The U.S. government’s background check system gave Washington Navy Yard gunman Aaron Alexis, a military contractor and former Navy reservist, an all-access secret-level clearance pass to a several military installations despite a history of arrests and disorderly conduct, according to a report from The Washington Post. Officials say Alexis used his security clearance pass to enter the Washington Navy Yard and shoot 12 people to death before being killed by police. The complete Washington Post report is available at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/contractor-would-not-have-hired-aaron-alexis-if-past-brushes-with-law-had-been-known/2013/09/17/e5bc83da-1faa-11e3-8459-657e0c72fec8_story.html. Continue reading
A federal review of the most recent background check conducted on former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden has found that the security clearance investigation of Snowden – who later leaked classified government documents about secret surveillance programs – was inadequate, The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reports. The article from the WSJ is available at http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324906304579039381125706104.html. Continue reading
The accuracy of background checks has come under greater scrutiny after several reported cases of falsified investigations. The Federal Times reports the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) – which oversees background investigations for the government – is investigating a growing list of cases involving the alleged falsifying of security clearance background checks while a “consistent backlog” of similar cases awaits investigation due to a lack of resources. The complete story is available at http://www.federaltimes.com/article/20130707/ACQUISITION03/307070009/Backlog-bogus-background-checks-grows. Continue reading
A former contractor who was hired to perform background checks on U.S. government workers filed a 2006 report with results of his investigation in which he claimed to have interviewed a person who had been dead for more than ten years, according to a report from Bloomberg Businessweek. The full story is available at http://www.businessweek.com/news/2013-07-08/dead-interviewed-as-investigators-falsify-u-dot-s-dot-background-checks. Continue reading
A bipartisan group of Senators has introduced legislation – the Security Clearance Oversight and Reform Enhancement (SCORE) Act – to increase oversight as to how the United States government conducts background investigations and awards security clearances. The SCORE Act would also hold government employees and contractors more accountable for falsifying background investigations. A copy of the SCORE Act is available at http://www.scribd.com/doc/152980145/Tester-s-bipartisan-SCORE-Act. Continue reading
In a story demonstrating the importance of accreditation standards for private background screening firms, the Federal Times reports that the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) – which oversees background investigations for the government – is investigating a growing list of cases involving the alleged falsifying of security clearance background checks while a “consistent backlog” of similar cases awaits investigation. The complete story is available on the Federal Times website at http://www.federaltimes.com/article/20130707/ACQUISITION03/307070009/Backlog-bogus-background-checks-grows. Continue reading
The private contractor responsible for the security clearance screening of Edward Snowden – who later leaked classified documents to the media that revealed a secret surveillance program by the National Security Agency (NSA) – is under investigation by the federal government for allegedly conducting inadequate background checks, according to a report by The Charlotte Observer. The full story is available at http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2013/06/20/4119462/contractor-responsible-for-snowdens.html. Continue reading
In response to a government investigation that revealed more than nine out of ten nursing homes hired criminals, San Francisco, California-area Employment Screening Resources (ESR) – a background screening company accredited by The National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS) – has released background check toolkit for nursing homes and home health care to help them avoid “bad hires” too unqualified, unfit, or dangerous to work with vulnerable populations such as the elderly and infirmed. Continue reading
The United States Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently released a report to the Chairman, Committee on Education and Labor, House of Representatives that revealed high rates of employees in all sorts of positions at both public and private schools – including teachers, volunteers, aides, support staff, and contractors – who had records of inappropriate sexual conduct and convictions for sex-related crimes.
The GAO report dated December 2010 – ‘K-12 EDUCATION – Selected Cases of Public and Private Schools That Hired or Retained Individuals with Histories of Sexual Misconduct’ – examined 15 cases that showed that individuals with histories of sexual misconduct were hired or retained by public and private schools as teachers, support staff, volunteers, and contractors. At least 11 of these 15 cases involved sex offenders who previously targeted children, and at least 6 cases involved offenders who used their new positions as school employees or volunteers to abuse more children.
The GAO report revealed that the following factors contributed to hiring or retention of sex offenders:
- School officials allowed teachers who had engaged in sexual misconduct toward students to resign rather than face disciplinary action, often providing subsequent employers with positive references;
- Schools did not perform pre-employment criminal history checks;
- Even if schools did perform pre-employment criminal history checks, they may have been inadequate in that they were not national, fingerprint-based, or recurring; and
- Schools failed to inquire into troubling information regarding criminal histories on employment applications.
Some examples of cases from around the United States that the GAO examined for the report include:
- Ohio: A teacher forced to resign because of inappropriate conduct with female students received a letter of recommendation from the school superintendent calling him an “outstanding teacher.” After being subsequently hired at a neighboring district, he was convicted for sexual battery against a sixth grade girl.
- Louisiana: A teacher and registered sex offender whose Texas teaching certificate had been revoked was hired by several Louisiana schools without receiving a criminal history check. A warrant is currently out for his arrest on charges of engaging in sexual conversations with a student at one of these schools.
- Arizona: A school rushing to fill a position did not conduct a criminal history check before hiring a teacher who had been convicted for sexually abusing a minor, even though he disclosed on his application that he had committed a dangerous crime against a child. He was later convicted for having sexual contact with a young female student.
- California: A sex offender was convicted for molesting a minor in 2000 and the school where he worked was aware of his conviction but did not fire him. After the GAO referred the case to the California Attorney General, officials placed the sex offender, who has since resigned, on administrative leave.
The GAO report also found no federal laws regulating the employment of sex offenders in public or private schools and varying laws at the state level. While some states required a national, fingerprint-based criminal history checks for school employment, others states did not. State laws also varied as to whether past convictions would result in termination from school employment, revocation of a teaching license, or refusal to hire.
GAO performed the study after a 2004 Department of Education report estimated that millions of students are subjected to sexual misconduct by a school employee at some time between kindergarten and the twelfth grade (K-12). GAO was asked to:
- Examine the circumstances surrounding cases where K-12 schools hired or retained individuals with histories of sexual misconduct and determine the factors contributing to such employment actions and
- Provide an overview of selected federal and state laws related to the employment of convicted sex offenders in K-12 schools.
To identify case studies, the GAO compared recent data in employment databases from 19 states and the District of Columbia to the National Sex Offender Registry and also searched public records to identify cases where sexual misconduct by school employees resulted in a criminal conviction. GAO ultimately selected 15 cases from 11 states for further investigation.
Employment Screening Resources (ESR) – a leading background check provider accredited by The National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS) performs sexual offender searches as well as criminal record searches around the United States supplemented by a national multi-jurisdictional search. Although no one search is perfect, ESR recommends a series of overlapping tools that must also include checking professional licenses and verifying past employment, especially looking for unexplained gaps in employment where an offender may try to hide past negative information.
For more information on background checks, visit Employment Screening Resources (ESR) at http://www.ESRcheck.com.
By Thomas Ahearn, Employment Screening Resources (ESR) News Editor
A member of the U.S. House of Representatives responding to an editorial in the Washington Post wrote that the E-Verify electronic employment eligibility verification system helps employers check the immigration status of workers and maintain a legal workforce, and also that E-Verify can only be used on new hires and not for screening job applicants.
The January 22 Washington Post editorial, ‘The limits of immigration enforcement,’ focused on one of the world’s largest food processing firms that recently received a federal seal of approval for its hiring practices from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) after officials from the agency checked employment records for just about every one of the more than 100,000 workers employed by the company. Although roughly a quarter of a million companies have enrolled in E-Verify – which is described as “a federal program that screens potential new hires for employment eligibility” in the 1/22 editorial – most companies seem reluctant to have existing workforces checked since the U.S. labor force contains an estimated 6 to 7 million undocumented immigrants.
The following response appeared in the Washington Post on January 27, in part to support use of E-Verify but also to remind employers that E-Verify can only be used after a job applicant is hired and should not be used as a method of background screening:
Helping employers check workers’ immigration status
Contrary to the Jan. 22 editorial “The limits of immigration enforcement,” the E-Verify federal program is not used on potential hires, as the editorial stated. It can be used only for newly hired employees. In order to prevent discrimination, the Web-based E-Verify program, administered by the Department of Homeland Security, prohibits employers from using E-Verify to screen potential hires. Rather, E-Verify is a tool to confirm that the information given on an I-9 form, which is required for every new employee, is correct.
As a former small-business owner in the restaurant industry, I found it frustrating that employers were expected to hire legal workers but were given no tools to do so. Since employers cannot be expected to be document experts, when I became a member of Congress I created E-Verify as a way to provide employers a simple, free and easy way to check the information provided on the I-9. Fifteen years later, E-Verify has exceeded expectations through the use of biometric data for non-citizens, is 99.6 percent accurate and continues to improve, expand and evolve.
Ken Calvert, Washington
The writer, a California Republican, is a member of the U.S. House of Representatives.
Recently, a story in the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) ‘Crackdown on Illegal Workers Grow’ told how ICE had announced that it was cracking down on larger companies that may employ undocumented workers. ICE conducted audits of more than 2,740 companies in the fiscal year 2010, nearly twice as many as the previous fiscal year, and levied a record $7 million in civil fines on businesses employing illegal workers, according to the WSJ.
Because of this, U.S. businesses are getting their employment records, particularly the Employment Eligibility Verification Form (“I-9 form”), in order. Employment Screening Resources (ESR) – a background check firm accredited by the National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS) – is also a Designated E-Verify Employer Agent that can help employers virtually eliminate I-9 form errors, improve the accuracy of their reporting, protect jobs for authorized workers, and maintain a legal workforce.
For more information on E-Verify Service from Employment Screening Resources (ESR), visit http://www.esrcheck.com/formi9.php.
Founded in 1996 in the San Francisco area, Employment Screening Resources (ESR) wrote the book on background checks with ‘The Safe Hiring Manual’ by ESR founder and President Lester Rosen and is accredited by The National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS®) . To learn more about Employment Screening Resources, visit http://www.ESRcheck.com or contact Jared Callahan, ESR Director of Client Relations, at 415.898.0044 or jcallahan@ESRcheck.com.