Background Checks

Are Background Checks for Employment Regulated?

background checks for employmentWell, sort of.  The truth is the regulation of background checks for employment is very conditional. Okay, what does that mean?  Yes there is the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), the Driver Privacy Protection Act (DPPA), EEOC and a myriad of state laws.

And it is true that they offer some form of regulation.  For example, the FCRA limits the reporting of non-convictions (arrests, not guilty, pre-trial diversion, etc) to 7 years….Well, sort of.  The FCRA adds a condition that if the employment position exceeds $75K then the reporting limit is removed.

There are a handful of states that further restrict reporting of criminal records.  Most of them also add a condition that the restriction only applies if the salary of the position is under $20K or $25K.

New Mexico is a state that provides regulations with no conditions.  If the criminal record, conviction or non-conviction, is older than 7 years then it is not reportable.  That means NM employers will not see the criminal record of a murderer or sex offender if the applicant has been released from prison and off parole for more than 7 years.

There have been a half dozen states pass laws restricting the use of credit reports for employment (CA and CT most recently).  Most of these states stipulate that an employment credit report can still be used for financial positions.

As you can see, most of the regulations relate to what can and cannot be reported, a strong focus on consumer protection.   There are not any employer protections to make sure you are receiving high quality background checks.

There is absolutely nothing in the FCRA, EEO or state laws that require background screening firms to adhere to high quality standards for conducting background checks for employment.  There is absolutely no standard of care in the industry.

The FCRA does NOT require:

  • Comprehensive background checks.  As a standard, most firms only provide a 7 year search.  So do you want to work with a firm providing a 7 year search or a 20 year search?
  • Alias or Other Names to be searched.  Do you want to work with a screening firm that searches all names associated with the applicant or just the name you enter?
  • Criminal records to be verified with a court of record.  It encourages this but also allows for the reporting of “stored data” as long as the same information is provided to the applicant.  Poor practice.

So where does that leave us?  We need to understand that background checks for employment are not highly regulated and this has lead to a low quality standard from the screening industry.  Yes, you may live in a state with further restrictions and it is critical to understand this.  However, most screening firms will place the onus of compliance on you.

Not us.  We start our education during the onboarding process and it operates continuously through our blog and webinars.  We are not just a data provider but a partner and are committed to making your background screening program the most comprehensive available which includes keeping you informed of changes in laws or best practices.

Are you ready to work with a screening firm that provides the highest standard of care possible?  Contact us today.

Warning: A Case Study on Background Checks on Employees

background checks on employeesHow many of you have employees that have never had a criminal background check?  Or were only required to submit to a limited criminal history search? The idea of background checks on employees usually is met with a nod of the head which means you know it is a smart idea.  But it is also often followed with a statement about it not being the right time.   Which usually means you are not quite up for the battle.

It is true that some current employees will resist a policy change that requires ongoing background checks.  Nobody likes change.  Especially a change that allows our employer to dig into our backgrounds.

However, let’s be realistic.  It is not wise to have an organization comprised of employees who have never had a background check or only a cursory screening.   Even a quality criminal record check is a historical document the moment after it is completed.  The applicant or employee could commit a crime 5 minutes later and it will not be in the report.

So yes, there may be some grumbling from employees.  All of us would agree that criminal background screening is an issue of privacy.  We get that.  We also understand that it is a necessary and legally prudent intrusion to insure a safe workplace.

This is called balance.   Applicants or employees do not have to authorize that background check.  It’s a personal choice.  An employer cannot conduct a background check without authorization.  However, the employer also does not have to hire you or continue to employ you if you refuse to submit to a background check.

The federal courts in ATM Corp. of America vs. Unemployment Board of Review upheld the termination of an employee who refused to sign an authorization for a background check.  The unemployment board further held that she was not entitled to unemployment compensation.

We have just completed a case study on a client who implemented a new policy requiring background checks on employees in September 2011.  Here is a snapshot of what we found after screening their 578 employees:

  • 42.1% hit ratio (average is 10-12%)
  • 250 felonies
  • 489 misdemeanors
  • 22 employees (including a senior manager) terminated for falsifying application (indicated they did not have a criminal record when they were hired).

This is a small case study but confirms the importance of making your background screening program an ongoing process.  Background checks are not a one-and-done process.  A lot can change over the course of 15 or 20 year career.

So how do you get started?

  • It requires a policy change based on a business necessity.
  • You must define the frequency.  Will you require a re-check every 5 years?
  • You must define how it will be implemented.  All employees?  Or begin with the most senior employees and screen a certain number per month to create an ongoing matrix.

We can providence assistance and guidance in implementing an ongoing screening program.  We have created technology to make this process simple:

  • ATS Link.  We create a link that can be placed on your website and employees (volunteers and candidates can also use) can click on link, sign an e-authorization and initiate the background check.
  • Screening Alert.  You tell us your frequency (2 yrs, 5 yrs, etc) and we place that in your account.  The system sends you a report 30 days in advance of any background checks that are up for renewal.

We also have a 30 minute recorded webinar on How Long Are Background Checks Good For.

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

Comply with FCRA Background Checks Without Spending an Extra Dime

FCRA Background ChecksWhat if I told you that it would not cost a dime to avoid a $5.9 million lawsuit?  Do I have your attention? Very few things in life are absolute, but I am guessing that First Transit and First Student, subsidiaries of First Group America, would have paid me a million dollars for this blog back in 2006.  Why?  Because it would have saved them $4.9 million.  A FCRA willful non-compliance class action lawsuit cost them $5.9 million.  We both lost.

Complying with the Fair Credit Reporting Act is serious stuff.  There are two big stumbling blocks to FCRA background checks compliance:

  1. Background screening firm is not a partner.  Many background screening companies bury FCRA compliance requirements in their service agreement.  This relieves them of any culpability.  You are telling them that you will comply with the FCRA.  Even though you probably have no idea what this federal law requires and who it applies to.  You need a screening partner.  Somebody that has your back.
  2. Believing the FCRA does not apply to you.  I agree that the federal law is deceiving in title.  Many organizations believe this law does not apply to them because they are not ordering credit reports.  Come on, the law is specifically titled Fair Credit Reporting Act.    Great point.  I could not agree more.   However, confusion is not a defense for non-compliance.   The FCRA applies to more than credit reports, it applies to all forms of employment background checks WHEN you are using a third party (screening firm).

So what did the courts decide in Hunter, et al. v. First Transit, Inc., and Joshaway, et al. v. First Student, Inc.?   It can really come down to two big mistakes:

  1. The employer disqualified employment candidates based on a background screening report (consumer report under FCRA) without obtaining the proper disclosure & authorization form from the candidate; and
  2. After taking adverse action, the employer failed to give the candidate a reasonable period of time to review the information (consumer report) that was being used against them.

What can we learn from this case?

  • The FCRA requires that every single applicant obtain a disclosure statement and sign an authorization form (written or electronic).  And the disclosure & authorization statement must be a stand-alone document that is separate from your application.
  • The FCRA requires a two step process for taking adverse action based on a background screening report.   The first step is providing the candidate with a Pre-Adverse Action Letter, copy of the screening report, and summary of their rights under the FCRA.  Then you must wait a reasonable amount of time before taking Adverse Action.  An FTC Staff Opinion Letter has found 5 business days as reasonable amount of time.

The case illustrates that it is critically important to partner with a quality background screening firm that will provide assistance with legal compliance.  Complying with FCRA background checks should not cost you a dime.  We provide sample forms, integrated FCRA Pre-Adverse and Adverse Action Letters, an intro to the FCRA webinar for all new clients and continuing education through our blog and webinars.

Are you ready for a crash course in the FCRA?  Do you want a background screening partner who will assist you will legal compliance?  Contact us today.

Don’t Let Volunteers Dictate Your Criminal Background Check Program

background check programEven after 20 years of violence prevention work, I am still occasionally surprised. This time it is not a criminal trying to slip through the cracks (I don’t think) but a management decision that has left me puzzled.  And a little worried. How would you handle a candidate for employment that did not like your background check program?  Is it up for debate?

I hope not.

So I was more than surprised last week when I learned of an organization that had made a decision to require comprehensive national criminal background checks of their volunteers reverse their decision after only 6 weeks.  So why did they reverse their decision so quickly?

Volunteer displeasure and resistance.  The potential volunteers did not like the policy change that required them to pay for the background check.

That is completely understandable.  Change is rarely popular and especially when it comes attached to a price tag.

However, cash-strapped organizations that serve children are making this same policy change every day.  It is becoming more the norm than the exception.

Yes, expect some push back from volunteer candidates.  But don’t anticipate your volunteer pool drying up.  It won’t.

Just be prepared for a little protest.

Also understand that if you articulate why you are making the change then the resistance will be disarmed.  Make it clear that the safety and security of children is your mission.

What volunteer believes the price of the safety and security of children is too high?  Very few.

And if they do, they will sound like the volunteer candidate who called our office several times last week complaining about our background screening process.  He was angry, arrogant and rude to our staff.

I regret that I was not here to take his calls (seriously).  He would not have found a shoulder to lean on nor would he have received an apology about our background screening program.

Mr. Angry Volunteer Candidate here is what I would have said to you:

“Didn’t your mother teach you anything?” (Okay, I probably would not have opened with that line.)

“Sir, if you want an overview of what we do and how we do it, no problem.  But I am not going to argue about whether you think this should be a policy or not.”

“Can I finish?”  Angry, arrogant and rude usually equals constant interruptions.  I-am-only-concerned-with –what-I -want mentality.

“Hey, have you ever held back tears while talking to a young child that has been raped?”

No response.

“I hope not.  It is awful.  I have a images of victimized children burned into my brain.  Kids who have been beaten, molested and even killed.  Their hollow eyes.  Eyes that scream why did this happen to me. Their fear.  I will carry these children…their names…their faces…I will carry them with me forever.”

“So Mr. Angry Volunteer (I would not say this but would like to), I guess you have a couple options.  You pay for the background check and volunteer.  Or you don’t.  It is nothing to get angry about.  You have options.  Sign the authorization or don’t.”

Displeasure with a volunteer fee will fade when parents....yes parents who are volunteering...understand that you have the absolute best interest of their child at heart.

If the resistance does not disappear for a handful, so be it.  There are two camps of candidates that may continue to resist the process:

  1. Those who have something to hide; or
  2. Those who think they are above the process.  Guess what…

Okay maybe a third candidate:

  1. Those who do not need to be volunteering with kids because they are not a quality role model.

Protecting children is not a debatable issue.  Dig your feet in and make that clear.  Changing direction sends the wrong message.  It says there are limits to how far you will go to protect a child.

Allowing volunteers to dictate your screening process exposes your organization to risk of a lawsuit.  Can you imagine testifying in court after a child is harmed that you switched to a comprehensive background check because what you were doing was too limited. Then disclose to the judge or jury you switched back because your volunteers did not want to pay for it.

Are you are about to adopt a volunteer background check program that requires the candidate to pay?  Contact us.  We can connect you to hundreds of organizations that have implemented a volunteer-funded screening program successfully.

Remember. I did not say you won’t hear some grumbling.  Have kids? Do they ever grumble at your rules that are in their best interest?

How do you feel about charging volunteers for background checks?  Come on, tell me what you think.

How Long Are Background Checks Good For?

It’s not the most frequent question we receive but it is definitely top 5. 

How long are background checks good for? 

You want to know you are legally protected AND getting a great return on your investment.

What you are really asking is: How often should we be re-screening our employees and volunteers to keep our organization safe?  To keep from being sued?  To stay out of the media?

I wish I could say a criminal background check would keep you safe and risk free for 5 years.  However, the truth is a background check is history the moment it is completed.

Say what?

Think about it.  We complete a background check today and your applicant could get arrested tonight.

I know, that doesn’t make you breathe easy. Hang on. Take three quick puffs in a paper bag.

Seriously though, background checks are time sensitive.  They are outdated quicker than your new shoes.

Now, let’s put this in perspective. 

Does this mean we should be doing background checks every day?

In a perfect world yes.  In a practical world, no way.

Click here for more on background checks with Safe Hiring Solutions.

There is no case law that says a background check is valid for 2 years or 5 years.  So I am going to answer the question by throwing it back to you: 

How long do you think background checks should be good for?

A sampling of our nearly 2,000 clients shows that the majority are NOT conducting ongoing screening.  Pre-employment background checks are one piece of a comprehensive background screening program.

Employers that have transitioned to an ongoing screening program have adopted 5 years as the magic number for a new criminal background check. 

Why 5 years? 

Possibly because this has been the law enforcement benchmark for many years.

If you are an Indiana school district, then the Expanded Criminal History Statute enacted in 2009 provides legal permission to charge an employee once every five years for a background check.  So not only does the law encourage current employee background checks, it gives you permission to charge them.  Talk about a win/win for Indiana schools.

Volunteer organizations typically have the most variance for re-checks.  First, most volunteer organizations do not conduct ongoing background checks.  For those that are, the frequency ranges from 2 years to 5 years.

Ultimately, criminal background re-checks are a personal policy issue.  I think we all agree, whether we are or are not doing re-checks, that never is not a sound policy.   A lot can change over a 20 year career.

For example, we recently conducted a criminal background check and after discovering a felony record we called and notified our client.  They were deadpan silent. 

Why? 

Because the background check had been ordered accidently while reviewing an old one.

The reality is background screening is an ongoing process not a one and done deal. 

So, how long are background checks good for? 

I would recommend somewhere between 2-5 years.

What is holding you back from starting an ongoing screening program?   Do you feel safe only requiring a single criminal background check during the onboarding process?

How to Build a Background Screening Program You Can Be Proud Of

background screeningWell, I have something I need to get off my chest.  No, it will not be near as juicy as former Congressman Weiner.  My social media posts are pretty tame.  Sorry. I must admit I am a business junkie.  There, you have it.  I feel so much better.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I didn’t say geek.  I am not running around the office with a pocket protector full of pens, pencils and a calculator.  I think I am a pretty cool guy.  My kids might disagree, especially after recently discovering some of my old college basketball photos where our uniform shorts looked more like speedos than basketball shorts.

What I mean is I love the entrepreneurial spirit.  I love meeting business leaders that have launched successful businesses.  Leaders that set the standard instead of trying to reach a standard set by another company.  Companies that are refreshingly unique.

I approach everything in life believing I can do it better.  If I was playing basketball, I never wanted to be just as good as the guy I was guarding.  I always wanted to be better.  I wanted to win.

And this is precisely why I launched Safe Hiring Solutions in 2004.  Several consulting clients had asked us to help them with their background screening process.  I did a quick Google search and initially said, “no thanks.”

Then a local school district discovered they had a convicted sex offender working in their schools.  How in the heck did he slide through the background screening process?

I dug into the background screening industry and found it was not really an industry built upon safety and security.  The screening industry as a whole had set the bar very low by peddling cheap database searches and limited 7 year searches.

So we launched Safe Hiring Solutions to be a company that does background screening correctly.  A company completely focused on safety and security.

We did not look laterally to see what our competitors were doing.   The last thing the background screening industry needed was another average company.

This is the same approach you should take with building a background screening program you can be proud of.  Don’t look around and fall prey to doing things the way everybody else is doing it.  Set yourself apart from the pack by doing background screening correctly.

I know building a quality background screening program is no simple task.  First, it requires a commitment to safety and security.  That means you value your employees, volunteers and people you serve above all else.

Secondly, it requires an investment.  Yes, that means you cannot conduct quality background checks for free.  If cost is driving your background checks policy then you need a new driver.  Now, I am not saying that your background checks should be expensive but cheap background checks always equal junk.

Thirdly, you must select a quality background screening partner.  If you are not committed to safety and security then selecting a screening firm will be easy.  Do a Google search and look for the cheapest price.

However, if you are a company that strives to be the best, then selecting a screening partner requires due diligence.  I read a post on LinkedIn this morning from an HR director from a large corporation, 80,000 employees, and she was describing the revolving door of screening firms they have used over the past 10 years and her frustration with having to start searching again for a new partner.

She needs help with vetting background screening firms.  How to cut through the sophisticated marketing.  To understand the critical questions to ask that will not only keep her organization safe but keep her team confident and happy with their partner.

Yes, there are some great background screening firms out there. They exist.  The question is how do you find them?

Unfortunately, many of the giants in the background screening industry, with the greatest brand awareness, tend to be the organizations peddling the most junk.  Large corporations and volunteer organizations partner with them because they are a household name. And how would they know a $9 background check is trash?

Finally, download our whitepaper 10 Things to Know Before Hiring a Background Screening Firm to help you build a background screening program you can be proud of.

How Long Does It Take For A Background Check?

how long does it take for a background checkOkay, I admit this is an article I should have written a long time ago since it is a question I answer daily.  The internet has put the world at our fingertips so it makes sense that we should be able to do high quality background checks instantly. Unfortunately, the background screening industry is guilty of perpetuating the myth of instant background checks. Don’t believe me?  Do a quick online search on volunteer background checks or tenant screening and everything is instant, cheap and packaged as a “national background check.”

As a matter of fact, I just got off the phone with one of our partners, John Halverson of Human Resource Support, and he asked the million dollar question: how long does it take to do a  background check?  John knows that instant does not work but he needed a little more information before confronting one of their clients who is relying on 1 hour “pre-checks.”

What happens if the “pre-check” is clear (which it will be)?  Are employers putting this person to work?  Allowing them to volunteer with kids?  I hope not.

A 1 hour “pre-check” sounds slick but it will get organizations in trouble.

The simple truth is we live in a country where the criminal records systems are extremely fractured.  Criminal records are still recorded in books and not in databases in some jurisdictions.  And, even if they are stored electronically, the data is often not shared with state repositories or proprietary databases.

So I confirmed for John what he already knew:  Instant background checks are junk.  I know, for some of you, that is not what you want to hear.  I understand.  It would be a perfect world if we could offer high quality instant background checks.  But we can’t.  Maybe some day, but not today.

There is not a single database (FBI, state repository or proprietary) that is complete enough to be a stand-alone screening program.  Sorry.

Background screening firms have peddled instant background checks for years because they are extremely attractive to fast-paced hiring managers, the price is appealing to cash-strapped volunteer organizations and they are huge revenue generators for the screening firms.

Now let me say this again:  Instant background checks always = junk data.  If you have been told otherwise then you are being subjected to traditional marketing which is built upon smoke screens, no transparency and telling you what you want to hear.  

We practice “inbound marketing” based on truthful content and transparency.  We want you to make informed decisions which sometimes means a potential client will select cheap and instant over quality.  That’s okay.  We will not sacrifice quality for revenue.

So how long does it take for a background check?  The honest answer is 2-3 business days.     Why?  Because quality criminal records checks require the checks and balances of criminal databases AND county criminal record searches.  You cannot divorce these two searches.

I’ve heard from potential clients that screening firms have told them they do not need a county criminal search because the state where they reside receives updates from all the courts.  Might be true but:

  • How do I verify my applicant has lived in this state his whole life?
  • How do I verify that my applicant has never traveled outside this state on business or vacation?
  • How do I know if my applicant’s criminal record pre-dates the database?
  • How do I comply with the FCRA’s  requirement to use up-to-date information for employment purposes?

So where does that leave us?  

Instant background checks don’t exist.  Criminal databases are tools not screening programs.

I understand that the county criminal records checks slow the background screening process and take from 24-72 hrs to complete.  However, it is one of the most critical steps in the background check.  So don’t skip this.  You might not pay for it today or tomorrow but you will at some point.   

We have focused on reducing turnaround times for county criminal searches and recently created an integration which allows us access to more than 800 county courts in the U.S.  This is a great tool that has allowed us to reduce our turnaround time to as little as one or two days in these counties.

The bottom line is safety and security is the ultimate goal of a background screening program.  Never compromise quality for speed.

Is it worth  waiting 1-3 days to prevent a child molest, rape or embezzlement?

So ask yourself:

  1. Do you want to do background checks correctly?
  2. Are you focused on the safety and security of your people?
  3. Are you an organization that strives to be the best you can be?

If you answered yes to all 3 questions, then contact us today.  We only partner with the best of the best.

The Secrets of How to Do a Background Check

how to do background checkI was scratching notes for an article yesterday when a telephone message took me in an entirely different direction.  A pastor of a large church called inquiring about how to do a background check. He was alarmed because they had selected a candidate for a new staff position.  Did a free background check and were about to make the offer.  Then someone told him their candidate was a convicted sex offender.

Sure enough.  

Free is enticing.  If I offered you a free car or a free trip you would be asking to read the fine print.  Why?  Because intrinsically we know nothing in life is really free.  

So why do we think we can conduct background checks for free?  I think we rely so heavily on the internet and see a steady ticker of headlines of people in trouble that we assume this is a cheap and reliable method of conducing background checks.

That is great if you happen to be doing a background check on Charlie Sheen.  However, how valid is information that is found online?  Can it be verified?

Last Friday, Zackery Tims, pastor of megachurch New Destiny Christian Center, was found dead in a hotel room in New York with a white substance in his pocket.  

What do we know?  Pastor Tims testimony reveals he had a criminal record for drug related crimes and was a recovering drug addict.  We also know that he was divorced in 2009 after a year long affair with a stripper.

However, what do we really know?  Not much. We have no toxicology reports to confirm cause of death.  We do not have an accurate criminal background check beyond what Pastor Tims has shared as part of his testimony.

Sure, we can talk about character issues when a pastor, husband, father of four admits to a year long affair with a stripper.  If I were a tabloid reporter, then Google provides a great expanse for gathering information.  But it does not provide a quality platform for criminal background screening.

If it is this difficult to get specifics on a high profile person, then how likely is it that you will be able to use the internet as your stand-alone background screening program?

You simply can’t.  The good news is quality and comprehensive criminal background checks do not have to break the bank.  You cannot do them for free or even $10 but you can do a quality background check for less than what you will pay them for their first couple hours they work for your organization.  

So what are the secrets of how to do a background check?

  1. Free background checks are a mirage.
  2. Background checks require multiple checks and balances.  
  3. Instant background checks do not exist.
  4. Alias and other names must be searched..
  5. Don’t settle for 7yr criminal searches (unless state law requires)
  6. Select a screening partner who provides legal guidance.

The most important step you will take is selecting a background screening partner.  This is no easy task.  The background screening industry is highly unregulated and over-populated with companies that offer low quality products and services.

Now, I do have something to offer for FREE.  Download our white paper the 10 Things to Know Before Hiring a Background Screening Firm to help your navigate the process of selecting the right background screening firm.

Healthcare Background Checks: How Can Sex Offenders Volunteer?

healthcare background checks“The Richard Roudebush VA Hospital in Indianapolis has 10 convicted sexual predators volunteering,” stated the Fox 59 news reporter on the TV as I walked into the bedroom. Ok, you have my attention.  I had just spent the past two hours right next door to the VA Hospital on the IUPUI campus watching the final game of the Pro Am Basketball League Tourney (probably the last glimpse for a while of pro players with the NBA lockout).

How could that be?   The Veterans Administration does not require healthcare background checks?

I had spent several hours earlier in the day discussing the new Indiana Professional Licensing Board background check requirements.  The push behind the new law was to make sure healthcare professionals in Indiana had undergone a thorough criminal background check.

Although, I don’t think we can expect high quality healthcare background checks since the IPLA requires a check of the FBI’s database.  The same database that was under fire last week during the EEOC meeting on the use of criminal records by employers.  The EEOC had exposed a long held truth that the FBI database is terribly incomplete and may contain only 50% of all criminal records.

Roulette background checks.  Well, that is another post.

The truth is the new law in Indiana only applies to new licenses.  It does not apply to:

  1. Renewal of license
  2. Unlicensed employees in a healthcare facility; or
  3. Volunteers

There is no requirement, it appears, for a volunteer at a VA Hospital to undergo a criminal background check.  I tried first thing this morning to download the volunteer application off the Roudebush VA Hospital website.  No luck.  A redirect just brought me back to an information page.

The response from the VA hospital was this was a rehabilitative program.

Say what?  Show me one shred of evidence that even indicates we might be able to rehabilitate a sex offender.  I spoke recently with a director of a statewide sex offender management program that contracts with a state department of corrections and I asked her point blank:  Is there any program that is effective with working with sex offenders.

She said no.

So how does a VA hospital think it can rehabilitate a sex offender by allowing them to volunteer?  And not only volunteer, roam the hallways and allow access to thousands of vulnerable patients, staff and visitors.

Frightening.  Well, negligent is the correct word.

The EEOC rekindled a huge debate on minimizing the use of criminal background checks because it has an adverse impact on ex-offenders.  Did their crime have an adverse impact on the victim?

The State of Indiana just passed legislation that makes it easier to “wipe clean” all misdemeanors and Class D felonies that are non-violent.

So the pendulum has swung back from the post-9-11 safety and security consciousness.  Where is all of this heading?  Will felons and sex offenders be our next protected class (maybe if the EEOC has their way)?

The real question is, does this make you feel safer?

E-Verify Background Check Integration

describe the imageWe have successfully integrated with the U.S. Government’s E-Verify system.  Many states are requiring the use of E-Verify to ensure an employee has a legal right to work in the U.S. The integration makes complying with E-Verify a snap.  Or actually a click.

E-Verify is a post-hire search meaning it is completed after the criminal background check and after you hire an employee.   Once a criminal background check is completed you will notice an EVP button on the applicant’s report.  One click and the data is sent to E-Verify and returned.

Here is the process to get started:

  • Step One:  Must complete an E-Verify Client Registration Form  We submit this form to receive a unique Client ID code.  This normally takes about 24hrs.
  • Step Two:  We upload the client ID code to your account and E-Verity is now available.

You have two options:

  • E-verify only; or
  • E-filing of Form I9.

Take a look at how this works:

 

Contact Dixie Doub  Dixie.doub@safehiringsolutions or DJ Weidner  dj.weidner@safehiringsolutions.com  to get information on pricing.

How Do Employers Do Background Checks?

how do employers do background checksGreat question (well, I didn’t mean to pat myself on the back).  Honestly, employers do background checks a million different ways.  The background screening industry is highly unregulated and this has resulted in a very low standard of care for background checks. And let me be honest as we are getting started.  If you are searching for a background screening firm, you need to do your due diligence or you might find yourself defending a negligent hiring lawsuit.

The truth is there are few terms more vague than background check. It means nothing to me unless you can answer the following 5 questions:

  1. How far back did you search? If you don’t know, then you’re screening partner is not communicating well with you.
  2. Do you conduct a county criminal records search?  These searches are the cornerstone of a quality screening program.  But make sure your partner is not using stored data or limiting the searches to 7 years.
  3. Do you use a state criminal repository or a national criminal database?  If so, how was it searched?  Every state criminal repository is different.  Some have good data and others have awful data.  The same holds true for national criminal databases or multi-state databases.  The sources of information vary significantly from database to database which can be the difference between a clear or a felony record.
  4. Do you search alias or other names?  If not, then you really have not done a quality background check.  If an applicant is 30 years old and married twice then to do a quality background check requires searching 3 names.  Two married and one maiden.
  5. Do you verify records found in a database?  If the search is for employment purposes then you are required under the Fair Credit Reporting Act to use only up-to-date information and “stored data” in databases is not considered up to date.

The first step in hiring a quality background screening partner is to subject them to a little due diligence.  I am never offended when a potential applicant starts asking questions.

Actually, I enjoy telling them how good we are at what we do.  Do you want a background screening firm that has your back?  Contact us today to get started.

Indiana Background Checks: Government Employers, Contractors Must Use E-Verify

indiana background checksSay what?  Another requirement for Indiana background checks? Indiana Senate Enrolled Act 590 ( IC 22-5-1.7) is effective July 1, 2011 and requires the following to participate in E-Verify:

  • All state agencies
  • Employers who have “public contracts for services”
    • With a state agency; or
    • Receive grants exceeding $1000 from a state agency

This applies to all employees hired AFTER June 30, 2011 or grants entered into or renewed after June 30, 2011.

Step 1 is to determine if this applies to you.  Pretty straightforward if you are a state employer or a state contractor.  What about Indiana school corporations?

IASBO has declared that the law DOES apply to Indiana School Corporations as they are designated as “political subdivisions” under IC 36-1-2-13.

Step 2 is to understand what E-Verify means.  To put it simply E-Verify is a federal program that determines an employee’s legal right to work in the U.S.

Step 3 is understanding the penalties for non-compliance:

  • State can sue employers who do not use E-Verify to recover unemployment insurance benefits paid to workers on or after 07/01/2011 if the employer knew the employee was not eligible to work in the U.S.
  • Will not enter into or renew contracts with signed affidavit declaring participating in E-Verify.
  • Employers are allowed 30 days to remedy the violation.
  • After 30 days, a violation will result in termination of contract and possible damages (if assigning contract leads to higher costs).

Step 4 is compliance.   The federal government site is very time consuming and labor intensive.

So, Safe Hiring Solutions has created an integration that allows employers to file I-9’s electronically and conduct an E-Verify search.  Contact us today for more information on E-Verify and Indiana background checks.

 

Help Me! What is a Background Check?

what is a background check resized 600I read an article recently about a youth pastor who was arrested for sexual misconduct with a child after he convinced the 13 year old girl in his youth group to send him topless photos of herself from her mobile phone.  What caught my attention was the senior pastor said they had conducted a background check. Hmm, I thought. What does that mean?  How does he define what is a background check?

I am 99.9% sure that means they called some references supplied by the youth pastor.  Suffice it to say that a little background checking on my part confirmed they did not conduct a criminal background check.

So the question I have is whether the senior pastor is intentionally trying to mislead his flock?  If so, that is frightening.

Legally, he is not lying.  A background check does not have a standard definition and can be so many different things.  Reference checks or a driving record check would qualify as a legal definition of a background check.

However, if the pastor understands that most people believe that a background check is synonymous with a criminal record check then we have a moral issue.  He is not being truthful.

Have I mentioned how strongly I believe in honesty and transparency?  Being real?

What is unfortunate is the background screening industry has done little to help define what is a background check.

Many background screening firms define a cheap database search as a “national background check” for volunteers.  No it’s not.  A cheap and incomplete database search is still a cheap and incomplete database search no matter if you are screening an employee, volunteer or vendor.

What the background screening industry has done is conform to what the market wants (cheap and instant) instead of educating and defining what a quality background check consists of.  Cheap and instant never equal a quality background check.

Let me tell you how we define a background check.  At a minimum a background check should contain:

  • Social Security Verification
  • National Criminal Database Search
  • National Sex Offender Search
  • County Criminal Search

That is the minimum.  If you are being offered anything less than that, you need to keep searching.

Download our FREE 10 Things to Know Before Hiring a Background Screening Firm.  This will help your organization understand what is a quality background check.

A Mom’s Perspective on Background Checks

I was chatting with one of my team members a few weeks ago about how we approach background checks and she said, “hey, I am a mom.  My kids go to a school, church and youth programs that we do background checks for.” Yes, that is it.  She nailed it right on the head.  Over and over again I am communicating with potential clients and explaining how we set ourselves apart from the industry.  How we do not limit our searches, we check all of your alias names, we review every order when it comes in and before we return it.

A huge difference from most of our competitors.

However, Brigitt nailed it when she said she approaches every background check like it was being done to protect her 3 boys.  And you know what?  Everybody that processes your reports has children or grandchildren in schools, churches or youth programs that we screen for so they approach it the same way.

I also felt this was too important to just write about.  So here is our first video blog:

Are you ready to entrust your background screening with a company that approaches every background check like it is one of their children?   Give us a shout and let us take care of your organization.

What is a Background Investigation?

background investigationWell, it is a question that comes up over and over again so I thought it deserves a quick article.  Technically speaking a background investigation and background screening are not one in the same. I know, a quick Google and the terms are used interchangeably.  However, there are real differences between an investigation and screening.

Background Investigation

Many moons ago I was subjected to a thorough background investigation by the Nashville Metro Police Department.  The background investigation was conducted over a 6 month period and included a criminal background check, reference checks, polygraph, drug testing, psychological testing and three interviews.

The police department left no rock unturned.

A background investigation builds like a puzzle.  The Metro Nashville Police Department beat the bushes to see who I really was.  They did not care what the 3 references on my application had to say.  Who puts down references that are going to say bad things?

They were more interested in what past employers, neighbors, and former teachers had to say.  One piece of information might lead them in five different directions.

It is just like a criminal investigation.  When I walked into a crime scene I might only have one small piece of information initially like a nickname or a fingerprint.  That does not tell me much unless the suspect has a prior arrest and the fingerprint is in IAFIS.

The case builds.  A nickname leads me to interview 5 or 10 people and that leads to a real name.  Then I have to run some searches to determine who this person is, where they live, where they work, etc.  It is fluid and evolving.

A background investigation is extremely deep, time consuming and revealing.

Background Screening

How many of you have 6 months and thousands of dollars to invest in hiring an applicant or volunteer?  Most organizations want information right now.

Quite honestly, many police departments have lessened their standards and relaxed their background investigations and they are paying for it.  Most agencies have switched to background screening.

Background screening emerged a few years ago as a reliable and effective method of conducting due diligence on potential employees and volunteers.  The process relies heavily on technology, public record searches or personal or professional interviews.

Thanks to the internet and technology, the criminal background checks can be completed quickly (don’t confuse that with instantly) and cost effectively.  A full blown investigation might require several weeks or months to complete and cost hundreds of dollars, background screening can be done in a few days and cost as little as $18 (no, it cannot be done for $9 or $10).

Background screening is not built block by block and does not fork in multiple directions.

However, background screening done correctly is a highly reliable and effective method of reducing risk and providing a safe environment.

The first step is ensuring that your background screening partner adheres to the highest industry standards.  Download our 10 Things to Know Before Hiring a Background Screening Firm to make sure you choose the right partner.

Your Turn:

Ok, you have all graduated from session 1: Basic Investigations.  Leave a comment below for your junior badge and certificate.

Warning: How Far Back Do Background Checks Go?

how far back do background checks goHow many of you assume that when you order background checks that your screening partner provides a search as far back as they possibly can?   I am guessing many of you. It would never cross our mind to ask how far back do background checks go.  Common sense says forever.

However, common sense does not rule the background screening industry and your searches are probably limited to 7 years.  Yep, you screen a 43 year old applicant and the background screening firm will check back 7 years or to when he was 36.  Do you care what he did from 18-35?

If you don’t, you should.   A criminologist will confirm that most crimes are committed by offenders aged 18-40, so in our example we have excluded more than 18 years of prime crime committing years. 

Seem crazy?  Well, I agree.  I have never understood the background screening industry’s adoption of such a limited search.  The federal Fair Credit Reporting Act does not limit reporting of convictions to 7 years.  It does restrict the reporting of non-convictions unless the salary exceeds $75K.

And yes, there are a handful of states that have restrictions on how far back a criminal conviction record can be reported if it is for employment purposes.  However, most of the states remove the limitation if the salary of the position exceeds $20K- $25K per year. 

The reality is most states do not have any restrictions on reporting criminal convictions and there are not restrictions for reporting crimes committed by volunteers.

So do you want to limit your searches to 7 years and expose your organization to the risk of hiring a violent offender?  Of course you don’t.  The truth is you have probably never been told your background screening reports have been limited to 7 years.

So how far back do background checks go at Safe Hiring Solutions?  The simple answer is as far as we can go.    Man, does that sound like an answer from an attorney!

The depth of the search is impacted by two things:

  1. How far back the court records go; and/or
  2. How far back a state allows reporting of criminal convictions for employment purposes.

We do not charge additional fees to search back as far as the court records go, which in some states can be more than 25 years.  The safety and security of your organization should not be limited to 7 years.

If you are looking for a screening partner that does background checks correctly then contact us today for a FREE evaluation and proposal.

Weiner Exposed: Importance of Social Media Background Checks

social media background checksAre you kidding me Anthony Weiner?  Do you have a brain or an ounce of integrity? By now you have all seen the news footage of Congressman Anthony Weiner.  First, he was lashing out at the media and telling us that his Twitter account had been hacked and somebody had sent a lewd photo of his…  Well let’s just say it was a photo of Weiner.

Now, I can tell you that I am a little skeptical when I see a politician step in front of the media and claim innocence from a sex scandal.  So my radar shot up when I saw the initial footage and the congressman’s angry outbursts at the media.  I will also be the first to admit that I did not think anybody would be stupid enough to send a picture of his privates to an unknown person….on Twitter of all places. 

If you had told me email, sure I would have believed that.  But Twitter?

And now we get to see all the bare-chested, jockey-shorts photos (thank goodness we are spared the “key” photograph) he tweeted.

So the big question is….

Does this incident change your mind on the importance of social media background checks?

I am sure we all agree that stupid is not a crime.  Good thing with all the jail overcrowding.

However, how would you react to this information if Congressman Weiner was an applicant at your organization?  Sure, I know there are some of you that will say that he did not commit a crime so what is the big deal?

The big deal to me is I hire people that have character and integrity.  If you are married and sending nude photographs of yourself through Twitter I think you are a hypocrite and lack character and integrity.  How can I trust you as an employer?  You certainly have a problem with commitment.

I can also tell you that there is more to a background check than a criminal record search.  If a criminal record check is the sum total of your background screening process then you will be hiring misfits and unsuitables.

So the big question with social media background checks is being able to determine authenticity on the world wide web.  Congressman Wiener did us a favor by providing a photo that said “me.”  Thank you.

background checks

Social media background checks certainly give us a view of a person we would never receive from a resume, applicant or criminal background check.

 However, these checks can be a legal minefield so join us for a FREE webinar on Social Media Background Checks Policy Development.

What is the craziest thing you have uncovered (maybe not the right word for this article) in a social media background check?

5 Limitations of FBI Background Checks

fbi background checksDo you wish you had access to do FBI background checks?  Come on, be honest.  You have watched CSI and if you have young kids you know Toys R Us sells fingerprint kits. Heck, one of my old buddies from the Nashville Police Department used to lift fingerprints with silly putty.  I don’t know that it gained much national attention because he relied on a small sample study:  his young child playing on the living room floor with silly putty and a newspaper.  The birth of a high tech investigative technique.

Well, what we mean by FBI background checks is a search of the FBI’s database which is called NCIC (National Crime Information Center).  It sounds so techie, sophisticated and complete.

How could it not be the best if it requires fingerprints?  Well, fingerprints are a tool to identify people.  Databases such as NCIC take a fingerprint and match it to a criminal record.

I was recently fingerprinted (my wife is a retired cop and likes to periodically double check my identity) and the system rejected one finger because it could not read the print because of small scar. Hmm.  Would bad guys use cuts or acid to alter their fingerprints?

However, that same sophistication that has uncovered terrorist plots, money laundering, mafia kingpins and cyber criminals does not compute to an accurate or complete criminal background check.

Why?

  1. FBI Relies on Law Enforcement.  NCIC is only as good as the data provided by law enforcement agencies.  Some law enforcement agencies do not have NCIC certification and other states do not send all of their criminal data.
  2. Data is Predominantly Arrest-Related.  This presents legal risks for employers since the EEOC greatly restricts the use of non-conviction data.   Several states do not allow the use of non-convictions.  The Federal Fair Credit Reporting Act requires the use of up-to-date information so the FBI database could place private employers at risk of a negligent hiring lawsuit.
  3. Slow turnaround.  It can take from a few weeks to up to 8 weeks to get the results.  What employer can hold a position for 8 weeks?
  4. Limited Access.  The state and FBI must authorize access to the database.  Not every organization can access NCIC.
  5. May Not See Report.  Indiana schools using the FBI checks through the State’s Inkless System do not see the final report.  They receive a “thumbs up” or ‘thumbs down” from the Indiana State Police.  How scary is that as an employer?

The truth is the FBI background checks are just like all proprietary criminal databases.  They are a great tool but should never be used as a stand-alone screening program.

Indiana Background Checks: Is Inkless System Wise Choice for Schools?

indiana background checksWell, let’s take a quick look at the process and you can decide if the Access Indiana Inkless System is a wise background screening choice for schools.  In July of 2009, the Indiana legislature passed an Expanded Criminal History (ECH) statute which defined how schools must conduct criminal background checks. Indiana background checks have been a lightning rod for the state since the Indianapolis Star and WTHR Channel 13 exposed the gross deficiencies with the state's limited criminal history check.  The investigative report found that many county clerks were not sending their criminal records to the state which allowed convicted sex offenders to slip through the cracks.

The ECH statute gives Indiana schools two options for conducting criminal background checks:

  1. National Sex Offender Registry and a Search of All Counties of Residence; or
  2. State’s Inkless System.

Prior to the ECH requirement, a majority of large school districts in Indiana were already partnering with Safe Hiring Solutions and conducting comprehensive national criminal background checks that included:

  • Social Security Verification
  • National Criminal Database Search
  • National Sex Offender Registry Search
  • County Criminal Searches
  • Indiana Participating Courts Search

So the new law did not require them to make any changes.  The package we offer is more comprehensive than the ECH requirements.

However, some schools have opted to use the Inkless process for their Indiana Background Check.  And what does that look like?  The Inkless system is a fingerprint process that checks against the state criminal repository and then against the NCIC database.

Well, what are the big differences between the two methods:

  • Cost.  Inkless is around $43 and SHS is $28
  • Turnaround Time.  Inkless can take weeks and requires each applicant to drive to a collection site to be fingerprinted.  SHS can be entered into our system and completed in 2-3 business days.
  • Criminal Data.  Inkless is a felony search that checks against the 19 crimes that exclude an applicant from being employed with an Indiana School district.  SHS reports all misdemeanor and felonies.
  • Report:  Inkless process does not provide a criminal history report but a “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” from the Indiana State Police.  SHS provides a comprehensive criminal background screening report with all reportable records.

That additional cost and slower turnaround time are certainly significant issues.  However, I think from an employers perspective the three things that would frighten me the most are:

  • Not Being Able to See the Report.  If I don’t seen the report but receive a thumbs down then I am making an adverse employment decision based unknown criminal acts.
  • Only Felony Records.  Are DUI’s important?  Is a person convicted of battery, domestic violence, possession of drugs or theft somebody a school would employ?
  • Restricts the Hiring Process:  What does that mean?  The hiring process starts with a thorough application that is signed by the applicant.  Criminal background screening reports should be compared against the application.  If an applicant indicated on an application that they had never been convicted of a crime but it was revealed they had a misdemeanor conviction for public intoxication, then this could be significant.  Not because public intoxication is a high crime but because the applicant lied and dishonesty is always grounds for denying employment.  Inkless will not give you this opportunity for comparison.

The bottom line is the Inkless system is slow, expensive and does not provide enough data or transparency to keep our schools safe.

Contact Safe Hiring Solutions for more information on Expanded Criminal History Checks.

Osama Bin Laden and the Problems with Background Checks

problems with background checksI was up early this morning, getting kids ready for school and preparing to post a new blog article when breaking news caught my eye.   Osama Bin Laden had been killed by U.S. Special Forces.  Wow.  Not what I was expecting on a rainy Monday morning. My 9 year old raised his head from the couch and asked who Bin Laden was and I realized how long it had been since September 11, 2001. Sadly, I had lost track of time.  Been there?

My son had spent 9/11/01 tucked comfortably inside his mother’s womb, shielded from the terror gripping our country.

As I was shuttling kids to school, I was thinking about how much has changed and how much has stayed the same in the past 10 years.  Contemplating if our security is really better?  And how does this relate to problems with background checks?

Well, I know from experience on the morning of 9/11 we were a very relaxed country.  I was in Washington D.C. and preparing for a meeting at the Pentagon.  I was relaxed.  The morning was warm and sunny.

Yes, we had witnessed a horrible homegrown terrorist attack in Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995 but we felt safe, secure and isolated from the turmoil in the rest of the world.  Me included.

Early on the morning of 9-11, I hailed a cab and headed to my first appointment in a federal building a few blocks from the White House.  I was scheduled to speak to a group of federal probation officers on the issues of domestic violence prevention.

So in our nation’s Capitol, what did security clearance and background checks look like that morning?  Well, they looked impressive as I walked into the federal building and was quickly met by a team of security guards, full body metal detectors and scanning equipment for my bags.  Keep in mind looks can be deceiving.   I told the first security guard I was there to speak at a conference and was immediately allowed to bypass the security clearance and head upstairs.   Nobody asked my name.  Nobody checked a list to see if I was scheduled to be there.  And even if I was, why should I be above the screening process?

Thirty minutes later an officer rushed into the conference room and yelled we were under attack and that the Pentagon had just been hit by an airplane.  Within minutes I joined millions of “shell shocked” people on the streets of DC trying to get out.  Unfortunately, I was trapped with no planes, no cars, no trains and no buses and so began my extended stay in Washington D.C.

OK, so what does Osama Bin Laden have to do with the problems with background checks?  Well, he is certainly not responsible for the problems but his reign of terror illustrates a mindset that permeates how we approach security and background screening within our organizations.

Let me illustrate.  I went back to the same federal building exactly 6 months after 9-11 to speak to another gathering of federal probation officers.  I told my co-facilitator as we climbed the steps to the federal building about the relaxed security 6 months ago and to expect nothing short of a full body search.

I could not have been more wrong or surprised when we explained to security we were there to speak at a conference and again were immediately escorted around the elaborate security protocols.   It made me uncomfortable to be in a building that security was so easily circumvented.  It made me more nervous when one of the participants confided in me on the first break that her estranged husband had kept her up all night, held against her will in her basement.  Oh, did I mention he was a DC police officer?

I quickly realized that the security system downstairs was looking for the Osama Bin Laden’s of the world, yet the greatest risk posed to me and the seminar participants was a disgruntled estranged husband walking into the classroom to continue his reign of terror from the previous night?  Do you think an armed DC police officer would have any trouble getting past the security protocols downstairs?  No way.

So what is the real takeaway here?  It is real simple:  Do not be deceived by looks.  Ted Bundy was a handsome man and also a serial killer.  Your security process and background checks may look impressive but are they applied evenly to everyone?  When you implement a comprehensive background screening program it must include policies and procedures that apply to everyone from the foot soldier to the General.  I cringe at least once a month when a client mentions that they allowed an individual, often a police officer, to bypass the background check process “because they know them.”  Nobody should be above your policies and procedures.

Join us for an upcoming Free Webinar:  7 Reasons the Background Check Came Back Clear

Are you confident your background screening policies and procedures are applied evenly and consistently?