Tag Archives: Employment Verification

Former INS, ICE Heads Agree E-Verify Should Be Mandatory for Employers

By Thomas Ahearn, ESR News Staff Writer

Two former heads of the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) appearing together on a National Public Radio (NPR) program agreed that the E-Verify electronic employment eligibility verification system should be mandatory for U.S. employers, according to a transcript of the radio show available on NPR’s website

Appearing on NPR’s Talk Of The Nation radio program with host Neal Conan, Doris Meissner, former INS Commissioner under President Clinton, and Julie Myers Wood, former Assistant Secretary of ICE under President Bush, were discussing the topic of immigration enforcement when the subject of E-Verify — a free, Internet-based system operated by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Social Security Administration (SSA) that allows employers to check information provided by employees on their I-9 Form electronically against records in DHS and SSA databases — came up.

Responding to a caller saying that employers have been able to identify Social Security numbers of workers for some years, Wood said E-Verify — which was initially called Basic Pilot in Commissioner Meissner’s time — has made substantial progress over the past couple of years and has evolved into a program that over 200,000 employers are using to check whether a name and Social Security number match and also, in the case of foreign nationals, to check the picture that’s used on a particular identification card.

“One of the things that many think would help is to make E-Verify mandatory,” Wood added. “And I think the Obama administration should be commended for pushing forward with a Bush administration rule that requires federal contractors to be on E-Verify, and that is greatly expanding the number of employers that do get on E-Verify.”

When Conan asked former INS commissioner Meissner whether E-Verify should be mandatory, Meissner responded: “A system like E-Verify should be mandatory. Until it is, we won’t have the kind of ability to enforce the law against employers that we need.” Meissner later added: “Congress has to act. It’s got to be legislated to make it mandatory.”

In terms of encouraging employers to join E-Verify, Wood observed that very large companies are mandating for their subcontractors to join E-Verify. “In the case of a very large grocery store, for example, you have tens of thousands of subcontractors that have joined E-Verify just so they don’t lose their big contracts.”

The full transcript of the program is available at: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=127562577

Employment Screening Resources (ESR) — a national background screening provider and authorized E-Verify Designated Agent — can help employers virtually eliminate errors, improve the accuracy of their reporting, protect jobs for authorized workers, and help maintain a legal workforce. For more information about the E-Verify electronic employment eligibility verification system, visit http://www.esrcheck.com/formi9.php.

Source: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=127562577

American Meat Industry CEO Addresses Importance of Employment Verification with E-Verify

By Thomas Ahearn, ESR Staff

Noting that polling shows Americans think immigration laws need reform but Congress has yet to translate national sentiment into action, the leading voice of the American Meat Industry (AMI) – the nation’s oldest and largest meat and poultry trade association – believes the reauthorization and improvement of the online employment verification system E-Verify could be a big step forward for comprehensive immigration reform.

In a guest editorial in the Austin (TX) American-Statesman – “The Importance of Employment Verification” – AMI President and CEO J. Patrick Boyle notes “E-Verify is the only electronic data-based system available to ensure that employers hire only those authorized to work in the United States” and that “like a merchant can swipe a credit card when a purchase is made – and that purchase is either authorized or not – E-Verify allows employers to verify the social security numbers of new employees after they are hired.”

Among the key points that Boyle makes in the commentary concerning the importance of employment verification and E-Verify – an Internet-based system run by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) using government databases – are:

  • E-Verify can be the cornerstone of border control since the system helps prevent undocumented workers from obtaining U.S. jobs, thus lowering the enticement for those workers to sneak into the county or overstay their expired visas.
  • E-Verify can curb possible discrimination against workers by putting the onus on the federal government to either grant or withhold permission for new employees to work after employers send data to E-Verify for employment verification.
  • E-Verify can prevent the “Catch-22” situation U.S. employers face daily under current law – they can be fined if they hire an undocumented worker but also can be subjected to civil rights charges if they investigate an employee too much without cause – by taking the guesswork out of the hiring and offering employers a “safe harbor” from such prosecutions when E-Verify becomes mandatory.
  • E-Verify can help the tens of millions of unemployed Americans and legal residents by ensuring their jobs are not taken by undocumented workers or that certain employers don’t undercut their wages by hiring undocumented workers.

According to Boyle, the AMI recently asked Congress to mandate E-Verify use after urging industry-wide use for a decade. However, E-Verify needs changes including enhancing its capacity to eliminate border fraud, addressing a growing number of state and local laws, and phasing in any mandatory E-Verify system use over several years to allow smaller companies time to adapt.

Employment Screening Resources (ESR) – a national background screening provider and authorized E-Verify Designated Agent – can help employers virtually eliminate errors, improve the accuracy of their reporting, protect jobs for authorized workers, and help maintain a legal workforce. For more information about the E-Verify employment verification system, visit http://www.esrcheck.com/formi9.php.



Background Check Bashing -Either Too Much or Too Little Depending upon the Most Recent Headline

By Les Rosen, Employment Screening Resources

The recent headlines dealing with background checks demonstrate that to some extent, Americans are conflicted about the whole topic of background checks.

On one hand, as reported in past blogs by Employment Screening Resources (ESR), discrimination and privacy advocates feel that background checks are too intrusive and unfair. The EEOC has filed a test case alleging that a large national employer used credit report and criminal records to unfairly discriminate against members of protected groups. The state of Oregon and others are considering limitations on credit reports. Scientists from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Southern California have succeeded in taking their complaints all the way to the United States Supreme Court that government mandated security checks revolving around background checks and entry into facilities are overly intrusive and an invasion of privacy. A recent study conducted at a major university suggested that after a relatively short period of time, criminal records are not a predictor of future misconduct.

Conversely, the recent tragic shootings at University of Alabama-Huntsville and Ohio State University have lead to many to question if background checks should be even more in-depth. Those shootings had horrific impacts on the victim’s families and the communities involved and questions have been raised if even more background checks should have been done.

In  the case of the Ohio State University workplace violence, a top notch and highly respected background screening firm performed what appeared to be a standard entry level criminal record search and found what any screening firm would likely have found, which was no record. However, critics note that a 30 year old conviction for receiving stolen property should have been unearthed, even though old records have been destroyed, and there was some confusion about the date of birth that should have been used.

Of course, to find a thirty year old prison record under those circumstances would normally require an employer to retain private investigators at the cost of many hundreds of dollars for each and every potential new hire, as opposed to public record background screenings. And ironically, even if the screening firm had located the 30 year old criminal record for a non-violent offense and was able to establish the record belonged to the shooter, any use of it would have been soundly criticized as unfair and discriminatory. It seems that employers cannot win either way.

As it turns out, in the Ohio State University case a past employment verifications may have raised the red flags that would have alerted the employer to take a closer look at the hiring decision. It underscores that employers need to use a number of overlapping tools to evaluate a potential hire, and that no one tool, such as a criminal background check, can be used to make hiring decisions. In addition, background checks are just one component of an overall workplace violence prevention strategy.

The bottom-line is that background screening occurs at the intersection of competing and compelling societal interests. On one hand, no one wants to see workplace violence, or to have unqualified people get jobs with fake credentials. Safety, security and honesty are core values. On the other hand, society is also rightly concerned with fairness and privacy and as well as efforts to combat discrimination. The issue is reaching the right balance.

It is interesting that nearly every time there is an objection because there is too much screening, there is often a call for even more screening after it is revealed that some crime or offenses occurred or where an inappropriate applicant was hired without a sufficient background check. With all due respects to the JPL scientists, one would assume their position may be different if it ever turned out that a failure to perform background checks resulted in a terrorist hurting the U.S., someone with fake credentials getting hired and obtaining access, or workplace violence occurring that could have been prevented.

For more information about background checks, visit Employment Screening Resources (ESR) at http://www.ESRcheck.com.

Increased need for employer due diligence

By Les Rosen, Employment Screening Resources

2010 Trends in Screening Trend Nine: Increased need for employer due diligence

Another impact of the recession is the likelihood of applicant fraud.  Fraudulent educational claims, or worthless diplomas from degree mills, are already familiar problem for employers, recruiters and HR professionals.  However, resume fraud took on an added urgency in 2009 with the advent of services that would actually create fake employment references from fake companies.  The service apparently even included a phone number that an employer could call in order to reach a service that in fact would verify the fake employment.  Although statistic are not yet available, anecdotally it appears that some job applicants have been willing to resort to these extreme and dishonest measures to gain an advantage in the job market. 

In the long run, worthless diplomas bought over the internet or scams to create manufactured past employment will probably be unsuccessful for the most part, provided that employers exercise some due diligence.  For fake education, a competent background firm will typically verify first if a school is legitimate.  If the school does not appear on accepted lists of accredited institution, then a screening firm can review lists of known diploma mills and scams.  Screening firms will also verify if the accreditation agency is for real, since fake schools have resorted to creating fake accreditation agencies.

In addition, pulling of a fake job reference is getting much more difficult.  A good background firm will not simply call the name and number provided by the applicant.  Professional screeners will typically independently establish if the past employer even existed, and locate a phone number independently of whatever number an applicant puts on their resume.  Employment Screening Resources, for example, goes through an extensive procedure to verify that each past employer is legitimate and does not accept the applicant provided phone number.

The bottom-line for employers in 2010 is taking extra caution to ensure you are hiring bona fide employees.

(Employment Screening Resources (ESR), a leading national online employment screening background firm, is releasing the ESR Third Annual Top Ten Trends in the Pre-Employment Background Screening Industry  for 2010. This is the Ninth of the ten trends ESR will be tracking in 2010.)

Why Background Firms should not contact an applicant directly

Some employers or recruiters want background firms to contact an applicant directly if there is a need to obtain additional information or to clarify information from an applicant.  If this has ever crossed your mind as an employer or recruiter, you might want to reconsider. 

Employment Screening Resources (ESR) generally recommends against having background firms getting in the middle of that special relationship between the Recruiter and the Applicant.  It creates confusion, causes delays, and brings a background screening firm into discussions with the applicant  who may not even realize that a third party is involved.

From many years of experience, ESR knows that background checks actually go much faster where the recruiter exclusively manages the direct applicant relationship and obtains additional information when needed. 

This issue of applicant contact can come up in a number of ways.

First, if a recruiter is submitting faxed orders instead of using the ESR online solutions, recruiters must understand the process can be delayed if orders are sent that are illegible or incomplete. For example, screening firms often face difficulty in deciphering an applicants handwriting as to past employers or a Social Security Number. An eight and a three can easily look alike.  Since a screening firm is not expected to read hieroglyphics or be a mind reader, the screening firm has to contact the recruiter to clarify the information. Some screening firms will make their best guess and if they are wrong, the report is delayed even further, proving the old adage that no good deed goes unpunished.  Recruiters who review all applications for completeness, legibility and accuracy with the candidates before sending the applications to a screening firm will find their report is completed much faster.

Another example is an incomplete employment verification because the past employer has moved, merged, or gone out of business.  If the recruiter still needs that to be verified, then someone needs to contact the applicant and ask for things such as W-2’s, or names of past supervisors.  There are some recruiters who ask their background firm to do this, even though it is the recruiter that has most knowledge about the applicant and has direct contact.

There are a number of complications that arise if the screening firm attempts to contact the applicant. 

1.  The applicant does not know the background firm, and is naturally reluctant to supply a Social Security Number or date of birth to a stranger over the phone, or send pay stubs to someone they do not know.  That typically means the applicant will normally call the recruiter first anyway to find out what the situation is all about, which, of course, delays the screening process further.

2. The background firm often has to engage in phone tag, requiring back and forth before the screening firm can connect with the applicant.  Since the applicant has no relationship with the screening firm, an applicant does not always realize it is important to call back, especially if the applicant is looking at several different job offers.  On the other hand, if a recruiter is in hot pursuit of an applicant, or the applicant is focused on getting the job, it is likely that the recruiter will have a great deal less difficulty getting in touch with him/her to obtain the additional information or clarification. 

3.  The third issue is tracking.  The screening firm needs to track the status of the additional calls to the applicants and to deal with multiple applicants instead of a single point of contact.  Recruiters presumably already have an ATS or some other system to keep tabs on the progress of each job and each finalist (since typically only a finalist is getting screened). 

4.  The last and most important issue is when a screening firm calls the applicant, an applicant may now believe that the background firm is somehow involved in the hiring decision.  There have been applicants who have wanted to continue selling themselves to a background firm’s clerical employee, whose only mission was to obtain some missing information and who knows nothing about the job.  Or, if the applicant somehow feels that background employee did not give them the attention he or she deserved, the applicant may be left with a negative impression of the potential employer or complain about the contact.

For these reasons, many background firms typically prefer not to get themselves in the middle of the relationship between the recruiter and the applicant.

fake references and employment screening background checks

From the mailbox:  What are the risks for an applicant in providing a fake reference.  I even hear there are web sites that will give you a fake reference that look real and they even create a web site for the fake company.  In a tough job market, why not? 

Response from  ESR:  The old saying that honesty is the best policy is more then just good advice for a job seeker, it can mean the difference between getting a great job or having your career  get permanently smirched. 

First, the chance of even pulling of a fake reference is getting much more difficult.  Statistics show that most employers routinely contact past employers either themselves or through a background firm.  A good background firm will typically independently establish if the past employer even existed, and locate a phone number independently of whatever number an applicant puts on their resume.  A screening firm may not simply call the name and number provided by the applicant. Employment Screening Resources, for example, goes through an extensive procedure to verify that each past employer is legitimate and does not accept the applicant provided phone number.

Even if the fake reference somehow survives the vetting process, it is hard to keep and live a lie, especially when you never know when the truth may come out.  For example, a supervisor or co-worker may meet someone in your industry that somehow spills the beans. Furthermore, if a person gets a position they cannot actually perform due to a fake reference, it is just a matter of time before they get a negative performance appraisal. 

In addition, co-workers that suspect a fraud have also been known to do their own digging. Furthermore, most employers have employment applications that clearly state that if a person has lied during the application process, it is grounds for termination no matter when discovered.  There is now statistical evidence suggesting that if a person is dishonest in the way they get the job, they the will likely be dishonest once in the job. Once a fabrication is discovered, the resulting termination and the inability to use the most recent employment on your resume can leave a big unexplained employment gap and impact future job searches.

Certainly, applicants have the right to put their best foot forwards, and to cast themselves in the best possible light. But when the resumes goes beyond mere puffing into lies, fiction and fabrication, the long lasting damage to your career,  the emotional energy required to live a lie and the damage to your personal integrity  is just not worth it.

Calling unlisted former employers for employment reference

From the ESR mailbox: I have heard that it is against the law to check any reference other than those provided by the applicant. For example, if an applicant had a job that was not listed on the resume or application, can a background firm or employer still contact that person?

Answer: We are not aware of any legal prohibition against contacting “unlisted” individuals to perform reference checks as part of the employment process. The consent that is given to employers or screening firms to verify past employment or qualifications is not limited to just those individuals an applicant chooses to list or reveal

However, the unlisted” person should only be contacted if the person has knowledge relevant to employment and should only be asked job related questions. Questions for example, about legal off-duty conduct would not be proper. Furthermore, any questions should certainly be non-discriminatory and not an invasion of personal privacy. Typically, a background firm is asked to contact listed employers. There are circumstances however where the person in charge of hiring decides to go a deeper because they are hiring for an important position. The hiring manager hiring may contact the listed references, and then ask who else has they can call that has knowledge about the applicant. This is known as a developed reference. The purpose is to develop the names of other individuals who know the applicant and to get a candid assessment from someone who perhaps has not been “prepared” to give a reference. The topic of unlisted employment may also come up if there are unexplained gaps in employment, and the employer wants to dig deeper. Unlisted jobs may also appear on automated employment verification databases.

One important caveat-”a background firm will typically not contact a current employer without specific permission in order to avoid causing any problems on the current job if the new job doe not work out.

Employers with questions about background checks are free to send them to Jared Callahan at jcallahan@ESRcheck.com . For more information generally, see www.ESRcheck.com

ESR is closed for the holidays on November 26 and 27. Happy Thanksgiving.

Ambiguous References and the Fine Art of a Polite Negative References

Who says there is no humor in the hiring process?  Employers, Human Resources professionals and Recruiters   may enjoy the book, “Lexicon of Intentionally Ambiguous Recommendations (LIAR),” by Robert Thornton, available on Amazon.  The book gives a whole new meaning to the term “damned with faint praise.”  It answers the age old question of how to give a truthful recommendation without getting sued!

Here are  just a few examples from this very clever book:

“Her ability is deceiving” (She lies, cheats and steals)

“No salary would be too much for him.” (He is not worth anything)

“It was a pleasure working with her the short time I did.”  (Thankfully it was not longer)

“I am pleased to say that this candidate is a former colleague of mine” (I can’t tell you how happy I am that she left our firm)

“He’s a man of many convictions.” (He’s got a record a mile long). 

“She gives every appearance of being a reliable, conscientious employee”  (But appearances can be deceiving)

Any employers, recruiters or HR or Security Professionals that want to share their own favorite way of  giving ambiguous references, please send them to Jared Callahan at ESR by  e-mail at jcallahan@esrcheck.com

Annual Top Ten Trends in the Background Screening Industry

ESR has identified the following trends for 2009 in its second annual report on trends in the screening industry and safe hiring.  The full report is online at:  http://www.esrcheck.com/2009-trends-backgroundscreening-industry.php

  1. Increased Governmental Mandates: The federal and state governments for 2009 are likely to require more background checks, especially in sensitive industries.  In addition, right-to-work verification under the E-verify program will be a hot topic for 2009.
  2. Privacy and Accuracy:  Privacy advocates in 2009 will be focused on resolving instances of noncompliance with the Fair Credit Reporting Act’s requirements for accuracy and dispute investigations.  A leading cause of inaccuracies comes from matching innocent job applicants to criminal records based upon the same, or a similar, name in a database, without re-verification of the record at the courthouse.  A new organization called Concerned CRA’s (www.concernedcras.com) has taken a stance against utilizing such databases without taking proper measures to ensure accuracy of criminal records.
  3. Second Chance for Ex-Offenders: Unless as a society we want to build more prisons than schools or hospitals, something must be done to reduce recidivism and find employment for applicants with criminal records.  The State of New York, for example, to deal with this issue directly, has passed new â second chance” laws that became effective this year. The laws place a greater emphasis on employers analyzing a past criminal record to determine whether there is a business justification to not hire a person, including providing job applicants with notice of these various new rights.
  4. Consumer Protection Litigation:  As the screening industry matures, and applicants and their lawyers become much more informed about their consumer rights, it is likely that there will be an increase in litigation in 2009.  These lawsuits, including class action lawsuits, will be filed against screening firms, particularly when it comes to various notices required under the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act and accuracy requirements for the Background Screening Report results.
  5. Impact of the Recession: As a result of the recession and higher unemployment, it is likely that employers will need to scrutinize applications even more carefully, to be on the watch for fraudulent credentials, such as inflated or fictional employment or education history.
  6. Data Security, Data Breaches, and Off-shoring Data: Since identity theft continues to be a national and international problem, expect even more emphasis in 2009 on data security and protection.  Closely related is the continuing issue of employers and screening firms sending confidential consumer data offshore for processing to places such as India for cost savings.  Once data leaves the United States, it is beyond U.S. privacy protections.  Concerned CRR’s (www.concernedcras.com) has also taken a stance against off-shoring such data without notification to consumers.  The use of home-operator networks also presents an unnecessary risk to privacy as well.  There is no justification for personal information to be spread across kitchen tables and dorm rooms across America.
  7. Accreditation by the NAPBS: The non-profit trade organization for the Screening Industry, the National Association of Professional Background Screeners (www.napbs.com) has announced the introduction of an accreditation program.  NAPBS has gone through an exhaustive process to develop “Best Practices” for the industry, and it is anticipated that firms will start going through the accreditation process this year.
  8. Social Network Sites:  The use of social networking sites as a pre-employment screening device will continue to be a hot topic in 2009, as more recruiters and HR professionals go online to satisfy their curiosity about candidates.  The problem: contrary to popular belief, just because it is online does not mean that it’s a good idea to utilize it without developing policies and procedures.  Online material can be inaccurate, discriminatory, and under certain circumstances, its use can be an invasion of privacy.  Stay tuned as more courts give their opinions on this issue.
  9. Integration of Services:  With the advent of Web 2.0, it is likely that technology will play an even bigger role in the coming year.  Seamless integrations with Applicant Tracking Systems allow paperless background screening systems at the click of a mouse.
  10. International Background Checks: With mobility of workers across international borders, Due Diligence is no longer limited to just what an applicant has done in the United States and there will be stronger demand in 2009 for International Criminal, Education, and past Employment checks.


ESR will place its Third Annual Top Ten Trends in January, 2010.

The Use of Home Operators

Some screening firms use home based operators to perform employment and education verifications.  That of course represents a big financial advantage for the screening firm.   They get cheap labor, and may even classify them as independent contractors in order to get even additional savings by not paying workers’ compensation, benefits or other costs associated with employees.    However, it does very little to help employers.  Below are the top 10 reasons NOT to utilize a background firm that sends your applicants’ personal data to home operators working from kitchen tables and dorm rooms across America.


  1. Privacy: A screening firm would be directly responsible for making private information viewable and printable on people’s home computers.
  2. Professionalism: A screening firm would have difficulty accurately claiming that at-home researchers are “professionals” when they are unsupervised, unregulated and acting as cheap substitutes for what is supposed to be a professional service. Ask yourself how the sound of barking dogs, crying babies and television sets in the background may strike those asked to provide verifications.
  3. FCRA Defensibility: A screening firm would  have difficulty defending the practice of using at-home researchers against a claim under FCRA section 607(b) concerning reasonable procedures for accuracy.
  4. IC Classification: A screening firm cannot classify someone as an Independent Contractor (IC) when they work only for you, when you tell them exactly how to do their job, and when they are providing the same core services provided by your in-house staff.
  5. Training/QC: A screening firm cannot train and discuss production issues in real time. It is also difficult for at-home researchers to learn from each other when everyone is working in isolation. Furthermore, since everyone works alone it is harder to enforce quality rules across the entire organization.
  6. Supervision: Unsupervised at-home researchers are very difficult to supervise. In addition, since they are paid by the completed verification, they may be more tempted to fake orders since there is no one supervising them in real-time.
  7. Reliability: A screening firm would  be dependent entirely on the researcher’s priorities, which may not be your own. They may put a hair appointment ahead of your forty new verifications that have to be called today. You want load balancing to be under your control and not secondary to at-home researcher’s personal schedules.
  8. Hidden Costs: There are hidden costs to managing and maintaining multiple remote researchers as opposed to a central pool of talent. Take, for instance, the time lost to the unreliable performance of at-home researcher’s internet connections, home computers and printers.
  9. Due Diligence: A screening firm and employer could face significant legal exposure if the  at-home researcher’s performance falls below a professional standard of care due to lack of training and supervision.
  10. Disclosure: Would you want to disclose to your applicants that the sensitive, personal data and professional service they’ve entrusted you with was being performed by unsupervised home workers?


ESR does not utilize any home based or offshore operators in order to  provide you with critical employment and education verifications.  All work is done in a professionally supervised call center dedicated to the highest level of customer service, privacy, accuracy and speedy turnaround time.