National Association of Professional Background Screeners Responds to NBC Today Show Report on Background Checks

The National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS) Chairman Fred Giles has called an NBC Today Show report about pre-employment background checks and how background check firms make errors that mistake innocent people for criminals causing them to lose jobs “misleading” as well as “potentially dangerous.” The full NAPBS statement from Chairman Fred Giles about the NBC Today Show report is available at http://www.napbs.com/files/napbs_today_show_response.pdf.

In the NAPBS statement, Chairman Giles said: “NBC’s Today Show and reporter Jeff Rossen have done a disservice to employers and the general public by focusing on a small number of unfortunate instances in an attempt to indict an entire industry that is critical to the safety of our homes and workplaces.” By relying on only a few examples, Giles said the Today Show “ignored the vast majority of the millions of background screens conducted each year and the serious workplace problems they helped to prevent.”

Giles added that “two important points” that Today Show viewers need to know are:

  • Federal law, particularly the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), protects the rights of job applicants in disputing incorrect information in pre-employment background checks.
  • Employers have a legal responsibility under the FCRA to acknowledge these disputes and to follow a specific process for resolving them and that process should protect the applicant’s pursuit of the position.

Giles said that “NBC failed to provide the full story as to why sufficient time, accounted for in the law, was not allowed for the applicant to resolve the dispute” but instead created “a sensational rush to indict an industry that in fact does more to protect the safety of the workplace than a handful of unfortunate sensationalized anecdotes would indicate.”

As for the NAPBS, Giles said that members “fully understand the significant responsibility” in providing timely and accurate information in background checks for employers. “Simply put, when it comes to accuracy, our customers demand it and the law requires it.” Giles said that consumer protection is important to and NAPBS members actively help consumers resolve disputed records and noted that “fewer than 1% of consumer disputed records are actually found to contain an error.”

Later in the statement, Giles added: “For our part, NAPBS has developed a comprehensive individual certification program and a company based accreditation program with more than 58 specific standards of compliance to ensure our members provide the highest level of performance.”

In 2010, the NAPBS launched the Background Screening Agency Accreditation Program (BSAAP) to promote best practices, legal compliance, and the development of standards that protect consumers in the employment screening industry. The NAPBS Background Screening Credentialing Council (BSCC) oversees the application process and ensures that a background screening organization seeking accreditation meets or exceeds measurable standards of competence. To become accredited, background screening organizations must pass a rigorous onsite audit conducted by an independent auditing firm that examines policies and procedures related to six critical areas of screening:

  • Consumer protection,
  • Legal compliance,
  • Client education,
  • Product standards,
  • Service standards, and
  • General business practices.

The NAPBS is the leading national resource for issues related to the background screening industry. Any U.S.-based employment screening organization is eligible to apply for NAPBS accreditation. A copy of the standard, policies, and procedures is available on the NAPBS website at http://www.napbs.com/.

According to safe hiring expert Attorney Lester Rosen, who was the chairperson of the steering committee that founded the NAPBS and served as the first co-chairman: “These types of sensationalized stories may make good television, but they do a tremendous disservice to the public. The screening industry protects American consumers and businesses through  millions of background checks every year, but the TV report only chooses to focus on a couple of unfortunate incidents while ignoring all of the harm that can occur if these checks did not happen.”

Rosen, Founder and CEO of San Francisco, CA-area background check firm Employment Screening Resources (ESR), adds that: “Certainly errors can occur, but TV news is also far from perfect, and yet no one considers it a fair comment to say that the entire TV news industry is out of control just because there is an occasional error. But that is exactly the sensationalistic approach used by the program.”

According to Rosen, author of ‘The Safe Hiring Manual,’ it is critical to keep in mind that all background checks are done only with the specific written authorization of consumers, who also receive detailed disclosures about the process and their rights as required by existing federal and state law. Nothing is done in secret or without the consumer’s full knowledge and consent.

“It is also critical to understand that background checks are a mission critical process for employers of all sizes to prevent the legal and financial nightmare associated with even a single bad hire,” says Rosen. “The screening industry provides millions of reports every year, and against that backdrop, the number of complaints, issues, or problems is infinitesimally small.”

Rosen says that one of the most glaring omissions in the report is a complete failure to recognize the great societal benefit that background screening reports provide in reducing workplace violence, theft and fraud, along with putting the best qualified candidate in each open position. The employer also has the legal obligation to exercise due diligence in hiring.

“No one disputes that an erroneous criminal record costing a job has terrible and profound impact on a person’s life,” says Rosen. “However, that injustice can be corrected and the person will have the opportunity to move on. Where the injustice causes measurable harm, they can also seek monetary damages through the courts. But how does a society undo the impact and scars of a murder, rape, child molestation, or other sexual assaults or violent crimes that can result from a failure to perform criminal background checks? A fair minded report would at least recognize that there is a legitimate societal need for these checks to occur.”

One such violent incident that a background check could have prevented occurred in 1998, a case in which Rosen later testified as an expert witness. A carpet-cleaning firm in California that hired new employees without background checks immediately sent a newly hired employee into homes and, within a month, that employee brutally murdered a woman who was having her carpets cleaned. It turned out the employee had been convicted of a violent crime and locked up in prison for the previous ten years. If the employer had performed a criminal background check, it would have raised “red flags” and doubts about whether that person should be allowed into people’s homes. The victim’s husband sued the company and the parties eventually settled out of court for an undisclosed amount.

In another tragic incident, in 2001 a woman was raped and beaten to death in her suburban Florida home, which her killer then set on fire with the intent of destroying any evidence. Six months before her violent death, the victim had contracted with a major department store to have the air ducts in her home cleaned.  Unknown to her, both men sent on the service call had criminal records. One of the men, a twice-convicted sex offender on parole, returned to the home six months later to rape and kill her. The tragedy inspired the victim’s sister to start ‘Sue Weaver C.A.U.S.E. – Consumer Awareness of Unsafe Service Employment’ to d educate people on the necessity of criminal background checks on workers entering homes. The website is at http://www.sueweavercause.org/.  

Rosen concludes the real issue is that background checks occur at the intersection of two fundamental American values: security and giving people a second chance: “On the one hand, background checks can promote safety, security, and honesty while lessening the chance for workplace violence or the hiring of unqualified workers with fake credentials. On the other hand, employers using background checks should be concerned with issues of fairness, privacy, and discrimination, as well as the need to give ex-offenders a second chance to work so that they can become law abiding tax paying citizens. Otherwise, we will build more prisons and less schools and hospitals.”

Rosen also adds that sometimes TV News works both sides of a story for ratings: “Today the news story was how errors on a background check can cause an applicant to lose a job, which is very unfortunate. However, tomorrow the news story may be how a violent crime such as rape or murder could have been prevented by a background check and reporters will ask why the employer did not perform due diligence. You can’t have it both ways.”

For more information about background checks, visit Employment Screening Resources (ESR) – ‘The Background Check Authority’ and nationwide background screening firm accredited by the NAPBS – at http://www.esrcheck.com, call toll free 888.999.4474, or email customerservice@esrcheck.com.
Sources:
http://www.napbs.com/files/napbs_today_show_response.pdf
http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/49505767/ns/today-today_rossen_reports/
http://securitymanagement.com/article/how-avoid-hiring-mishaps-005529
http://www.sueweavercause.org/

About Employment Screening Resources (ESR):

Founded by safe hiring expert Attorney Les Rosen in 1997, Employment Screening Resources (ESR) – ‘The Background Check AuthoritySM’– provides accurate and actionable information that empowers employers to make informed hiring decisions for the benefit of their organizations, employees, and the public. CEO Rosen literally wrote the book on background checks with “The Safe Hiring Manual” and ESR is accredited by The National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS), a distinction held by a small percent of screening firms. Employers choosing ESR know they have selected an agency meeting the highest industry standards. To learn more, visit http://www.esrcheck.com, call 888.999.4474, or email customerservice@esrcheck.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 tahearn@esrcheck.com. To subscribe to the complimentary ESRcheck Report monthly newsletter, please visit http://www.esrcheck.com/Newsletter/.