background checks

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.

Accurate Employee Background Checks

employee background checksThere is no bigger issue for the background screening industry in 2013 than providing accurate employee background checks.  This is a paradigm shift because the screening industry has historically provided low quality products and services. Sadly, low quality, cheap, incomplete criminal record checks continue to dominate the volunteer screening market.  Organizations placing children and vulnerable populations at risk because they have been convinced by savvy sales reps that you can conduct a quality volunteer background check for under $10.

Sorry, can’t be done.

Well, that is another article.

The focus on speed and cheap background checks has now impacted the entire employment background screening community.  I have been preaching against this horrible practice since the day I launched Safe Hiring Solutions.  And I will continue to scream and demonstrate that quality volunteer and employee background checks can be done cost effectively.

Here is how the low quality standards that permeate the screening industry have had a negative impact:

  1. Greater scrutiny from the EEOC.  The EEOC 2012-16 strategic plan targets background checks.
  2. More states passing legislation to restrict the use of criminal background checks.
  3. Proliferation in media coverage of cases where inaccurate background checks harmed people.
  4. Lawsuits alleging inaccuracies or not following the FCRA are increasing.  The most recent is a case brought by the federal government against a large background screening firm for not following the requirements of the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act.  The screening firm settled for $2.6 million in 2012
  5. Greater risk to organizations because violent offenders are sneaking through the process.

Technology is a wonderful thing.  It has contributed to quick and affordable quality background checks.  However, no technology can provide an instant background check or a quality background search for $10.

So the key takeaway is accuracy is important.   It should be the #1 question you ask.  Not “how much does this cost.”

The responsible use of employee background checks is important (i.e. no zero tolerance policies).

The federal Fair Credit Reporting Act exists to provide consumer protections.  So it is critical that you understand your obligations under the FCRA.

One of the most important organizational decisions you will make is selecting a screening partner who:

  • Provides the most accurate information available
  • Provides the reports in a timely manner (remember instant is not quality)
  • Is committed to the integrity of the Fair Credit Reporting Act
  • Will help you understand your legal obligations
  • Will help you navigate the myriad of ever-changing federal, state and local laws

If the don’t, you may find yourself in a legal hot seat.

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.

4 Reasons You Should Be Conducting Current Employee Background Checks

employee background checksAll too often employee background checks are synonymous with pre-employment background checks.  Unfortunately, if our criminal record check policy is a one-and-done process then we expose our organization to unnecessary risk. Background screening, like health insurance, is an ongoing requirement.  The bad news is we will not see ObamaScreening in the next 4 years.  However, the good news is high quality background checks are extremely affordable, unlike healthcare.

There are 4 reasons you should be conducting current employee background checks:

  1. Employees who pre-date background check policy.  The background screening industry is literally still a toddler.  Even with the proliferation of criminal records checks after 9-11-01, this was focused on pre-employment checks and leaves a large pool of current employees that have never had a criminal background check.
  2. A lot can change in 20+ year career.  Simply conducting pre-employment background checks will not be enough to protect our organizations.
  3. Criminal background checks are time sensitive.  The minute a background screening report is returned, it is a historic document.  What does that mean?  Well, your candidate could commit a crime tonight and it would not be reported in the screening report completed earlier today.  Recently, one of our large school district clients inadvertently ordered a re-check on an employee.  The employee had a pending felony theft case and when we called the school to notify them, they were shocked.
  4. Negligent Retention.  We hear a lot about negligent hiring.  However, the twin sister of negligent hiring is negligent retention.  Basically that as an employer becomes aware or should have become aware of problems with an employee and you take no corrective action (investigating, reassignment or termination).  Ongoing background checks provide protection against the “becomes aware or should have become aware.”

Implementing a current employee background check program is very simple.  Yes, it does require a policy change and articulating a business necessity (protect our employees, customers, etc).  And yes, you will hear some grumbling from employees.

We have also created technology that makes screening existing employees easier.  First, we can enter a date in your account, such as 5 years, and then you will receive a monthly report of any employee who has a background check expiring in the next 30 days.  You simply check the employees you wish to re-screen and email it to your account representative who uploads it to our system.

Or you can use our “paperless” process where we program a link that can be placed on your website.  Your employees click on a link, sign and e-authorization, input their information and initiate a background check.  You even have the option of adding a merchant account if you require employees to pay for their background checks.

Join us on 11/28/2012 at 2PM EST for a FREE webinar:   Should We Be Screening Existing Employees?  Click here to register.

2 Dangers of Volunteer Background Checks

volunteer background checksHow much do volunteer background checks cost?  It is the one question we are asked many, many times per day. Every request for information is really a request for pricing.  The handful of times each month that a potential client is focused on safety and security is almost always driven by an incident where a volunteer with a violent background passed their current background screening process.

Unfortunately, they have learned the hard way about the low standards of care in background screening.  How the screening industry has no standard definition of what a background check consists of.  And how easy it is for violent offenders to receive a clear through these cheap criminal database searches.

So when a large volunteer organization told us today that they can get the exact same background check for $3 I just sighed.  Then I laughed (not on the phone).  Not because it is hilarious.  But because I have spent more than 8 years focusing on educating organizations on how to protect themselves.   I have been presenting at conferences, blogging, conducting webinars, conducting interviews in print radio and television.  Talking until I am blue in the face.

I laugh because it is preposterous to think you can protect a child for the cost of the latte on your desk.  I laugh because that is what I do when I am frustrated.  I know that large numbers of children are now at risk with this organization because they are more concerned with saving a few dollars than protecting them.

Conducting low quality criminal record checks plagues the volunteer world.  Believe me, I get it.  I have seen the eye-catching marketing that makes you believe for $10 you can ensure the safety of your organization.

However, these cheap background checks are placing your organization at great risk of allowing someone to volunteer who is intent upon harming a child.

Here are the 2 biggest dangers of volunteer background checks:

  1. Instant Results.  If your background screening program is instant, then it is junk.  There is no such thing as an instant background check.  Background screening requires multiple levels of screening including searches of county courts where candidates live or have lived.
  2. Less Than $10.  Sorry but you cannot conduct quality background checks for $3 or $10.  Cannot be done.  Read the disclaimers on the $10 search and see if you are still comfortable.  This is a search of incomplete databases.  There does not exist a database, not even the FBI’s NCIC that is complete.

It drives me crazy how background screening firms place profit above the safety and security of children.  And these cheap criminal database searches are very profitable.  There is no labor.  You do all the work of inputting the names and filtering the results.

I honestly could not sleep at night if we were peddling these incomplete searches.

So what do you need to do if you are are using an instant background check or one that costs $10 or less?

Join us for a webinar How to Conduct Comprehensive Volunteer Background Checks.

Post 9/11 World of Employee Background Checks

employee background checksThis morning reminded me so much of the morning of 9-11-2001.  Crisp, clear and sunny.  Innocent. I remember jumping in a cab early that morning in Washington DC as the city was waking up.  I had two appointments.  First, I was speaking to a group of federal probation officers on preventing violence against women and children.  Then after lunch I was heading across the river for a meeting with the Department of Defense Task Force on Domestic Violence.  I never made it across the river (thankfully).

I was reflecting on that day during my morning commute.  I was thanking God for protecting me that day.  I was also thinking about how 9-11 impacted employee background checks.

The young background screening industry exploded immediately after 9-11.  Our sense of safety and security had been stolen.

I can remember boarding a plane the day flights resumed for a cross-country flight and realized immediately our world had changed.  Security screening was intense.

Gone were the days when you pre-boarded a plane and focused on your work, laptop, mobile phone (no iPad yet) or book.  Every passenger was studying each person boarding the plane, looking for any sign of a potential terrorist.

We were on heightened alert.  Highly sensitive.  Focused.

Then I noticed over the years that this started to fade.  We started to fall back into our old patterns and habits.

And we have seen the same type of shift in employee background checks.  The pendulum has swung a different direction.

The EEOC has made criminal record checks a high priority with their 2012 strategic plan.  They have made it clear that they believe the proliferation of criminal background checks has had a negative impact ex-offenders.

Yet very little thought to how the victims of the ex-offenders were impacted.

Several states have enacted laws to restrict the reporting of criminal records with many other states exploring similar restrictions.  This has been dubbed “second chance” laws.

Really?  Second chance?  If so, I am all for that.  Someone makes a mistake, pays their debt, learns from their mistake and moves forward.  I would participate in that graduation ceremony.

However, my 20+ years of experience with the criminal justice system has lead me to believe the law should be more accurately described as the tenth time law.  We have tried everything to lower recidivism rates:

  • Education
  • Tougher sentencing
  • Drug courts
  • Anger management

And as we continue to see the same percentage of offenders return to prison as we did 20 years ago (before the proliferation of background checks) then the only thing left is employment.

It is the lack of gainful employment that caused someone to steal a bike from the side of our home 2 weeks ago.

It is a lack of gainful employment that drives a person to physically abuse their partner.

It is a lack of gainful employment that leads someone to sexually abuse a 10 year old child.

Or is it personal choice and responsibility?

Should a bad decision 20 years ago such as a DUI, public intoxication, simple possession impact your employment today?  Probably not.  The recent case of a bank employee in Iowa being fired after a background check revealed a conviction 49 years ago for putting fake coins in a laundry machine is absurd.  Actually it is stupid.

However, we need to understand how broad-brush restrictions such as the recent law in Indiana WILL impact our organizations.  Yes, it may help this victim of an ignorant bank.  But it will also open the door for career criminals to hide their past so that you do not receive the full picture during the pre-employment process.

So on this anniversary of 9-11-2001, it is critical that we understand the shifting tides with employment background checks and how that could impact our organizations.  Let your voices be heard.

Join us for a webinar on the new Indiana laws restricting criminal history checks.  Register today.

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.

Are Employment Background Checks to Blame for High Recidivism Rates?

employment background checksEvery single day I am reading articles about “Ban the Box”, the EEOC new strategic plan that focuses on narrowing the use of criminal records in employment decisions and a myriad of blog comments that suggest employment background checks are to blame for high offender recidivism and that I should be prosecuted for high crimes related to my dedication to safety, security and violence prevention. I admit that after 20 years of violence prevention work, including 7 years as a violent crime detective, I am committed to preventing violence.   The current trend is to silence the voice of violence survivors and focus on external causes for offenders re-offending (that is what we have been doing for 30 years with no success).

Yes, maybe having a front row seat to the ravages of violence, interviewing women and children who have been brutally raped and beaten gives me a slightly different perspective.  For me, violence is not a benign and impersonal study but a child named Sam or a rape victim named Susan.  It is real.

I read studies like the recent NM Legislative Study that finds 50% of NM offenders are back in prison within 5 years.  And that the average offender makes 3 trips to prison.

I will say it again (because most of the comments I receive are from people who have not heard this) that yes, I am a founder and CEO of a fast growing background screening firm.  I have ALSO been involved in prison ministries and am a board member of Outreach, Inc. in Indianapolis which serves homeless teens of which criminal records and lack of employment are barriers.

So yeah, actually I do understand and listen to both sides.  But I also know that violence is a choice.

Does gainful employment play a significant role in getting an offender back on his or her feet?  Absolutely if it is married to personal responsibility and a commitment to change.

What about issues of substance abuse?  Education?  Lack of family support and structure?  Thinking errors?

Are most burglaries committed to feed a family or to satisfy a drug habit?  Depends who you speak with.

I have seen many, many people turn from a life of crime and violence and become productive members of society.  Not a single one of them would credit a job as being the one thing that turned them around.  No, they would list Jesus Christ.  Pastor.  Positive role model.  A program that instilled a sense of purpose and validated them.

The current trends are imbalanced.  And without balance, we will fall.

I agree that zero tolerance policies for criminal records are not a responsible approach to recruiting and hiring.  Also, blanket policies that tell employers they cannot ask about criminal records on an application or cannot use criminal records are irresponsible.

One of the arguments for ban-the-box legislation is that it saves organizations money because they do not have to run a criminal background check until after the interview.  Frankly, I don’t know of many employers that are running background checks until they make a conditional offer.

And for some organizations, ban-the-box will cost them more money in recruiting.  We work with hundreds of schools who have state laws that preclude them from hiring ex-offenders who have committed certain crimes.   So now they are going to invest time and labor to bring a candidate through the recruiting process only to discover at the end that they are excluded under state law from being employed.

The application is a great tool for gathering information for our due diligence process.  We know people lie on applications.  Remember the Notre Dame football coach a few years ago?   Dishonesty is and always should be grounds for disqualification.  But now we are going to remove questions about criminal records.

I know, we can ask them during an interview.  But if they lie by speaking then doesn’t that become my word against yours instead of having a signed application?

So the debate is really starting to heat up across the U.S.  What I would like to see is a balanced discussion on how to convert offenders to ex-offender status.   I think it is reasonable that we can have civil debates on the responsible use of employment background checks.

If you are unclear how the new EEOC strategic plan might impact your organization, join us for a free 30 minute webinar on 7/24/2012 at 2PM EST.  Click her to register.

Employee Background Check Lawsuit Settled for $2 Million

employee background checkBaldor Electric Co. has agreed to settle a U.S. Department of Labor Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs discrimination claim based on their employee background check policy for $2 million.   Baldor holds more than $18 million in federal contracts and is owned by ABB Ltd. In Zurich, Switzerland. The Labor Department investigation determined that Baldor’s background screening process had a disparate impact on women and minorities.  The result was 795 qualified women and minorities did not have an opportunity to advance to the interview stage of the hiring process.

Does this sound familiar?

It should if you have been following the EEOC over the past 12 months.  The new EEOC Guidelines issued this spring has placed criminal record checks in the center of their radar.

Now the DOL has taken the same position as the EEOC believing that the proliferation of criminal background checks is adversely affecting ex-offenders.  This is a tough new environment for employers who are trying to balance claims of negligent hiring and retention and workplace violence while at the same time having background screening policies that do not have a disparate impact on minorities.

The DOL investigation claimed that those candidates that were affected did not receive an interview because of their criminal history.  This is important to note.

Why?  Because the EEOC has made it clear that candidates with a criminal record should have an opportunity to explain the circumstances of their conviction.  This lines up with “Ban-the-Box” legislation that has been sprung up across the U.S. whereby employers in certain jurisdictions are banned from asking about criminal histories on the application.

So what are the employee background check lessons for us?

  1. Criminal background check policies should not be zero tolerance policies;
  2. Screening policies should consider:
    1. What is the nature of the criminal record?
    2. How long ago was the crime committed?
    3. How does the criminal record impact the position?
    4. Candidates should be given an opportunity to explain their criminal history.

There is a lot of activity across the U.S. impacting employee background checks so do not hesitate to contact us if you have questions.

Should Volunteer Background Checks Exempt Law Enforcement?

volunteer background checksWell, the simple answer is absolutely not. Both from a moral and legal perspective, you must treat everyone the same. I understand wanting to exempt law enforcement from volunteer background checks.  I get it.  It saves cash-strapped organizations a few dollars and speeds the process of getting the much-needed volunteer in place.

However, where do you draw the line?  What happens when other volunteers want to bypass your background screening process because they have had a criminal background check?

The legal issue is you are creating a process that does not treat everyone the same.  And from a policy standpoint, how do you verify the criminal record check is acceptable?  Do you confirm when the report was completed? How far back they searched?  Were alias names searched?

Just because a law enforcement officer has completed a background check does not mean it was extensive.  A search of the FBI’s NCIC database is far from complete and this is would be the gold standard search for law enforcement.

Quite honestly, many law enforcement agencies treat criminal background checks as a pre-employment process.  One time and nothing over the next 20 years.  A lot can change in 20 years.

And do we believe that law enforcement is immune from hiring undesirables?

Yes, I admit, even as a former detective and from a family of police (grandfather, father, wife, brother and cousin) that I was extremely naïve when I was a rookie officer.  But my naivete was shattered very early in my career when officers I worked with were arrested for raping their wife, robbing drug dealers or protecting known criminal enterprises.

As a child of Kojak, Adam 12 and Police Woman (ok, if you are that young rent them on Netflix), this reality was a hard pill to swallow.  Police officers had always been my hero.  And they still are.

But I also understand that law enforcement is a highly attractive profession for those with less than ideal motives.  Several years ago there were two studies that found that law enforcement is one of the most attractive professions to people who abuse family members.

And if that is not enough, have you followed the recent high profile child pornography case involving a retired FBI agent from Carmel, Indiana?

It is alleged that retired FBI agent Donald Sachtleben possessed and distributed child pornography.   According to prosecutors, he emailed 9 images and indicated he had more to send if they liked them.

I am rarely shocked by law enforcement criminals like Sacthtleben.  However, what struck me was the bold email address that he operated with:

Talk about being bold and arrogant.  I give him credit, at least he was open with the fact that he is a pedophile.

Sick.  Sick.  Sick.

Do you realize this is the enemy you are trying to keep out of your organization and away from your kids?  There is no way a cheap $10 background check will keep Mr. PedoDave out of your organization.

Yes, I know he did not have a criminal record before this arrest.  However, these cheap $10 criminal background checks that thousands of volunteer organizations rely upon will still not uncover his recent arrest.

Why?  Because this is a federal crime.  You can run all the $10 so-called “national background checks” and you will find him clear.

So the most important lesson is that nobody should be exempt from volunteer background checks.  Secondly, cheap $10 national background checks are not match for the Sachtleben’s of the world.

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


Sexual Assault Leads to Employment Background Checks Lawsuit

employment background checksOver the past couple months the background screening industry has been buzzing about the new EEOC Strategic Plan which has placed employers on alert that they better have sound policies on the use of criminal records to deny employment.   The intent is that employers use of criminal background checks is disenfranchising too many people and there should be limits on the use of criminal records. I have said for more than a year that this debate has been very one-sided.  The only voices we hear are from those who work with ex-offenders or researchers tucked away in ivory towers working with numbers, not people.

Do I believe that employers have an obligation to be good stewards in the use of criminal record checks?  Absolutely.  We have always provided training and consulting to our partners on the proper use of employment background checks.

This should be a balanced debate.  People’s lives are at stake.

A recent  lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Roanoke, VA illustrates how critically important it is to not abandon the use of criminal background checks.  A female employee of Cosmetic Essence was walking to her car after working a late shift and was attacked by a co-worker,  a convicted sex offender.  Nathan Seymore Martin was charged AND convicted of sexual penetration with an animate object.

The victim is suing for $6.3 million.  She claims that Cosmetic Essence is culpable because her attacker was a convicted sex offender and had they conducted employment background checks they would have known this.

But they didn’t.


We have to understand that this is not about money.  I have never met the victim, but having worked with thousands of victims and victims of crime organizations, I can guarantee you that the victim would give any money she receives to be able to turn back the clock and avoid being brutally raped. No amount of money will wipe away the violence.

The current movement in this country is to quiet the voice of victims.  To dehumanize the process.  Make it all about statistics instead of moms, dads, sisters and brothers.

And how will this impact Martin?  He is already a convicted sex offender so he is on the sex offender registry.  Yes, he will serve a little time.  Probably very little as his sentence was 3 years.  Which means he will be out of prison in about 1 year.  No joke.  Most states allow inmates to earn “good time” which often equates to 2 days of good time for each day served.

So in 12-18 months Martin will step out of prison into an employment world that wants to identify him as a protected class.

But the victim receives a life sentence.  She will be spend a lifetime coming to grips with being brutally and violently raped.  She will navigate a new world where her sense of safety and security has been destroyed.  Her thoughts and choices will be driven by her emotional scars.

And what drives me crazy is it was preventable.  A background check would have stopped this.

Does that mean Martin would have never harmed anyone else?  No, I am not saying that.

I am saying he would not have harmed this victim at work.  What we should do with violent sex offenders is a different article.

So the challenge for employers is to provide a safe work environment while at the same time not discriminating against a candidate.

Join us for a FREE webinar:   EEOC Strategic Plan and Legally Defensible Criminal Background Checks on June 8, 2012 at 2PM EST.

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?

5 Reasons Automated Quality Background Checks are the Bomb

quality background checksNow understand we are talking about automated quality background checks not instant.  Don’t confuse the two.  There is no such thing as an instant background check (I know, an internet search says otherwise but the screening companies are not being honest). A few years ago we created an Applicant Tracking System that allows you to conduct quality background checks without data entry.  We created this technology to assist our large volunteer organizations who process thousands of criminal record checks.

Hundreds of organizations have adopted this “paperless” process because it:

  1. Speeds the Turnaround Time.  Candidates can order a background check 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
  2. Saves Money by Reducing Labor.  Candidates click on a link on your website, sign an e-authorization, input their information and initiate the background check.
  3. Increases Security.  The ATS replaces paper authorizations and encrypts and stores the information on secured servers.
  4. Reduces Data Entry Errors.  No more data entry errors because you cannot read information on a paper authorization which speeds the turnaround time.
  5. Allows Candidates to Pay for Their Own Background Check with a Credit or Debit Card.  Yes, this is a new concept for some organizations.  However, having the candidate pay for their criminal record check is growing in popularity.

The ATS is a great tool but it does not eliminate the application process and due diligence that you use to identify your candidates.  Candidates that attempt to provide a false social security number, change the spelling of their name or do not disclose other names or addresses will be flagged.   We recommend that employers require a government issued photo ID as part of the application process and compare this against their background screening report.

Are you ready to take your background screening program to the next level?  Contact us today.

Should Law Enforcement Be Exempt from Volunteer Background Checks?

volunteer background checksOver the past few weeks I have been asked several times if law enforcement officers should be exempt from volunteer background checks.  The quick and easy answer is nobody should be exempt from a criminal background check policy. Let me start by saying that I love police officers.  Literally.  My wife is a retired police officer.  My grandpa and my dad are retired police officers.  I have a brother and an older cousin who are police officers.   I was also a detective with the Metro Nashville, TN Police Department.  So you can see why I love police officers.

I have also spent 20 years dealing with the special treatment of law enforcement officers both as an investigator and as a consultant.  Back in 1994, I helped develop and implement the largest law enforcement-based domestic violence unit in the U.S.  And I learned very quickly that law enforcement was not immune from this crime but actually had higher perpetration rates than the general public.

I was blown away by the volume of domestic violence perpetrated by police officers.  Studies in the 1990’s listed police officer as one of the most sought after positions for an abuser.  Really?  Yes, it shouldn’t be a surprise since domestic violence is a crime of power and control and the position of police officer affords tremendous power and control.

When we launched the domestic violence program in 1994, the department had an informal policy of sweeping these incidents under the rug.   There was a lot of resistance to investigating police officers and holding them criminally accountable for their actions.  Shh.  Keep it quiet.

Morally, there was no way I could do this.  I had taken an oath to protect and serve.  How could I let officers who committed the crime of domestic violence have a free pass?

I couldn’t.  The law applies to everyone.  If you commit a crime, you are a criminal regardless of whether you wear a badge or not.

Legally, the federal courts have made it clear that police officers are required to provide equal protection under the law.  The 14th Amendment clearly requires equal protection of the laws.  No exceptions.

Just reading through newspapers over the weekend I came across three articles where police officers had gotten arrested:

  • Two Marion County, Indiana Sheriff’s Deputies fired for separate incidents.  One was arrested for public intoxication and another for creating unsafe living conditions for his children.
  • Sheriff in Louisiana fired for protecting mistress and her drug dealing business.
  • Officer in Tennessee was fired after assaulting his girlfriend.

So the answer is no way should law enforcement officers be exempt from your volunteer background checks.   Our background screening polices should be applied equally.

The Safe Hiring Solutions ongoing background screening policy does not exempt me as the founder and owner.  I submit to the same background check.  I am not above the process.

And let’s be honest.  The request to bypass your background screening policy is generally rooted in a sense of entitlement.  Why should I have to do that?

I would caution organizations who break with their policy and create exceptions.  You might be creating a legal problem down the road when other professionals ask for a free pass because they have had a background check.  We don’t want to create unequal applications of our policy.

I would suggest you draw a line in the sand and require everyone to submit to your volunteer background checks policy.

Volunteer Background Checks: Boy Scouts "Ineligible Volunteer Files"

volunteer background checksHave you heard about the ineligible volunteer files kept by the Boy Scouts of America?  It seems the Boy Scouts have kept a secret file since the 1920’s on sex offenders who are not allowed to volunteer. There has been a lot of pressure to release the secret files in recent years.  The Scouts have resisted stating privacy concerns of the victims involved.

Like a good game of ping pong, the argument goes back and forth.  The Scouts claiming privacy concerns.  The family of abused victims claiming the Scouts are concealing sex abuse cases.

The volunteer background checks argument has now landed in the lap of a judge in Santa Barbara, CA.   Former volunteer troop leader Al Stein is facing an April trial for allegedly molesting a 13 year old boy in 2007.  Stein also pled no contest to felony child endangerment in 2009.

The judge has ordered the Boy Scouts to turn over the confidential files.  More than 5,000 records going back to 2005.

The existence of a secret file is troubling for parents, the families of victims and advocates.  Secrecy has always been a weapon of choice for sex offenders.

Shh. Don’t tell or you will get in trouble.

Shh. Don’t tell or I will hurt you or your family.

Shh. Don’t tell because nobody else will understand what we have.

Let’s not pile on the Boy Scouts.   We see predators gaining easy access to children every day.

How about the high school basketball coach arrested in Indianapolis last week “partially nude” with a 17 year old girl?  Maybe there is a reason why a 65 year old basketball coach would expose himself in a vehicle with a 17 year old girl.

However, within hours of the arrest, the coach resigned.  And staff members said they had heard rumors about him.

We cannot allow a culture of silence to aid and abet predators.  It’s time we take a stand, pull back the curtains and let the light in.  Expose the violence and protect our kids.

This is precisely why a criminal record check alone will never protect us from sex offenders.  More than 80% of sex offenders are undetected.  They have never been arrested.

Unfortunately most volunteer organizations are extremely vulnerable to allowing a sexual predator in their doors.  Why?  Because safety and security has become a commodity.  We shop for the cheapest product on the market which we justify as doing something.

However, our enemy is much more sophisticated.    The cheap $10 “national” volunteer background checks are no match for sexual predators.   Since 80% do not have a criminal record they are not going to show up.  And many of those with a criminal record will not show up in these cheap database searches.  These cheap screening solutions being peddled by the background screening industry leave a trail of broken lives and shattered innocence in their wake.

We must recognize that any organization that serves children is a magnet for sexual predators.  They are knocking on your doors.  Shouldn’t we be doing everything we can to protect our children?  Don’t we owe that to our kids?