By Doreen Koronios
The tragedy of the Ohio State University shooting is that it might not have happened had a full background check, including a reference check, been conducted by a reputable third party consumer reporting agency. Nathaniel Brown lied on his employment application (studies have shown that 80% of applications contain some type of falsification) when asked if he had ever been convicted of a felony or misdemeanor. However, Ohio prison records show that he was in prison for five years, from July 1979 to March 1984, for receiving stolen property in Stark County. Although OSU conducted a background check, it appears that the company they used may have conducted database checks only, which by themselves would not qualify as a thorough background check.
The corrections record itself might not have been found due to a discrepancy with the subject’s date of birth. However, Mr. Brown clearly listed a reference on his employment application for a job he said he worked in while he was in prison. A full background check would have included a call to the listed Supervisor who would have notified the screening company that Mr. Brown was not employed during the dates he listed on his application. This source may have provided the background check company with independent knowledge as to the true date of birth of Mr. Brown. It is important to note that this former supervisor had been interviewed by the Press and acknowledged that although Mr. Brown had worked for him it was not during the period indicated on his application. The supervisor also confirmed that he was not contacted by anyone up to that point regarding Mr. Brown’s employment history with his firm. Mr. Brown would then have had some explaining to do about where he was during the dates listed, which might have uncovered the fact that he had a criminal record.
Although “national” criminal records database checks are marketed as quick, efficient, and less costly, you definitely get what you pay for. When searching for a background screening company, a red flag should go up as soon as you see the words “free” and “instant results”.
While criminal records databases are useful in identifying potential criminal records they should not be relied upon as accurate or complete. Here are several reasons why so called “national” criminal records databases don’t work:
1. There is no such thing as a national criminal records check – There is no central repository for federal, state, and local criminal records. The FBI has the only nationwide criminal database, known as NCIC (National Crime Information Center), which cannot be accessed by anyone other than a criminal justice agency. According to Concerned CRAs, criminal record databases are put together by private companies who purchase information from a “patchwork” of sources, including county courts, state criminal records repositories, sex offender registries, and prison systems. U.S. Senator Herb Kohl said, “The current system of state-based background checks is haphazard, inconsistent, and full of gaping holes”.
2. They are not FCRA compliant – The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) is the federal law that details how consumer credit information can be collected, disseminated and used. Most important is the fact that the information reported must be up to date.
3. The information is not up to date – Not all states have automated systems for collecting data and most do not make their records available in bulk electronic format. Therefore, the content, accuracy, and timeliness of the data are called into question.
4. They are prone to errors – report criminal records that have been expunged which causes the denial of employment to many – At least 40 states allow the right to seal or expunge records for some minor prior criminal convictions. However, the private electronic databases of criminal records are not up to date and sometimes show these expunged records. This leads to many of these applicants losing job opportunities because their background checks contain inaccurate information about their criminal convictions.
5. They expose your company to the risk of costly litigation -Employers who fail to do the proper due diligence often find themselves embroiled in litigation. The average award for a negligent hiring lawsuit is $1 million. The highest award in the U.S. for a negligent hiring case was $26.5 million. A company’s best defense against negligent hiring lawsuits is a thorough pre-employment screening by an experienced company that knows how and where to search for criminal records.
6. They expose your company to a potential public relations nightmare – Your company’s reputation has an enormous impact on the growth and success of the business. Negligent hiring can expose a company to bad publicity, damage the company’s reputation, and affect future growth and earnings.
The moral of this story is that you truly get what you pay for. If you want to keep your company and employees out of harms way, the best way to do that is to hire a reputable third party consumer reporting agency (background screening company). The consequences of shortcutting a pre-employment background check could have long range affects including massive financial settlements, bad publicity, and, in the worst case, loss of life.
For information on how CARCO can help you with your pre-employment screening needs, please visit http://www.carcogroup.com/.