Opinion: Trends, Risks in Criminal Background Checks
By Lana Batts and Billie Lee
Co-Presidents, Driver iQ
This Opinion piece appears in the Feb. 4 print edition of Transport Topics. Click here to subscribe today.
Lawsuits, class-action suits and civil penalties” are not the words carriers want to read at the beginning of an op-ed in this newspaper.
However, over the past several months, we have been alerting carriers to the ever-changing legal trends in the background-screening industry. Specifically, we have been notifying them of the changes brought about by recent Federal Trade Commission fines levied for violations of the Fair Credit Reporting Act, a class-action lawsuit that has been settled covering the same issues, pending lawsuits and recent decisions and pending cases at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which released new guidance last April.
Basically, the issues fall into two categories:
• The pitfalls in using commercial databases exclusively for criminal history record checks.
• The need to allow potential employees to rectify incorrect information and explain why a past conviction is not relevant to the current job offering.
With the advent of the Internet, it has become easier for carriers to access an individual’s criminal history by going directly to the Internet or by using background-screening companies that rely on the Internet or database searches.
Unfortunately, while these searches are fast — and cheap — they are far from complete, up-to-date or accurate. Most have only scattered court information for many states and, in the case of 10 states, very little information at all when you discount sex-offender information and count only data coming directly from individual courts or official state court administrations.
By their very nature, database searches represent a single snapshot in time. “National” databases are composed of material from many different sources, each updated at different times. Any database search on its own cannot be considered “up-to-date” or
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