In another sign that accuracy is becoming the number one issue with criminal background checks of job applicants, possibly even more so than issues of discrimination and privacy, two recent editorials published in the New York Times – ‘Faulty Criminal Background Checks’ and ‘Accuracy in Criminal Background Checks’ – both examined the accuracy of criminal background checks used by employers and called for more regulation of the screening industry by the federal government. The NY Times editorials are available at http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/25/opinion/faulty-criminal-background-checks.html and http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/10/opinion/accuracy-in-criminal-background-checks.html.
The opening paragraphs of both editorials, which appeared in the Times less than three weeks apart, accuse the federal government of not paying enough attention to background check providers and call for more scrutiny of the entire industry:
- ‘Faulty Criminal Background Checks’ (Published on July 24, 2012): “The federal government has historically paid little attention to the companies that collect and sell the data used by employers in hiring decisions — including data about an applicant’s criminal history.”
- ‘Accuracy in Criminal Background Checks’ (Published August 9, 2012): “For far too long, the federal government has neglected its responsibility for regulating the companies that provide criminal background checks used by 9 in 10 companies to screen job applicants. The damage done to job seekers by flawed and unreliable data — a common problem with such services — can be devastating.”
Both editorials mention how the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) share jurisdiction over employment background checks, which are regulated by the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) that all background check companies must obey. Under the FCRA, background check firms – also known as Consumer Reporting Agencies (CRAs) – “shall follow reasonable procedures to assure maximum possible accuracy” of the background check reports they prepare. The text of the FCRA is available at http://www.ftc.gov/os/statutes/fcradoc.pdf.
As mentioned in one NY Times editorial – and as reported in an ESR News blog posted August 8, 2012 – a leading background screening firm agreed to pay a $2.6 million penalty to settle FTC charges that it violated the FCRA multiple times, without admitting any wrongdoing, in a case representing the first time the FTC has charged a background screening company that delivers reports to employers with violating the FCRA. The FTC charged that the CRA violated the FCRA as required by law by failing to use reasonable procedures to assure the maximum possible accuracy of information it provided, failing to give consumers copies of their reports, and failing to reinvestigate consumer disputes.
Both NY Times editorials end with similar calls for the federal government to “step up” scrutiny of the entire screening industry and “step in” to ensure the accuracy of criminal background checks used for employment purposes.
However, safe hiring expert Attorney Lester Rosen, founder and CEO of San Francisco, CA-area background check firm Employment Screening Resources (ESR), says the NY Times editorials do not tell the entire story regarding accuracy in background checks.
“The editorials ignore the fact that the screening industry performs millions of checks a year in order to ensure employers avoid the cost and potentially dire consequences of a bad hire,” says Rosen, author of ‘The Safe Hiring Manual,’ the first comprehensive guide to employment background checks. “Yes, one company was accused of not doing the right thing, but to condemn an entire industry is like saying all newspapers are bad because the National Enquirer does not live up to journalistic standards.”
Rosen, a frequent speaker on due diligence issues nationwide, adds: “The fact is that if someone committed an act of workplace violence, sexual assault, child molestation, embezzlement or some other serious matter that a background check could have prevented, the NY Times would likely run an editorial bemoaning the lack of background checks and questioning why the employer did not do more. Rather than approach this emotionally, how about taking an intelligent view and recognizing there is more than one side to the story.”
The Times editorial also referenced a report released in April 2012 by the National Consumer Law Center (NCLC), ‘Broken Records: How Errors by Criminal Background Checking Companies Harm Workers and Businesses,’ that claims mistakes on criminal background screening reports conducted for employers prevents many job seekers from finding work. The NCLC report is available at http://www.nclc.org/images/pdf/pr-reports/broken-records-report.pdf.
Rosen found the NCLC report was “itself fatally flawed with errors and inaccuracy.” To address the “erroneous information and unfounded conclusions” contained in the report, Attorney Lester S. Rosen has written an article, ‘Consumer Group Report on Inaccurate Criminal Background Check Reports Loses Impact Due to Lack of Objectivity and Errors,’ that is available at http://www.esrcheck.com/articles/NCLC-Report-on-Criminal-Background-Checks-Inaccurate.php.
For more information about background checks, visit Employment Screening Resources (ESR) – ‘The Background Check Authority’ and a nationwide background screening firm accredited by The National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS®) – at http://www.esrcheck.com/, call 415.898.0044, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
About Employment Screening Resources (ESR):
Employment Screening Resources (ESR) – ‘The Background Check AuthoritySM’– provides accurate and actionable information, empowering employers to make informed safe hiring decisions for the benefit for our clients, their employees, and the public. ESR literally wrote the book on background screening with “The Safe Hiring Manual” by Founder and CEO Lester Rosen. ESR is accredited by The National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS), a distinction held by a small percentage of screening firms. By choosing an accredited screening firm like ESR, employers know they have selected an agency that meets the highest industry standards. For more information about Employment Screening Resources (ESR), visit http://www.esrcheck.com/, call 415.898.0044 or 888.999.4474 (Toll Free), or email email@example.com.
About ESR News:
The Employment Screening Resources (ESR) News blog – ESR News – provides employment screening information for employers, recruiters, and jobseekers on a variety of topics including credit reports, criminal records, data privacy, discrimination, E-Verify, jobs reports, legal updates, negligent hiring, workplace violence, and use of search engines and social network sites for background checks. For more information about ESR News or to send comments or questions, please email ESR News Editor Thomas Ahearn at firstname.lastname@example.org.