The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is urging the Obama administration to compel the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to allow public input as the agency ponders issuing new enforcement guidance regarding employers’ use of criminal background and credit checks.
In an April 2 letter to Office of Management and Budget official Cass Sunstein, the chamber said EEOC’s potential guidances on both topics warrant OMB’s review for procedural and substantive reasons.
Re-check Monitoring Program
In order to implement a Re-Check Monitoring Program, you will need to address the following:
- Ensure that the Applicant Release Form, which the applicant signs to authorize the initial background check, is “Evergreen”. Essentially, the form needs to contain a statement which clearly informs the applicant that by signing this form, they authorize the employer to order pre-employment background checks as well as annual and/or random background checks in accordance with company policies throughout the term of employment, should the applicant be hired. Be sure to retain signed forms digitally as part of your program.
- Ensure that your policy of annual and/or random background checks is clearly defined within your organizations’ Employee Handbook and other new hire information documentation.
- Ensure that your HR team consistently applies the program to all employees, and that clearly documented policies and penalties are enforced should an employee background check make such action necessary.
County Criminal Records Search
Background checks that search criminal convictions at the appropriate county courts, covering a seven year period for California and longer for all other states. Reveals felony and related misdemeanor convictions. Records can include: case numbers, offense and disposition dates, charge, type of charge, disposition, and sentence. Courts are searched directly at the source via in person, court Internet websites or direct connection into the courts index. Common names can cause delay in verifying criminal activity, files have to be pulled so identifiers, such as date of birth, middle name and driver's license number, can be checked. Typographical, data entry and/or court filing errors can cause accuracy issues. Also, running a partial or "nickname" (i.e. running Bob instead of Robert) can create accuracy issues. It is recommended that all names, including alias and maiden names be run at all jurisdictions for a seven year period. This will maximize the search results and accuracy.
Background checks that search the credit bureau files to provide a profile of the applicant's financial history. Search can show additional addresses and names and consumer credit activity covering a seven year period detailing overdue or slow accounts, charge offs, collections, suits, tax liens, public records, judgments and bankruptcies. This is heavily restricted search requiring authorization. The State of California has special requirements for credit reports. Young applicants and individuals new to the country might not have developed a credit history yet. Typographical and /or transposition of numbers at the time a Social Security Number is used by a creditor to initiate a credit inquiry can create errors in the data. Applicants must be given information on how to contact the credit repository to request changes if errors are found in the report. Material is available through the AccuSource online system for learning how to read credit reports.
Federal Criminal Records Search
Background checks that search criminal convictions at the appropriate federal district court, covering a seven-year period for California and longer for other districts. The districts are searched directly through the federal court records. Common names can cause delay in verifying criminal activity, files have to be pulled so identifiers, such as date of birth, middle name and driver's license number, can be checked. In many cases, identifiers are not maintained in the Federal District court records. Typographical, data entry and/or court filing errors can cause accuracy issues. Also, running a partial or "nickname" (i.e. running Bob instead of Robert) can create accuracy issues. It is recommended that all names, including alias and maiden names be run at all jurisdictions for a seven year period. This will maximize the search results and accuracy.
Motor Vehicle Record
Background checks that search the state Bureau of Motor Vehicle records for driver information. These records vary by state, providing different information. Information can include license status, license class, issue date, expiration date, violations, suspensions, licensee address, date of birth and physical description. The MVR record is the best source for verifying an applicant's DOB. The number of years shown on driving reports varies by state, so criminal traffic offenses may not always appear on the MVR report; only the suspension/cancellation will show. The MVR report can be affected if the license number provided by the applicant is an ID card number or if it is not formatted correctly for the provided state.
Multi-State / National Criminal Database Search
Background checks that search a Multi-State / National Criminal Database with a data file of over 500 million Offender records, including felony conviction information, state department of corrections records, and misdemeanor information. Most states records are updated on a monthly basis. This search is done through multi-state databases maintained by many different sources. Information will vary. It is important to note that multi-state criminal searches do not include all criminal records nationally and the information is not always updated regularly. It is recommended that if a multi-state criminal search is run, it should be done in conjunction with county criminal searches. Typographical, data entry and/or court filing errors can cause accuracy issues. Also, running a partial or "nickname" (i.e. running Bob instead of Robert) can create accuracy issues. If "hits" are found on the Multi-State National Criminal Database, the law requires information to be verified directly through the court of records. Additional cost can apply.
Sex Offender Search
Background checks that search sexual offender databases or registries. The registries are provided by government entities and are searched by name and are available nationally, statewide or local levels. Information provided varies by state, it can include: type of offenses, known aliases, date of birth, addresses, and whether or not registrants are in violation of registration requirements. Not all states have a registry and not all sex offenders' register. States are searched based on address information found on the application, in the Social Security trace, and in the credit report. If the applicant is a registered sex offender in a state not provided on the application or found in a SSN trace the information will not be found.
Social Security Number Trace & Validation
Background checks that search credit bureau files to provide history of the applicant's names and addresses as they originate from credit headers. This also validates the number's authenticity, as well as year and place of issuance. It is used as a criterion in checking criminal history. Search may provide last known addresses and aliases, possible date of birth, year and state of Social Security number issuance, covering a seven year period. Young applicants and individuals new to country, who might not have developed a credit history yet, might not have a SSN history. Typographical and /or transposition of numbers at the time a Social Security Number is used by a creditor to initiate a credit inquiry can create errors in the data. Interpretation of data is critical; although the search can uncover evidence of identity theft, fraud must not be assumed without further investigation such as validation directly through the Social Security Administration.
Statewide Repository Criminal Records Search
Background checks that search for criminal convictions through the appropriate state repository, covering a seven-year period for California and longer for other states. Courts are searched directly at the source via in person, court Internet websites or direct connection into the courts index. Not all state repositories are available to the public. Not all counties update their information in the state repository, creating outdated or missing information. Typographical, data entry and/or court filing errors can cause accuracy issues. Also, running a partial or "nickname" (i.e. running Bob instead of Robert) can create accuracy issues. It is recommended that all names, including alias and maiden names be run at all jurisdictions for a seven year period. This will maximize the search results and accuracy.
Could this be the latest trend? It seems many employers utilizing social media profiles as a screening tool. Recently, as reported by Canada's The Globe and Mail, one employer recently resorted to asking a potential job applicant for their Facebook account login credentials. The employer had attempted to review the applicant’s Facebook profile but found that it was set to “private” (very little information is available to the public when an account is set to private). When the employer realized that they would not be able to access the applicant’s Facebook profile on their own, they asked the applicant to provide his username and password information to his account. Fortunately, the applicant recognized this breach of privacy and immediately refused his prospective employer’s request, stating that he didn’t want to work for a company that would request such personal identifiable information and withdrew his application for employment. Yet this wasn’t the case for another job applicant that was seeking a position at a security company. In this case, the applicant povided his login information since he needed a job to provide for his family. In response to both of these cases, Maryland and Illinois have proposed legislation that would prohibit public agencies from requesting social media access.
In addition, Facebook is warning employers not to demand the passwords of job applicants, saying that it's an invasion of privacy that opens companies to legal liabilities.
The social networking company is also threatening legal action.
Implementing a post-employment background check monitoring program can help reduce workplace loss, retain the best employees and mitigate a company’s risk.
Things to consider:
- Establish a written policy for post-employment background checks. Candidates and employees should have a full understanding of the company’s screening policies and procedures, especially when conducting post-employment background check monitoring.
- Make sure you have a signed release form authorizing the right to conduct a background check throughout employment.
- Be consistent with your post-employment background check monitoring.
- AccuSource recommends companies re-check employees annually.
AccuSource is committed to forging long lasting partnerships with leading HR industry providers, and associations that help shape our industry. The AcccSource partner program provides best in class solutions and a one stop shop experience for employers.
Frequently Asked Questions
While this section is not to be construed as legal advice, nor intended to be comprehensive, here are a few of the legal aspects surrounding background checks. AccuSource always advises its clients to consult with their legal counsel when establishing a background checks program.
Are there any special forms required before I order a background check?
A signed release that has been approved by your legal counsel is needed before you order a background check. A handful of states still require a special release before providing Motor Vehicle Record information. If you request any international services, your Account Executive will provide you with the paperwork needed to obtain the appropriate information. Several states require special releases for Worker's Compensation Reports.
Are there any standards for deciding which checks are appropriate for certain positions, especially credit checks?
Because state laws and industry regulations vary, this is a question best left to your legal counsel. That said, motor vehicle record checks may be appropriate and advisable for applicants whose job description will include operating machinery or motor vehicles. Employment check credit reports (which do not provide credit scores) may be appropriate for certain positions, such as those with senior financial responsibility. Some employers will conduct a drug test, or international criminal searches if they are operating internationally. Each of these specialty searches raises various legal and regulatory issues, so we advise that you consult experienced employment counsel when building a screening program and related screening packages.
Do I need to give the applicant something or have them sign something?
Federal law and some states require that an applicant be given written notification before you run a background check.
How can I make sure that what I do is legal?
We provide you with step-by-step instructions to assist you in complying with your employment background screening obligations under Federal law, including sample forms that you can use. In addition, we have Federal notices for your reference, and a compliance certification in our contracts which details fundamental compliance obligations of employers. We do not give legal advice, however, so we always recommend that you have legal counsel review your proposed screening process to consider and ensure that you are complying with federal, state, local and foreign laws in your ordering and use of background reports.
How do I get a copy of the FCRA compliancy rules?
AccuSource has a copy of the FCRA on our website at www.accusource-online.com/resources/item/115-fair-credit-reporting-act
Is consent of the person to be background checked needed to legally order a background check for employment purposes?
The FCRA and certain state laws generally require the employer to make certain disclosures to the applicant to be checked, and to obtain the written or electronic consent of the person to be checked prior to conducting the check. The FCRA also requires that the disclosures and consent be on a form separate from the job application. AccuSource makes a sample applicant Disclosure & Consent form available to its clients.
What does the term "adverse selection" mean?
As more companies utilize more thorough background checks to evaluate job applicants, the companies that do not conduct background checks are becoming more likely to attract higher percentages of people with adverse records. "Adverse selection" in the hiring context refers to this phenomenon of companies (which do not background screen) attracting an applicant pool that generally has a higher percentage of criminal records or other potentially problematic issues in their background.
You use terms such as "Consumer Report" and "The Fair Credit Reporting Act". What does this mean?
AccuSource is a Consumer Reporting Agency, as defined by the FCRA. Under FCRA terminology, any information we provide to our clients for pre-employment screening purposes is referred to as a consumer report, regardless of the actual screening services performed. Pre-Employment Credit Reports are only provided if specifically asked for by a client.
Are there any costs involved in joining your services?
All Consumer Reporting Agencies are required by the industry to conduct a site inspection of the commercial business address of all new client locations that want Credit Report service. There is a cost to AccuSource for this inspection and for small-volume accounts we must pass it along. After the initial account setup you are only charged for the searches you conduct and in many cases will receive volume discounts. If your volume level qualifies for a discount we can usually absorb the cost of the site inspection as well.
What is the average cost to conduct background checks?
Aside from the internal time a company may spend, background checks ordered from providers range from a few dollars to find addresses to hundreds of dollars for more extensive investigation. Our experience is that on average, the typical packages ordered range from about $30 for basic criminal searches to $100 for packages that include more extensive criminal searches (e.g., Federal Criminal and Terrorist Watch List) as well as employment verifications and motor vehicle records searches.
Are you a member of NAPBS (National Association of Professional Background Screeners)?
Yes, we were a founding member of NAPBS (National Association of Professional Background Screeners). See NAPBS member directory. AccuSource, Inc.
Can anyone run a background check?
No. Because of the sensitive nature of the information gathered, background checks are restricted to those with a legal "permissible purpose." AccuSource only conducts background checks on behalf of bona fide organizations.
My vendor or customer is requiring a background check before I go on their site, what level of check do I need?
Talk to an AccuSource representative. Many companies have specific requirements of their vendors. If a company is a customer of AccuSource and has a vendor screening program with AccuSource, we'll be able to help you with the requirements. Ideally, you will be able to get the requirements directly from the customer or vendor, but if they are not specific, our team can consult with you.
Product, Service, Results Questions
Can I track results online?
Yes. We will provide you with a username and password, allowing access to our online system. You will then be able to track results as they come in.
Does AccuSource maintain a Criminal History, Employment History, or Education History Database?
No! The only files we maintain are archived copies of background check files as required by law. No information from a prior background check is used in a subsequent background check. Each report is compiled separately from fresh research data.
How can I verify a candidate's past salary, when reference checks usually won't reveal pay levels?
A growing number of employers speak directly to their applicant and require that past W-2s and/or 1099 Forms be shown before an offer or after a contingent offer is made. Aside from providing the employer with information helpful to making a competitive offer, this enables the employer to validate the accuracy of any salary information previously provided by the applicant.
How do I conduct a search?
Once you sign the AccuSource subscriber agreement you are able to conduct searches. Any search requested must have a signed release from the person being checked. Searches can be ordered through our web ordering system, by fax or through XML integration.
How do I get results?
Reports are available via our online system.
How far back do background checks go?
How long does a background check take to complete?
Results are gathered from multiple sources and completed in one to three business days. The process may take longer because a few courts, employers, and schools are hard to contact or slow to respond. Results from these sources are usually back within a week
How long does a background check take?
The industry uses the term "Turn Around Time" to describe how long a background check takes. The times vary significantly based on what searches are conducted in the check, the particular courthouse where records are being search, and various other factors. 3rd party providers often use this to their advantage in advertising by mentioning the word "instant". The truth is that many searches take minutes or hours and some take many days or even a week. In our experience, the average criminal records search at a county courthouse takes approximately 2-3 business days.
How soon can I get results?
You can track results online as soon as they have been quality-checked for accuracy and completeness. Results usually begin to be available within a day.
If I am looking for a search not listed on your website, can you help me?
AccuSource is always adding additional services. If you request something related to employment screening that we can't help you with, we will try to refer you to someone who can.
What about background checks on Volunteers, Contractors, and Agents?
According to the Federal Trade Commission background checks on volunteers, contractors, and agents should be handled as background checks "for employment purposes.".
What are the advantages and disadvantages of Criminal History Databases?
There are no true national Criminal History Record repositories or databases. The available databases are compiled from a variety of sources and are notoriously incomplete and out of date. However, databases can be fast, powerful research tools that cover a larger geographical area. When we use a criminal database as a research tool, we verify any database "hits" with the proper local jurisdiction
What background checks give the best results?
This depends on a variety of factors, not the least of which includes the goals and budget of the employer (e.g., search speed vs. breadth/depth, budget, etc.). Criminal record searches generally are at the foundation of an employment background check – due in substantial part to protect its workforce and prevent against negligent hire claims. Searching the county courthouses in the areas where the person has lived is an industry best practice. In addition, various database searches can be conducted to identify additional jurisdictions in which it may be advisable to search the applicable courthouse, and Federal level criminal record searches also can be performed. Beyond criminal records searches, additional screening options may include Motor Vehicle Records, Employment and Education Verification and drug testing.
What can I do to speed up my order?
The best thing you can do to expedite your order is to fill out all documentation completely and legibly and see that your applicants do the same. Not only will this increase the speed with which results are received, but it will also help ensure that the most accurate results possible are obtained.
What do employers look for in a background check?
Most prospective employers are concerned about discrepancies between what the applicant claimed and what is reported by schools, prior employers, etc. Most also watch for negative reports such as a bad driving record or a criminal history. It is wise for employers to attempt to verify anything that is important to job performance, would impact the applicant's job qualifications, or could impact the safety of the public, fellow employees, and customers.
What does a typical background check reveal?
Ideally, the background check can help reveal whether or not a person told the truth (i) to questions on an employment application, including whether they have a criminal record, and (ii) in what they stated on their resume. Depending on the employer's preferences and objectives, the background check can be as basic as checking county criminal records, or as comprehensive as also checking Federal criminal records and motor vehicle records, verifying past employment and education, conducting reference checks, and drug testing. In our experience, and on average, approximately 10% of the time a Felony or Misdemeanor criminal record will be reported on an applicant's background check report. (In some cases the employer may determine the record(s) warrant denying the applicant employment, while in other cases the employer may, e.g., determine the record(s) not to be sufficiently relevant to the position and thus not in themselves a basis for denying the applicant employment.) With respect to non-criminal searches, the background check may, e.g., reveal discrepancies between actual and reported dates of employment, job titles, and educational degrees.
What if the candidate changed her name after getting married?
Names are critical to getting accurate criminal records. Because the United States does not have a standard policy across states and counties for record keeping, you should not assume that counties will store maiden names or alternate names in criminal files. Therefore, although it may seem to be costly, industry best practice is to conduct background checks on each name for names used within the last 7 years. This applies most often to last names, but to the extent that first names are dramatically different for any reason, this too could impact searches for criminal records.
What is the difference between Federal and National?
Don't get these confused! Neither type of criminal search is perfect or comprehensive. But each serves a different purpose. Federal criminal searches can take place in single or multiple Federal districts across the country. The types of criminal records stored in these locations are related to Federal offenses including crimes that crossed state lines, white collar crimes, etc. There are far fewer Federal records than county courthouse records and the odds of finding a Federal record are lower than a county record, although when a record is found it tends to be serious. National criminal searches are attempts at consolidating criminal records from any counties that will provide records to database owners/managers. These records generally are Felony and Misdemeanor related, are partial or full records that you would find at the courthouses themselves, and may or may not be updated recently. National searches are a great way to search for records on people that moved a lot.
What kind of information can I get?
Most information on a resume or job application can be verified. Credit checks, driving records, sex offender registry checks, etc., can be very useful if relevant to the job requirements. Also, Form I-9 and E-Verify can be processed online.
What services do I need?
There is no "one size fits all" approach to employment screening. AccuSource is happy to consult with you, your staff, and your legal counsel to create the right screening program for your organization.
What shows up on a background check?
A Background Check shows the discrepancies between a candidate's claims and information reported by independent sources such as court records, prior employers, schools, and government agencies.
Who should utilize this service?
Every business can benefit by managing risk through employment screening. Our clients represent a wide variety of industries and range in size from small proprietorships to multi-million dollar corporations. Hiring someone into your organization poses inherent risk by exposing you and all of your customers to someone who may not have been honest when you hired them.
Why are some services available in some states but not others?
Each state makes its own choices regarding the information they consider "public." For example, some states choose not to provide a "repository" for the purposes of accessing information for employment services.
Why do reports sometimes take longer than I expect?
The most common reason for background check delay is carelessness in filling out the Applicant Authorization and Release Form, and the Job Application. Sometime there are court delays or delays from educational institutions or employer response time.
Why is a Social Security Number required?
A reputable background check uses the SSN for two primary reasons. The first is to establish some trustworthiness of the information, by validating whether the applicant provided an SSN that is real and issued after the provided date of birth. The second reason is that the SSN helps to find past addresses associated with the applicant so that more targeted criminal searches can be used in specific county courthouses. Without SSN, addresses could be obtained that are related to someone with a similar name but not the exact person you are trying to check. Note that contrary to popular belief, the SSN usually is not used in researching the criminal records themselves. Courthouses do not typically store the SSN.
Quality & Accuracy Questions
Are there ever mistakes in background checks?
Yes! The information in a background check was created, compiled, maintained, searched, and reported by fallible individuals. Consequently, it is important to give the applicant the opportunity to review negative information. If the applicant identifies information in a report that is incomplete or inaccurate, we will re-investigate and furnish the required reports, notifications, etc., at no further charge.
Can't I just do an Internet search instead?
Unfortunately, while some information is available online, that is not the same as finding all information online. Most criminal records are not electronically available through a free public website. There are many other services we, provide, such as driver's histories education and employment verifications, which is not online and is available only with signed consent.
How extensive are the national databases, considering that they do not communicate with each other?
We do not advise employers to compare National database to Local County searches based on extensiveness. In our view, National databases are not a replacement, but rather a lower-cost option to quickly conduct a broad geographic criminal search when, e.g., no other information is known about a person. Often databases described as "national databases" do not include all states and/or counties, and often the information may not be current. The local county courthouses cost more to research, focus on areas of past residence since statistics show that on average this is where people commit crimes, and results in more records found on average. It's often a productive strategy to combine both the county and national searches.
How is AccuSource qualified to do this?
AccuSource is a federally regulated Consumer Reporting Agency (CRA) as defined by the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) for the purpose of providing pre-employment screening information in accordance with all applicable guidelines, confidentiality and mandates as stipulated within applicable statutes.
How much time and importance should be placed on gaps in the resume or application?
Gaps can be good or bad, depending upon what occurred during them. However, identifying that there are gaps is a starting point for further discussion.
How up-to-date is the information I will receive from you?
Our results are gathered directly from the source, at the time of request. AccuSource provides the most current up-to-date information available. AccuSource does not maintain a database of static information. Going to the primary source every time ensures you receive the most accurate and reliable information possible.
What if I don't have the Date of Birth?
We recommend that you not conduct a criminal background check on a person without their Date of Birth (DOB.) The DOB is a primary identifier used by almost all courthouses in America. Although in some cases, HR departments have chosen to not ask for DOB during the application process to avoid any appearance of age discrimination, we find that it is standard industry practice to ask for this on the "Background Check Consent Form" which can be kept separate during the hiring process if need be. Most non-criminal checks do not involve the DOB.
What information is needed for an accurate background check?
By far the two most important pieces of information are a correct Date of Birth and correctly spelled First and Last Name. Next in priority is the Social Security Number. Although criminal records in America generally do not include SSN, this number often is used in 2 ways: (1) often employers will hire AccuSource to "validate" the number to ensure that the SSN is a valid number that was issued AFTER the person was born; and (2) to identify past addresses of the applicant to initiate checks in the associated geographic counties where criminal activity was more likely to have occurred.
What information is required for an accurate Criminal Search?
A full name, Social Security Number & Date of Birth is imperative for an accurate search of criminal public records. Most county courts in the United States file criminal records by Name and Date of Birth. Some courts also allow us to search by Social Security Number. If any of the above information is not transmitted to us correctly, records may not be found.
Why do you recommend several criminal record searches?
There is no single source of information that contains all criminal record information. Thus, we recommend clients take advantage of several different sources to find criminal records, increase their quality of hire and reduce their legal risk.
AccuSource is committed to staying a step ahead of change, and ensuring our customers are prepared for this dynamic environment. Within this section, you'll find a library of industry resources for our customers.
Key legal and compliance regulations and standards that govern the background checks industry.
Consumer Dispute process and forms.
Definitions for key industry terms.
Common customer questions about background screening.
Background screening statistics.