Background Checks

Should I Do Background Screening Rechecks?

Background checks are very important, but arguably, rechecks are just as important.  There are too many horror stories about organizations that have completed initial hiring checks, but have neglected to do a recheck on the same employee for many years. Imagine the shock of discovering that after 15-20 years have passed, a recheck has uncovered problematic information about a long time, trusted employee. Without diligence, this could happen to anyone. Performing routine background screening re-checks, especially in certain high-risk fields, is a necessary step in providing workplace and customer security.

Because there are different types of background checks, we recommend different time frames to perform a screening re-check. SafeHiring has many schools and churches as clients, and we  recommend for them to perform rechecks at least every 1-2 years. Yearly checks would be even more ideal. Usually, volunteer background checks do not go into as much depth as an employee check, so it is important to have volunteers get rechecked more often. For school personnel, it is recommended to have a screening re-checks done every 5 years which is generally driven by state law. Recommendations for other businesses are based upon the specific nature of the businesses or the duties of the employees. If you have a question about when you should have your company or school perform background re-checks, do not hesitate to visit our online Chat feature at https://www.safehiringsolutions.com/! We can answer any specific question that you may have here. Just look at the bottom right hand side of the screen to locate a red Chat logo that reads online.

Background screening re-checks are very important for any organization for safety and peace of mind. Please visit our website above to learn more about the many great features that SafeHiring Solutions offers!

Can I Do a Background Check on Myself?

 

According to a recent study, over 20% of database criminal history records contain errors and incorrect information. Name changes, similar names, and human error account for some of these errors. How are you supposed to know if the information on your criminal record is accurate before missing an opportunity? We at Safe Hiring have an answer for that. Our new “Run My Own Criminal History” feature offers the option to run your personal full, comprehensive background check.

For just $35 you can receive the exact information that a prospective employer or rental agent is going to see should they conduct a background check on you. As the amount of employers running background checks on candidates is approaching 90%, it only makes sense to ensure that they are viewing accurate information.

To take advantage of this new feature, simply:

 

  1. Go to https://www.safehiringsolutions.com/self-screening

  2. Click on the ‘Services’ tab at the top of the page

  3. Click on “Order MyCrimHistory”

  4. Fill out your personal information and pay $35 fee

  5. Wait 3-5 days for background check to be completed

  6. View your personal background check

Devin Patrick Kelley: Failure of a Single Source Database

devin-patrick-kelley.jpg

I am not a gambler, have never really gambled, and I tend to be a guy who likes checks and balances in my life.  When I leave on vacation, I always have a jump starter in case the vehicle battery dies, a can of tire flat, and an extra set of keys in my wife’s purse in case I lose a set. I like backup plans.

Maybe that goes back to my years as a Violent Crime Detective.  Serving a warrant on a violent felon does not always go the way you plan.  I learned very quickly, after a fellow officer was killed trying to serve a warrant, that the felon plays a huge part in how this goes.

Regardless, I have spent my career working in law enforcement and then the past 20 years as a Violence Prevention Consultant and owner of a background screening firm and visitor management company. There is very little room for error in these careers.  Checks and balances are critical.

For the past 13 years as the CEO of Safe Hiring Solutions, I have provided testimony and guidance to lawmakers on the best practices in background screening.  What I have learned is that policymakers at the state and federal level rely heavily on the advice of law enforcement, and that their first inclination is to mandate a fingerprint background check solution.

I started Safe Hiring Solutions in 2004 because of the failure of a state background check system.  Two sex offenders were hired by a large metropolitan school district in Indiana after having been cleared in the state criminal database.

An audit of the state screening program found that many courts were not sending their conviction data to the state even though state law required them to.

What we learned is that the state was at the mercy of the courts to send the data, and if they did not send the data, then it did not exist in the database.

There were several flaws with the government background screening database:

  1. Single source. The source of the data was not sending the data to the state.  This is the inherent problem with government background screening databases.  No checks & balances.
  2. Contained only convictions for Class A Misdemeanors and above.
  3. Accurate final dispositions.
  4. Relied on state and local law enforcement to submit.

I launched Safe Hiring Solutions to provide a solution to this problem.  The first thing we focused on was the problem with single source criminal databases.  We created a background screening process that contained multiple solutions and checks and balances that included:

  • Solutions to Identify
  • National Criminal Database
  • National Sex Offender Registry
  • Federal District Courts
  • County Criminal Searches

The package we created removed the single source failures.  The case study above with the 2 sex offenders was solved.  A convicted sex offender should appear 3 times in the private background check:

  • National Criminal Database
  • National Sex Offender (if required to register)
  • County Criminal Search

Therefore, if any of the sources fail, there are backups in place.

The argument made by law enforcement is always that without a fingerprint, you cannot conduct a thorough background check.  This simply is not true.

I recently explained to a group of policymakers that I had gone through the process to obtain a gun permit and could have easily exploited the fingerprint process.  How?  Well, let’s assume I had a prohibitive felony or misdemeanor (I don’t).  I registered online and selected a date, time, and location to submit my fingerprints.  I could have easily handed my ID to my brother, who looks much like me, and sent him in to submit a set of fingerprints.

How do I know that would have worked?  Because it was the government issued ID that was my source of ID - not the fingerprints.  The person collecting the fingerprints glanced at my ID for 2 seconds.  She had someone coming in every 15 minutes.  A quick glance at the BMV photo and my brother would have raised no red flags.

The fingerprint process does not pop up and say, “This is Mike McCarty!”  No, the system looks for my fingerprints in a database that are attached to a criminal record.  If there are no fingerprint matches with a criminal record, then the report is clear.

The shooting this past Sunday in Texas has brought into question the NCIC and government system of background checks.  What we now know about Devin Patrick Kelley:

  • He was convicted in the military of a prohibitive crime e.g. domestic violence.
  • The Air Force did not send the conviction to the FBI.

With a single source database, Devin Kelley was allowed to purchase an AR-556 in San Antonio.  Why?

  1. The conviction in the military was not sent to FBI; AND
  2. The unstable Devin Kelley did NOT self-disclose and check a box acknowledging that he had a prohibitive conviction. How many criminals would have the integrity to admit to their criminal history?  Self-disclosure systems are ludicrous.

Over the week, I have heard so many in Congress put forth ideas to quickly solve the issue:

  • Call a voice vote to mandate all data providers send their information to the FBI. Was this not a requirement before?
  • Universal background checks. How do universal background checks solve the problem of Kelley being able to buy a handgun?  NCIC was already clear.  That is the problem, you could check NCIC a hundred times and if the data is not there, it is not there.

I took a call while writing this article from a friend who works in federal law enforcement, and we were discussing the incident.  That’s what law enforcement officers do.  Look at the evidence and determine what we can learn to prevent or minimize the occurrence of another incident like this.

Then he asked me the magic question. “Could your background checks have flagged this?”  In all honesty I explained that there is much we don’t know, and I have not run Devin Kelley’s name through our screening process.

I also told him that we don’t do background checks for gun permits because that requires NCIC; however, a comprehensive private background check using a myriad of available solutions might have flagged him:

  • Something caused TX to refuse the gun permit - something other than NCIC.
  • County criminal searches may have revealed arrests.
  • An ITRV (Income Tax & Employer Verification) would have revealed his military history and prompted a search of his military records. This was the most likely way of flagging Kelley without an honest self-disclosure.
  • A Civil search may have found a protective order if one had been issued which is very common in domestic violence cases.
  • DCS Index Checks. These can be conducted in TX, not in NM, but a check could have revealed issues with child abuse that could have lead to a criminal case.

Understand that all of this is hypothetical and intended to simply show a small snapshot of how private screening firms might approach a background check like this.  It is the layers of checks and balances that provide the comprehensive nature of a thorough search.

At the end of the day, we do not need more gun laws.  We have laws prohibiting Kelley from purchasing guns.

We do not need laws requiring reporting to NCIC (I am sure they exist), but we need a larger debate on whether private screening firms can play an active role in the background screening process.  We need to have healthy engagement in Congress and in the states where private firms are being excluded even though they can provide comprehensive screening solutions that are often times faster and much more cost effective.

Join us for a webinar on best practices in background screening & making your voice heard to policymakers.  Register.  Limited to 100 each session.

Valentine's Day Murders Define Career of Safe Hiring Solutions CEO

choking-in-fearAre you the type of person who likes to know about the people you are doing business with? Maybe it is just me, but I am very relational.  I love meeting people, learning about them, their professional and personal lives.  And that is the way I have built the culture at Safe Hiring Solutions.

We make sure we hire people of integrity but we also want people with personality and curiosity.  That are "people-oriented".  That are passionate about life and their career.

This translates into great customer service.

So I thought I would divert off our normal path on this article.  It has nothing to do with trends in background screening or tips to keep your organization safe.  This is an article about a horrible mass murder that propelled me on a course of becoming a violent crime detective and ultimately to launch Safe Hiring Solutions.

I'm sure you were not expecting an article on one of the most shocking murders in American history when you clicked on the blog link.  But stay with me.  There are no grisly details and it will help you better understand how we approach keeping your organization safe.

Here we go...

I grew up in the sleepy small town of Waveland, Indiana in the west central part of the state, the son of an Indiana state police officer.  As a kid, a major crime in our community was a stolen bicycle.

Until Valentine's Day 1977.

That's when four young men burst into a home shortly after midnight, just four miles down the road from my home, and lined the mother and her four sons up on the floor and executed them with shotguns.  Purely for the sport of killing.  The mother survived after her wig was blown off in the dark and the killers believed it was her head.

The crime shocked the nation and choked my community with fear.  The killers were unknown for more than three weeks as my dad and the Indiana State Police tracked down hundreds of leads.

I was nine years old and terrified.  Our entire community was panicked.

Then the killers were identified and one of them confessed.  The other three perpetrators had fled the state.

My fears were heightened because they were young men my dad had arrested.  And the gang was led by a sociopath my dad had prosecuted for a multitude of crimes including statutory rape of a fourteen year old girl.

There was no guide for processing a crime of this magnitude.  My response was to save every newspaper article I could get my hands on.  I collected them off of footstools and kitchen tables, every place I found some bit of information on this crime.  My parents thought I was obsessed.

This preoccupation gnawed at me even after the four killers were tucked away in prison.  I graduated from college and headed for law school but I could find no personal fulfillment in law school so I did what most men in my family have done- I became a police officer.

I carried the manila folder of yellowed newspaper clippings with me when I moved to Nashville, TN and became a violent crime detective.  I would sit and re-read the articles as a young detective.

It puzzled my family.  Why couldn't I file this crime away and move on?

I needed answers.  I needed to know how a crime like this could have been committed in my community.  I needed the truth and how that truth might help me as a detective prevent a crime like this from ever happening again.

So I reached out to the surviving mother, friend of my family.  And she shared everything, including her personal letters she had written to the boys after the murders.

Then I wrote letters to each of the four killers.  And one of them responded and agreed to answer my questions and meet with me so we could better understand this crime.

He eventually wrote the forward to my book.  And the surviving mother allowed me to publish her letters as part of the book.

Yes, I finally wrote a book.  It was originally published ten years ago, coincidentally this coincided with my launch of Safe Hiring Solutions.  However, the original publisher was very difficult to work with and did not make the book readily available.

Then they wanted me to pay them for the rights to my book.  I refused.

But over the years I would receive a large number of calls, emails or social media messages from people looking for the book.   But I was too busy to republish.

Then in October 2013, the Discovery Channel called me and wanted to do a documentary based on my book.  They have a series entitled "Very Bad Men" and wanted the final in the series to be about this crime.

The documentary ran a couple weeks ago.  And I was able to get my book published again, literally hitting Amazon two hours before the documentary aired.

Choking in Fear:  a Memoir of the Hollandsburg Murders is now back on the shelves.

As the Founder & CEO of Safe Hiring Solutions I want you to know that we are not just aggregators of data like much of the background screening industry.  We are focused on safety and security because it is part of my DNA and ingrained in our culture!

Cheap Volunteer Background Checks

cheap volunteer background checksHey, don't feel guilty.  Searching for cheap volunteer background checks is normal.

I have yet to work with or sit on a board of a volunteer organization that was not "cash conscious".  That is the nature of most not-for-profits.

So it makes perfect sense that we would apply this same principle to our selection of a background screening company.    Cheaper is always better, right?

Not necessarily.  We should not overpay for a product or service but simply searching for the cheapest volunteer background checks will ultimately place those that you serve at risk.  Is it really worth saving a few dollars while at the same time placing people and your organization at risk?

The big question then is why are cheap volunteer background checks risky?

1.     Not all Background Screening Companies Are The Same.  You have to know that you are comparing apples to apples and not apples to oranges.  You should ask yourself a few questions:

a.     What am I getting for the price? 

b.     Limited search or unlimited? 

c.      Are they searching all names associated with our volunteers?  Are they charging me more fees if my volunteer has more than one name?

d.     Are they using a database or using multiple levels of screening?

e.     What are the security certifications of the screening firm and their online system?

f.       Do they provide easy ways of communicating with customer service when you have questions?

2.     The Background Screening Industry is a Highly Unregulated Industry.  There really are very few regulations on volunteer background checks.  This has given rise to the use of very low quality database products that are often marketed as a  "National Criminal Background Check."

3.     There is No Standard of Care.  The focus is on speed and profit.  You need to find a company that is focused on quality first and speed and well priced secondly.

4.     There is NOT a Complete Instant Criminal Database.  I don't care what a sales rep tells you, there is no such thing as a complete instant criminal database.  The FBI's NCIC is nowhere near complete. So you cannot rely on an instant criminal database search as your background screening program.  It is going to get someone hurt and possibly get you sued.

5.     No Such Thing as A $10 Comprehensive Volunteer Background Check.  I am sorry but you cannot screen your volunteers for $10.  It simply cannot be done correctly. 

6.     Limited Search to 7 Years.  The background screening industry works off a limited 7 year rule.  Unless your state law specific limits the search to 7 years, then there is no reason it should be stopped at 7 years.  Most organizations working with children would want to know if a volunteer candidate had been convicted of raping a child 10 years ago.

7.     Do NOT search Alias Names.  Most background screening firms will either 1) not search alias names; or 2) charge you additional fees for searching other names.  What if your volunteer candidate was recently married or changed their name.  Is it possible they could have criminal records under those names that are not being searched?

A quality volunteer background screening program MUST include the following:

·       Social Security Verification.  This identifies them. Provides any names they have been known by.  And provides address history.

·       National Criminal Database.  Yes, quality screening programs will include a national criminal database.  This is a required solution just not a stand-alone screening program.

·       National Sex Offender Search.  This is a 50 state sex offender registry search. 

·       County Criminal Search.  This is the solution that many background screening firms remove but is the critical component of the screening program. 

I hope this helps you to understand why cheap volunteer background checks are dangerous.  Even though you cannot conduct quality volunteer background checks for $10, you can do this for just a little bit more.  It does not have to break the bank.

Are you ready to start a quality volunteer screening program? 

Click here for more information on implementing a quality screening program.

Warning! Employee Background Checks Can Get You In Big Trouble

employee background checksWe all know that not conducting employee background checks can get us in big trouble.  Sadly, there are still lots of organizations that are not conducing quality background checks and are exposing themselves to risk of harm as well as legal trouble such as negligent hiring and negligent retention.

However, that is not our focus today.

Did you know that conducing employee background checks can get you in big trouble?  Say what?

Background screening exploded in our post 9-11 world as organizations became consumed with safety and security.  We developed a heightened sense of awareness. 

Unfortunately, the background screening industry did not mature and develop into an industry focused on safety and security.  The proliferation of cheap criminal record checks still permeates the industry leaving organizations at risk.

Selecting the right background screening partner is one of the most important decisions an organization can make and should not be based on:

Price.  Quality background screening is not a commodity.  If you are looking for cheap, you will find it.  Comprehensive criminal record checks often cost just a few dollars more so it does not make sense to risk harm to your organization or expose yourself to legal risk to save a few dollars.

      Speed.  Turnaround time is important..  However, if you receive completed reports instantly or in a few hours then you are sacrificing quality for speed.  There is no such thing as an instant background check.

The right screening partner will provide a balance of speed and price without sacrificing quality. 

It has NEVER been more important for organizations to understand how to conduct legally compliant criminal background checks.  These 5 areas pose significant risk for organizations:

·         Negligent Hiring/Retention.  Low quality background checks inherently have high failure rates even for serious felony records.

·         Ban the Box.  Huge movement across the U.S. to disallow criminal history questions on an application.  This is spreading quickly in municipalities and state legislatures.  The foundation for this theory is that ex-offenders are being disenfranchised.  That if they were able to obtain an interview and explain their criminal history that they would be more employable.

·         EEOC.  The EEOC 2012-16 strategic plan focuses specifically on employers use of criminal background checks.  The belief is that the proliferation in background screening is having a disparate impact on certain minorities.  Organizations need to follow a 3 pronged approach:

o   What is the nature & gravity of the crime?

o   How long ago was the crime committed?

o   How does the crime impact the position held or sought?

·         Fair Credit Reporting Act.  Yes, the FCRA applies even if you are NOT conducting credit reports.  The FCRA has very specific requirements and recent lawsuits for non-compliance have been in the millions of dollars.  Simply put, the FCRA requires:

o   Candidates provided a Disclosure Statement AND provide an Authorization (written or electronic)

If taking adverse action based “in whole or part” on the screening report:

o   Pre-Adverse Action Letter, copy of the report and a Summary of Rights Under the FCRA.

o   Adverse Action Letter sent after 5 business days if candidate does not dispute the accuracy of the information.

·         Social Media Background Checks.   How many of you will admit to searching candidates through social media, Google, etc?  The concept is extremely appealing but can be fraught with problems.  Social media background checks can expose an organization to risk of:

o   Discrimination-Seeing protected information like age, race, marital status, etc.

o   Privacy-Yes, even the internet can have a reasonable expectation of privacy since most social media sites require some form of friending.

o   Authenticity-How do you know it is your candidate?  Common name spellings?  How do you know that your candidate is not operating online under an assumed name?

If you are not conducting high quality background checks then you are at risk of missing information, negligent hiring, negligent retention as well as compliance issues related to the FCRA, EEOC, social media and band the box. 

Is saving a few bucks worth all of these headaches?

This is topic is extremely critical to your organization and we simply cannot provide enough time or discussion to adequately cover this in an article.    So join us for a webinar:

·         Tuesday, May 14, 2013- Register

·         Tuesday, May 21, 2013- Register

Background Checks for Churches (Webinar)

Navigating the highly unregulated volunteer background screening industry is extremely challenging for churches and ministries.  The screening industry has been less than transparent about the use of cheap criminal databases that have a high failure rate even for sex offenders.  The following Background Checks for Churches Webinar hosted by Brotherhood Mutual Insurance provides insight on background screening and a perspective on the legal aspects of background screening by BMI attorney Kay Landwehr.

Indiana HB 1160/SB 160 School Background Checks Bills

I wanted to give you a quick update and solicit your help on Indiana House Bill 1160 & Senate Bill 160, companion bills that would require schools go through the Indiana State Police and FBI for national background checks.  It would exclude private vendors of which 90% of Indiana schools use a private vendor. There is a critical hearing on SB 160 in the Indiana House Education Committee on Thursday, March 14, 2013 (no time as of yet).

The bills would:

  • Require you to go through the Indiana State Police and FBI. You would not receive a screening report but a letter from the state police that indicates your candidate does or does not have any “disqualifying convictions” under IC 20-28-5-8 (c).
  • The candidate could have felony convictions for theft, stalking, etc.  Or could have misdemeanor convictions.  There are more than 400 misdemeanor and felony crimes in the Indiana code.
  • FCRA allows Safe Hiring and private vendors to report non-convictions for a 7 year period.  Not included in bills.
  • You will not have a screening report to compare against your application.  Now, schools can compare the comprehensive report from Safe Hiring against your application.  If we show a conviction for say public intoxication and the candidate did not disclose it then you might take adverse action based on the dishonesty.
  • Turnaround time for our reports is 3 days.  Schools using current state system proposed in bills indicate 7 days to upwards of 6-9 weeks in August and September.
  • The cost would be significantly more.  We charge $28.  State fee is currently around $45.

What do you need to do?  You need to contact ALL of the following Representatives on the House Education Committee and express your concern with the bill an amendment that would include private vendors.

Please contact DJ Weidner dj.weidner@safehiringsolutions.com or Brigitt Klaum brigitt.klaum@safehiringsolutions.com for sample language or letter.  Toll free 888-215-8296

 

Here is the contact information:

HOUSE - Education Committee

Rep. Robert Behning (R – Indianapolis) - Chairman

Email: H91@in.gov;

Telephone: (317) 232-81

Legislative Assistant: Josh Schlake

Email: jschlake@iga.in.gov;

Telephone: (317) 232-9981

Rep. Rhonda Rhoads (R – Corydon) – Vice Chairman

Email: h70@in.gov;

Telephone: (317) 234-3827

Legislative Assistant: Sam Hyer

Email: shyer@iga.in.gov;

Telephone: (317) 234-3827

Rep. Lloyd Arnold (R – Huntingburg)

Email: H74@in.gov;

Telephone: (317) 232-9833

Legislative Assistant: Blake Weaver

Email:  bweaver@iga.in.gov;

Telephone: (317) 232-9833

Rep. Woody Burton (R – Whiteland)

Email: h58@in.gov;

Telephone: (317) 232-9620

Legislative Assistant: Lex Fay

Email: lfay@iga.in.gov;

Telephone: (317) 232-9620

Rep. Edward Clere (R – New Albany)

Email: h72@in.gov;

Telephone: (317) 232-9648

Legislative Assistant: Matt Elliott

Email: melliott@iga.in.gov;

Telephone: (317) 232-9648

Rep. Dale DeVon (R – Granger)

Email: h5@in.gov;

Telephone: (317) 232-9678

Legislative Assistant: Ben Begines Email: bbegines@iga.in.gov;

Telephone: (317) 232-9678

Rep. Todd Huston (R – Fishers)

Email: h37@in.gov;

Telephone: (317) 234-9380

Legislative Assistant: Joe Jacoby

Email: jjacoby@iga.in.gov;

Telephone:  (317) 234-9380

Rep. Jim Lucas (R – Seymour)

Email: h69@in.gov;

Telephone: (317) 232-9671

Legislative Assistant: Jason Johnson

Email: jjohnson@iga.in.gov;

Telephone: (317) 232-9671

Rep. Jeff Thompson (R – Lizton)

Email: h28@in.gov;

Telephone: (317) 232-9793

Legislative Assistant: Jacob Quinn

Email: jquinn@iga.in.gov;

Telephone: (317) 232-9793

Rep. Vernon Smith (D – Gary) - Ranking Minority Member

Email: h14@in.gov;

Telephone: (219) 980-7120

Legislative Assistant: Anne Hancock

Email:

Telephone: (317) 232-9976

Rep. Kreg Battles (D – Vincennes)

Email: h45@in.gov;

Telephone: (317) 232-9600

Legislative Assistant: Zarah Hileman

Email:

Telephone: (317) 233-5248

Rep. Sue Errington (D – Muncie)

Email: h34@in.gov;

Telephone: (800) 382-9842

Legislative Assistant: Anne Hancock

Email:

Telephone: (317) 232-9976

 

Rep. Shelli VanDenburgh (D – Crown Point)

Email: h19@in.gov;

Telephone: (317) 232-9600

Legislative Assistant: Keri Dattilo

Email:

Telephone: (317) 232-0243

 

 

Warning! New CFPB Background Check Forms Required

cfpb background checksThere is a new sheriff in town.  The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has taken the enforcement reins of the Fair Credit Reporting Act from the Federal Trade Commission. What does that mean for you as a user of consumer reports or background check reports?  Initially, you have to comply with changes in 3 background screening forms.

These reports were changed very little from what you currently have but they remove language related to the FTC and have inserted the CFPB information.  These forms MUST be adopted no later than 01/01/2013.

If you use our ATS “paperless” process, the forms will be automatically updated over the coming weeks.  I would still suggest downloading a hard copy of the forms for your records.

Here are the two forms you must download and use (I know, I mentioned 3 forms above):

The third form, Notice to Furnishers of Information, is only required if you are a vendor that provides consumer information to Safe Hiring Solutions.

If you are not familiar with the first two forms, you should be.

The Notice to Users of Consumers Reports articulates your legal requirements under the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act.  The FCRA has some very specific requirements for organizations that are using a “third party” background screening vendor.

The Summary of Your Rights Under the FCRA is to be provided to your candidates EVERY time you initiate Pre-Adverse Action based “in whole or part” on a background screening report.  The summary educates your candidates about their rights and is intended to provide consumer protection against low quality background checks.

Feel like you need a refresher on the FCRA?  Join us for a free webinar on 12/13/2012 New CFPB Requirements & the FCRA.  Click here to register.

EEOC Strategic Plan & Legally Defensible Background Checks

The new EEOC Strategic Plan has placed employers use of criminal records in the middle of their cross hairs.  Normally, we try to keep our blog posts short and concise so you can easily digest the information. However, I thought it this topic was so important that I would share a webinar we recently presented on the new EEOC Strategic Plan.

EEOC Strategic Plan and Legally Defensible Criminal Background Checks from Mike McCarty on Vimeo.

Trust the Sex Offender Registries to Keep You Safe? Read This

cheap-background-checksI have preached for so long about the dangers of cheap background checks that I feel like I am at times saying the same thing over and over again.  Yes, I realize it has pinched a nerve with some sex offenders and others who are sensitive to ex-offenders based on some of the comments I have received.  But I am not sure it resonates with organizations trying to keep children safe. But guess what?  Right is right.  If I am ruffling the feathers of sex offenders then that validates my points.  And truthfully, cheap background checks are almost worse than no background checks at all.

Why? Because with no background checks you are at least aware and assuming the risk of not doing anything.  However, if you have been lured into believing that a search of a sex offender registry or $10 criminal record check will keep you safe then you are operating on a false sense of security.

The sex offender registries are not and were never developed as a solution for keeping organizations safe.  How could they?  The compliance rates of sex offenders vary from county to county and state to state.

I know people who check to see how many sex offenders live around them.  Realistically, you could have a sex offender living right next door with a boyfriend, girlfriend, friend or family member and never know it.  Because they do not list your neighbors address as their permanent address.

How many law enforcement agencies or probation departments have the time or manpower to ensure sex offender registration compliance?  Very few.  It is not a priority.

There are estimates that as many as 100,000 sex offenders are “lost” and unaccounted for across the U.S. (Waging War on Sex Crimes).  So we would be foolish to rely on these registries as a tool for keeping our children safe.

In addition to lack of compliance and oversight, the sex offender registries are often out-dated or incomplete.  Some states only require certain classifications of sex offenders to register.  Other states allow them to fall off the registry after 10 years.

And if the crime pre-dated the sex offender registry, guess what?  The courts have upheld that the sex offender is not required to register.

This brings me to a recent example of how a failure in the sex offender registry allowed a convicted sex offender to harm 4 young girls aged 8-12 by forcing them to have sexual intercourse, oral sex and to perform acts on each other.  When this story splashed on the evening news I ground my teeth together to prevent me from screaming and waking my children.

Pure anger.  I have no tolerance for injustice and the loss of innocence for children.

Sex offender Willaim Everage is out of prison and preying on children again.  Everage is actually listed on the Indiana Sex Offender Registry.  However, his residence is listed as the Indiana Department of Corrections.

The last update for Everage was 2006.  Yes, almost 6 years ago.

My heart breaks for those innocent little girls.  Would an updated registry have prevented this?  No way of knowing.  But it does expose the limitations of the sex offender registries.

So I turn my anger to prevention as I have done for the past 20 years.  I encourage you to take the time to research the cheap background checks that saturate the background screening industry.  Please avoid the lure of a free search of the sex offender registries or a $10 so-called “national” criminal background check.

If it seems too good to be true, it is.  Cheap background checks are no match for sex offenders.

If you are ready to do background screening correctly, contact us today.

How Far Back Should Background Checks Go?

how far back should background checks goThis really is the million dollar question.  It is a lot like the presidential primary debates.  The answer is dependent on who you ask. So let’s look at the competing perspectives on how far back should background checks go?

The EEOC has made it clear that they believe the proliferation of criminal record checks is having an adverse impact on ex-offenders.  Is this true?

Can we ask if ex-offenders have an adverse impact on innocent victims?  Or is this only a discussion from an offender’s perspective?  The EEOC meeting on the use of criminal records last summer was heavily tilted toward those working with ex-offenders.

The reality is the EEOC has made this a high priority in their 2012-16 strategic plan.  Agree or disagree, it doesn’t matter.  They are knocking on the doors of employers who have zero tolerance policies for criminal records or who use non-conviction records to disqualify candidates.

Or how about the handful of states and municipalities that have passed “ban-the-box” legislation?  This is even further than the EEOC has gone (to date).  “Ban-the-box” simply means employers can no longer ask about criminal histories on an application.  It does not eliminate the use of criminal background checks but delays asking about this information until the interview phase.

A handful of states have restrictions on the reporting of criminal records.  Most of these states only restrict if the salary is less than $20-25K.  A few have absolute time restrictions to 7 years.

I have even had quite a few sex offenders complaining that I am trying to keep them from getting a job.  Partially true.  I am trying to keep them from getting a job that would provide them an opportunity to rape and abuse innocent victims.

So I am really not opposed at all to a sex offender having a job.  My mission is to make sure I provide the information to our clients so they make an informed decision.

There is no denying the tide has shifted.  We are seeing a growing movement (or backlash) against the use of criminal records for employment and how far back should background checks go.

As far as you legally can is the best practice.  Clients working with vulnerable populations such as a school district will have specific laws that exclude violent candidates no matter how long ago they committed the crime.

So screening firms should provide deep searches, filtering them through state and federal laws.  This allows employers to make prudent decisions based on their policies.

Unfortunately, the background screening industry has been a huge contributor to limited and low quality background checks.  Yes, many years ago the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act used to restrict all criminal records for employment purposes to 7 years.

However, the FCRA was amended in the late 1990’s and removed this 7 year limitation for convictions.  But this is still the quasi standard for the industry.

The FCRA does restrict reporting of non-convictions to 7 years, unless the salary of the position exceeds $75,000. Don’t ask me where they came up with this number.

Truthfully, a criminal background check should only be limited by two things:

  1. How far back the court records go; and/or
  2. Federal or state law restrictions for reporting criminal convictions for employment purposes.

Imposing broad restrictions on reporting criminal convictions will increase the risk of a bad hire, innocent victims being harmed and potential for negligent hiring lawsuits.  We know that research on ex-offenders over the past 15 years has shown that more than ½ are back in prison within 3 years.  Corrections professionals have tried everything to reduce the recidivism of ex-offenders but nothing has proved fruitful.

So it seems that the current movement believes that if an ex-offender has gainful employment then his ability to make the correct choices will also increase.  I don’t buy it.  Offenders have common thinking errors and unless these change….and this requires the offender making a personal choice and decision to change….then the cycle will continue.

A quality background screening partner will:

  1. Not limit a search to 7 years unless required by law.
  2. Provide education on importance of a 3 pronged policy on the use of criminal records:
    1. What is the nature of the crime?
    2. How long ago was the crime committed?
    3. How does the crime impact the employment position?

Would you like the security and confidence to know that your background screening firm is providing all the criminal records legally permissible?

Did American Idol Learn a Lesson About Cheap Background Checks?

cheap background checksIf you have been reading my articles for a while then you have heard me rant and rave about cheap background checks.  They are prevalent in our industry, quite frankly, because most background screening firms are focused on profit instead of safety. But even with my ranting, I have always pointed my finger at the screening industry for not taking the high road and educating organizations.  I do not generally point fingers at individual organizations unless you have been educated and still choose to use cheap products that place people’s safety at risk.  Then you are negligent.

However, today, I have to step back and say, what the heck American Idol.  I admit, with hesitancy, that I am a closet watcher of the show but always am quick to pass it off that my wife makes me watch it.  Really she does.  She used to be a cop, remember.

Here is what troubles me though.  I don’t know what Ryan Seacrest, Steven Tyler, Jennifer Lopez and Randy Jackson make, but if you believe what you read then combined it probably exceeds $100 million.

So an organization that can throw around that much money is relying on a self-report application?  Seriously?  Do you honestly think people with something to hide are going to disclose it?

No way.  And it did not work this week.

It was discovered that one of the final 12, the Gentle Giant Jermaine Jones, has criminal records for lying to police and 4 outstanding warrants.  Oops.  He didn’t understand the question on the application and checked the wrong box.

Let’s be real.  The man can sing but he has shown a history of breaking the law and lying about his identity.

Do you think Fox wishes they would have spent $50 (or less…give me a call we can work something out) to find out that the Jermaine Jones, not only had a criminal background but also had 4 outstanding warrants?

The truth is that if American Idol required quality background checks on those making it to the Hollywood round, maybe 100 contestants (guessing) then they would have $5,000 or less invested.  That is peanuts.

And maybe a criminal background check policy would have encouraged the Gentle Giant to come clean and changed the whole course of his life.  Maybe a screening program would have encouraged him to be honest.  He gets his dirty laundry cleaned and becomes a success story.

At a minimum, American Idol would have a better understanding who they are working with and minimize the risk of negative exposure like this.  Cheap insurance.

I think the real disconnect for me is why they were not conducting criminal records checks.  We partner with thousands of cash-strapped not-for-profits across the U.S. that operate on a shoe-string budget and they find ways to fund a quality background screening program.  Obviously not the same problem for cash-cow American Idol.

I have no earthly idea why.  Naivete?  Apathy?  We may never know.

The lesson for all of us is that cheap background checks do not work. They never have and never will.  Background screening requires a myriad of checks and balances to make sure somebody with an unsuitable criminal record does not slip through the cracks.

If you want to do background checks correctly, contact us.  We would love to partner with you.

What are your thoughts on the cheap background checks used by America Idol?

CA Parents Question Why Background Checks Did Not Work

background checksI don’t think I have ever heard of a school administrator terminating an entire staff but that is exactly what happened this week at Miramonte School in Los Angeles. Two teachers were arrested for child sex abuse that has allegedly occurred over many years.  Teacher Mark Berndt, who taught at Miramonte for more than 30 years, has been charged with felony molestation of 23 children ages 6-10.  Police said they have 40 photographs of Berndt allegedly committing lewd acts on children.

What is probably most troubling is Berndt was fired in January 2011.  Yes, a year ago but was only arrested on January 31, 2012.

Why is that troubling?  Well, because another teacher, Martin Springer, was arrested on February 3, 2012 on suspicion of committing lewd acts on children.  More than 12 months after Berndt was fired but no disclosure had been made to parents or staff.

Both of these teachers were hired when the background screening requirements were much less stringent.  So would it make sense for a school to be conducting ongoing background checks?

I think what some parents are really asking is why did it take more than a year for them to find out about this former teacher?  And did Springer harm any children during this 12 month period of silence?

There is no indication from law enforcement that Springer and Berndt were working together.  However, a simple disclosure to parents might have lead to a conversation between parents and children.  Detective James McLaughlin, Keene, NH Police Department, who is recognized expert on child sex abuse has said that the disclosure rates for child sex abuse exploded in Keene shortly after he became a detective and started speaking to every civic group that would allow him to speak.

How did that impact report rates?  Parents went home and talked to their children.  And children that had been threatened and intimidated into remaining silent finally broke the silence.

Both of these teachers were hired when the background screening requirements were much less stringent.  So would it make sense for a school to be conducting ongoing background checks?

Yes.  We realize that a criminal background check alone only reveals if someone has a criminal record.  So with Springer and Berndt that would not have revealed anything.  It requires more than just a criminal record check.  Law enforcement agencies generally conduct ongoing background checks that include both criminal records AND reference checks.

So the lesson for employers is our responsibility to provide a safe work environment is an ongoing process.

I also wanted to let you in on a little secret….  There is a new automated reference checking program coming soon.  It will go a long way to helping expose the Springer and Berndt’s of the world.