Last week,  the New York Times ran an editorial regarding employment screening and how employment background checks are often inaccurate and cause otherwise innocent people their chances for employment.   The editorial requested that the supervising agencies get a tighter control around the CRA’s or Consumer Reporting Agencies.    Upon reading the editorial, more than a few recruiters and employers, to say nothing of Consumer Reporting Agencies,  had their proverbial bowels in a uproard.

According to the Times Editorial…”Background reports often list the same offense many times, making it appear as if the applicant has an extensive record. Worse still, companies sometimes fail to do the basic checking necessary to distinguish among different people who have the same name.

………..The federal government clearly needs to step in. It should require companies to be federally registered, outline standards for accuracy, make sure that job applicants have a reasonable time to respond to erroneous reports and seek monetary and other penalties from companies that flout the law.”

This is an excellent point.  But the Fair Credit Reporting Act already recommends standards.   For any criminal record found in a database search, both employer and CRA should order the country criminal records search to verify where the information on the database is accurate.  As databases are just that, databases, they are far from perfect instruments.  As such, all information should be carefully reviewed and then verified.  As the county criminal searches are the most accurate, it is incumbent to order the country criminal search and compare information.   If the county criminal records verify the information on the criminal database search then the employer has valid grounds to consider the criminal records.

But often records have been sealed or expunged.  If this is the case, then the CRA is not supposed to report any records and the employer should not consider records found on a database.  As well as records being expunged, sometimes the sentence has been reduced or the candidate as completed court ordered community services, detox programs, or anything else that would cause a reconsideration of the initial charges.  If the charges were dropped or the sentence reduced, this must be considered.

And most importantly, with common names, make sure that the records shown on the database can be legitimately confirmed that they belong to your candidate.  Often database searches will not reveal the date of birth or any identifiers that enable the employer to compare with its candidates.   Joe Brown can be your Joe Brown or one of five thousand “Joe Brown’s” with criminal records.   On one hand any employer wants to be aware of a candidate with criminal records.  But on the other hand, the employer does not want to accuse an innocent party.

Finally, the CRA must have researchers  who actually know how to read.  A dying art in some places as more schools, even college persist in sending out into the workforce hordes of functional illiterates.   Read and compare identifiers.  Is there a date of birth match, a middle name match?   Is there an address match?    Is the spelling correct?

Of course, it’s been our experience that certain recruiter and employers are content to just go with a criminal database search.  When reminded it’s incumbent upon them to conduct the county criminal search, some just shrug it off.   Be it budget consciousness or impatience to move on to the next candidate, recruiters and employers can pass over this vital aspect of background searches.   Simply put, most just don’t want to spend the money.

And that’s a mistake.  Bottom line, it’s a few bucks to verify database hits with county criminal records searches.  It’s money well spent that can prevent serious liability issues