Safe Hiring Expert Explains Why Background Check of Aurora Shooter Did Not Reveal Past Conviction

Stop Workplace Violence

Written By ESR News Blog Editor Thomas Ahearn

That fact that a past felony conviction was not revealed during the pre-employment background check of an employee who fatally shot five co-workers at his Aurora, Illinois, workplace while being fired from his job “might be perplexing – or even shocking to some – but not to background screening experts,” according to an article posted on the website of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).

Aurora Shooter Background Check

In the article “Why Didn’t Employment Screen Reveal Aurora Shooter’s Assault Conviction?” by SHRM Online Manager/Editor of Talent Acquisition Roy Maurer, several screening experts were interviewed including Attorney Lester Rosen, the founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Employment Screening Resources® (ESR), a global background check firm based near San Francisco, California.

The article reveals that Gary Martin – who shot and killed five co-workers during a termination meeting at the Henry Pratt Company on February 15, 2019 – was convicted in Mississippi in 1995 of aggravated assault for stabbing and beating his girlfriend. However, the felony conviction did not show up during a background check when he was hired in 2004, according to one company official.

“HR needs to understand that although criminal background checks overall have a very high rate of accuracy, there can be times when records aren’t flagged because of the complexity of the search or for other reasons,” explained Rosen, the author of ‘The Safe Hiring Manual,’ the first comprehensive guide to employment background checks, and a frequent speaker on due diligence background check issues.

“No matter how much money you spend or whatever you do, there will be occasions on the margins when things fall through the cracks, older cases, or [ones] in jurisdictions that are farther away from where the search is originated,” Rosen said, adding that there is no single repository containing the updated criminal records from the more than 3,000 county courthouses across the United States.

Rosen told SHRM that the most minimal background check would be a “one-county check” performed in the county of residence where the newly hired worked lived in order to show “the least due diligence” while accessing one of several private multistate, multijurisdictional databases available to employers that contain hundreds of millions of records would present wide – but not deep – search parameters.

In the article, Rosen recommended that background screening firms only use these multistate, multijurisdictional databases as a supplement to a more-targeted courthouse check since they “are basically a large data dump, with lots of records and must be combed through by experts who know how to use it. If a record is found, it must be pulled to make sure it’s complete, accurate, up-to-date and legal to report.”

Rosen suggested employers search county courthouses based on where a job applicant lived, worked, or studied in the past seven years, and supplement that search with a multistate, multijurisdictional database search. He added that records systems are “far from perfect” and are “created and maintained by the criminal justice system for criminal justice purposes, not primarily for employment screening.”

Rosen said that some but not all states have statewide repositories but not all jurisdictions have digitized their records and some are slow to update cases. In addition, errors in the records can result in clearing people with convictions (“false negatives”) and flagging people without criminal records (“false positives”) on background checks. “Each state is an adventure, with its own set of rules,” he said.

Rosen warned against relying on commercial databases. “Don’t skimp on the search. Background screens are not that expensive, but there’s a lot of [employers] looking for the cheapest option,” he said. Rosen advised HR to select a screening firm that is “reputable, accredited by NAPBS (National Association of Professional Background Screeners), not taking shortcuts, using good researchers, and not only relying on databases.”

SHRM – the world’s largest HR professional society representing 300,000 members in more than 165 countries – will hold the SHRM 2019 Talent Conference & Exposition in Nashville, Tennessee from April 8 to 10, 2019. The conference will feature background screening industry leaders such as Rosen, who will present a session on the use of criminal records. To register for the SHRM Talent Conference, click here.

Rosen will present a session at the conference entitled “The Use of Criminal Records in Hiring: Land Mines and Opportunities for Employers” on Monday, April 8, 2019, from 1:15 PM to 2:15 PM Central Time. Attendees of the session hosted by Rosen will be updated on compliance issues with the use of criminal records by employers when hiring and the need for a fair chance hiring process.

Rosen also will make a shorter presentation on the Smart Stage entitled “Social Media Background Screening. Is it Right for My Company?” earlier on Monday, April 8, 2019, from 10:45 AM to 11:03 AM Central Time. The SHRM 2019 Talent Conference & Exposition will be held at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center at 2800 Opryland Drive in Nashville, Tennessee.

Visit ESR at SHRM 2019 Talent Conference & Exposition

Employment Screening Resources® (ESR) will be an exhibitor at the SHRM 2019 Talent Conference & Exposition from April 8 to 10, 2019, in Nashville, Tennessee. Visit ESR at Booth #1005 at the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center in Nashville. To learn more about ESR, please visit www.esrcheck.com or follow ESR on social media on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. #SHRMTalent

NOTE: Employment Screening Resources® (ESR) does not provide or offer legal services or legal advice of any kind or nature. Any information on this website is for educational purposes only.

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