An Inside Look at Properly Conducting a Background Check (Part 1)

00013790In 2014, nearly 90% of all employers performed some sort of background screening on potential job applicants.[1]  The industry really began booming after 9/11 in an effort to, among other things, ensure workplace safety and protect companies from lawsuits for negligent hiring. Unfortunately, many background screening companies are transactional in nature and work within a “big box” mentality, which leads to increased quantity of screens but with a decreased quality review and follow-up.  Recently, one of these larger background screening companies was successfully sued for violations of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), having misidentified an individual on two separate occasions as a convicted felon. Because of these mistakes, that individual lost two job opportunities.  According to court documents, the large screening company failed to follow its own procedures pertaining to persons with common names and failed to implement a practice with respect to individuals previously misidentified. The background investigators also failed to utilize publicly available information which would have led them to discover that – in one instance – the man they identified as the job applicant was actually in jail at the time the actual applicant applied for the position.  Although this individual won in court and received a hefty award from the jury, the outcome of similar situations is often times less satisfying, and the burden unfortunately falls on the job applicant to “clear his good name.”

Here’s an inside look at properly conducting an employment background check by an HR Investigator at a reputable background screening firm.

Upon running a criminal background check with a name and date of birth provided by the job applicant, a serious sex offense was discovered. However, the names did not match up and the middle initial of the job applicant matched only the first name of the convicted sex offender. Additional research led the HR Investigator to discover several alias names, one of which matched the applicant, with a matching date of birth.  The sex offender registry listed an address that, although similar, did not match with the information the applicant provided.  Rather than giving up, the HR Investigator grew resourceful. She forwarded a copy of the sex offender’s photo from the registry website to the client and asked them to confirm whether it was their applicant or not. Sure enough, the convict and the job applicant were the same person.  These extra steps positively identified a rapist who went out of his way to avoid detection, including providing an invalid zip code. Had the HR Investigator run the sex offender search and nothing more, this applicant’s record would have been returned as clean, and the client may have made a hiring decision without critical information about the applicant’s character and past crimes. This situation can easily happen when background checks are run by inexperienced in-house staff, or when the background screening firm relies totally on technology to push data to its clients or end users without properly reviewing the results.

Our advice to employers is simple: properly conducting the background screening PROCESS is critical. A bad hire can lead to theft, violence, high turnover, or unqualified staff. If information is simply pushed through in an effort to add one more transaction to the company books, without any quality control measures, you may want to get yourself a good lawyer… or a better background screening company.

 

 

[1]http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/background-checks-make-mistakes-applicants-left-little-recourse/

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Star Wars: 4 Tips to Avoid the Dark Side of Hiring

In celebration of the much awaited movie, titled “The Force Awakens,” we have decided to release a special Star Wars themed blog on hiring practices. If you have been awake during the past twelve months, chances are you’re heard about the new Star Wars movie coming out on December 18, 2015. This will be great news for loyal fans, and perhaps useless chatter for anyone who has avoided the movie series.

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USDA Performs Drug Tests for Recreational and Medical Marijuana, Even in States Where It’s Legal

Although the number of states that are legalizing marijuana is increasing, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is sticking to their “Drug-Free Workplace” Program. In a memo to over 100,000 employees, the USDA stated that while some may be permitted by state law to use marijuana for recreational purposes, it “is not authorized under Federal law nor the Department’s Drug-Free Workplace program.”

Under this program, the USDA may conduct drug tests randomly, after an accident / unsafe practice, or if they are under reasonable suspicion that a worker is using drugs. These tests check for substances identified by the Drug Enforcement Administration as Schedule I or II. Schedule II drugs, such as cocaine, Ritalin, and methadone, are categorized as substances with accepted medical use but have the potential for abuse. Conversely, Schedule I drugs have no accepted medical use and boast an even greater abuse potential than Schedule II. These drugs include marijuana, heroin, and LSD. The Drug-Free Workplace program has conducted Schedule I and II drug tests since 1988 and shows no sign of adjusting to recent marijuana legalization laws.

The USDA memo reminds workers that everyone who tests positive for marijuana, no matter the state, will be disciplined – including those who use medical marijuana. The memo references Medical Review Officer Manual, stating, “State initiatives and laws, which make available to an individual a variety of illicit drugs by a physician’s prescription or recommendation, do not make the use of these illicit drugs permissible under the Federal Drug-Free Workplace Program.” This puts those using medical marijuana under the same jurisdiction as recreational users.

While that may seem harsh, it should be noted that marijuana is still illegal under federal law. Therefore, the USDA, as a federal agency, must maintain a marijuana-free policy. Additionally, working under the influence of marijuana can potentially threaten the safety, health, and security of other USDA workers and the American public.

However, an article on the subject does note that federal policy might be in for a change. The Food and Drug Administration is performing a study on marijuana’s safety and medicinal effects. Should the Administration downgrade marijuana from its Schedule I status, the USDA’s strict stance on the drug may change

 

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Infographic: Workplace Intelligence

Ever wonder how your ‘smarts’ fit into your workplace? The infographic, “What kind of smart are you” by BestEducationalDegrees.com examines how other forms of intelligence, separate from IQ, can help or hinder a team at work.

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Minimum Wages increase in New York, New Jersey & Connecticut

Effective December 31, 2013, the minimum wage in New York will increase to $8.00 per hour for non-tipped employees according to the Department of Labor, Division of Labor Standards.

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Philadelphia Eagles Player Targeted in Bank Fraud Scheme

Ed Hille/Philly.com

A Philadelphia Eagles player was the victim of theft by a person he trusted – an employee of a security firm. Late last month, Eagles offensive lineman, Todd Herremans made news headlines, but not for an Eagles victory. A 37-year-old man named Robert von Ryan is charged with bank fraud, allegedly stealing more than $225,000 from Herremans’ bank account.

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Government Shutdown and its Impact on HR

For the first time in 17 years, portions of the united states government are closed as the House of Representatives, the Senate and the White house were unable to reach an agreement to fund the federal government for the 2014 fiscal year.

While the affects of this government shutdown are broad and far reaching, the main cause for concern for human resource professionals should be that a number of government organizations such as; e-verify, and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), have been either shutdown or severely limited.

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Failed Employment Screening in Washington Navy Yard Shooting

Former navy reservist and contractor, Aaron Alexis opened fire at the Washington D.C. navy base where he worked, killing 13 people. With no pre-written note or additional suspects to interview, investigators now search for answers while others are left wondering the inevitable questions, how and why.

On Monday, September 16 the navy computer technician drove his car onto the base, walked to building 197 and entered with his work-issued security card to open the door, carrying with him a black bag. He would then carryout his attack in the atrium of that building.

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Anatomy of a Background Check

Lately, there has been quite a bit of discourse on the topic of background screening in the news. Between the EEOC suing Dollar General and BMW over their alleged discriminatory screening practices, the Philadelphia building collapse in June,and the Snowden/NSA information leaking case, there’s certainly plenty to discuss. But what exactly is a background check?

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Minimize White-Collar Crime in the Workplace

White-collar crime is on track to cost the USA more than $300 billion annually, with the trend steadily growing as technology takes a prominent role in day-to-day business, according to the FBI. White-collar crime is defined as nonviolent financial crimes – commercial or consumer fraud, embezzlement, bribery, etc.

Recently, Mike Levy, Chief of Computer Crimes, U.S. Attorney’s Office, presented “White-Collar Crime: Are You At Risk?” to Fort Washington Business Alliance (FWBA) members at Talamore Country Club in Pennsylvania. Mr. Levy shared how businesses can proactively prevent cyber-crime by managing disgruntled employees, installing software updates and uncovering phishing scams.

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