reporting agency did not notify Jones that they were reporting a public record nor did they maintain reasonable procedures to ensure that the records were complete and up to date.”
Jones claims that the onus was on him to prove his innocence and he provided fingerprint-based documentation from the state Division of Criminal Justice Services showing that he did not have a criminal history. The company corrected the report, but by that time the position was already filled.
Monica Welby of the Legal Action Center, which filed the suit along with Jones’ attorney, said “Sterling didn’t do anything to reinvestigate, as it is required to do under the Fair Credit Reporting Act. They just relied on a bulk database that is sold to reporting agencies and updated only periodically.”
It is the responsibility of background screening companies to keep their clients out of harm’s way and to use best practices when providing consumer reports. HR managers should do their due diligence when selecting and working with background screening vendors to ensure that they are using a quality company that does not “cut corners” which could cause serious problems for their employers.
CARCO’s approach to conducting background checks is designed to protect our clients and their candidates while improving the candidate experience. We take the responsibility of keeping our clients out of harm’s way very seriously and always use best practices when providing consumer reports. Our clients can rest assured that not only do our policies and practices follow the letter and spirit of the law, but we take the extra step to protect our client’s good name by verifying and re-verifying all adverse information to ensure that our reports are correct and compliant.
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