Written By ESR News Blog Editor Thomas Ahearn
The Chattanooga, Tennessee Police Department is working to process a backlog of at least 23,000 orders for expunged criminal files, where a legal record of an arrest or a criminal conviction is sealed and erased in the eyes of the law, which could affect the hiring of job seekers with criminal records that undergo background checks, according to a report from the Chattanooga Times Free Press.
The Times Free Press reports a spokesman for the Chattanooga Police Department said they were aware of the problem with expunged criminal records due to staff shortages and accumulation from a previous administration, but the backlog of expunged records should not affect any background checks since those records are from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) and clerk’s office.
Chattanooga defense attorneys told the Times Free Press that the backlog of expunged records “could have lasting ramifications” if police released information about a case without realizing the record should be expunged. “It could create real problems,” one longtime defense attorney said. An advocate for people with criminal records getting a second chance to find work said the backlog “will prevent them from doing it.”
The Times Free Press reports that Tennessee law allows people with dismissed cases to be eligible to have their record expunged. The court deletes the record from its system after a judge signs the expungement order and then sends that order to the TBI and the arresting agency to have those expunged records deleted, according to the county’s chief deputy criminal clerk.
In May 2015, the Wall Street Journal reported that expunged criminal records of job applicants removed from government databases were still appearing in some background checks performed by private screening companies. However, a background check expert explains that these expunged records should not appear in background checks if the information is verified at the primary source.
Attorney Lester Rosen, founder and CEO of San Francisco, California-area background check firm Employment Screening Resources (ESR), points out that it is critical for the courthouse information be correct so a background screening firm, in turn, can provide accurate information to an employer when performing background checks.
According to Rosen, professional background screening firms such as ESR will verify any potentially negative or derogatory information at the primary source to protect consumers from reporting matters that should not be reportable during background checks, including expunged records.
“However, if a court has not updated its record, a consumer can be unfairly impacted since a screening firm may have no way of knowing that a record was expunged and should not be reported,” explains Rosen, author of ‘The Safe Hiring Manual,’ the first comprehensive guide to employment background checks.
“Firms such as ESR that provide a professional background check service would never report a criminal matter from a database search without first verifying the underlying facts from current court records,” says Rosen. “ESR has long advocated for laws that require all criminal matters to be verified first at the courthouse. The system ultimately depends upon public agencies having correct records.”
ESR is a founding member of Concerned CRAs, a group of more than 200 Consumer Reporting Agencies (CRAs) – the technical term for background screening firms – that adopted a strict standard that no criminal information is reported from databases and screening firms must verify data at the primary source before reporting it to end users. To learn more, visit www.concernedcras.com.
Employment Screening Resources (ESR) is a global provider of accurate and compliant background checks to ensure a safe workplace for employers, employees, and the public. ESR is accredited by the National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS) and undergoes yearly SOC 2 audits to help protect the security, privacy, and confidentiality of consumer information. To learn more about ESR, visit www.esrcheck.com.
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