In January, Massachusetts’ Governor Deval Patrick signed the Act Relative to Background Checks bill into law. This law now allows the school systems to perform national criminal background checks on employees. Previously, employees were only screened for crimes committed in the state of Massachusetts.
In February, a Boston Herald investigation revealed that a man with two previous drunk driving arrests plus multiple breaking and entering convictions was currently employed to drive a van for a public high school. As a result, the Boston area began performing a sweep of background checks on their current employees. The results have been shocking.
The area has 9,000 school workers, and currently one-third of the background checks have been completed. So far, 11 “support” staff” employees (non-teachers) have been placed on administrative leave due to their criminal records. Some of the employees had a history of serious offenses that included: felony kidnapping, drug possession, assault, and unlawful ammunition possession. Of the eleven staffers with previous offenses, none of them had ever been charged with a sex crime.
Prior to this year, a school review board only turned down job applicants who had been convicted of serious crimes. Now, more consideration is being given to those employees who’ve also been charged with a crime, but had a non-conviction. The panel realized some individuals who made plea deals that resulted in non-convictions should be turned away as well.
A recent Society for Human Resource Management survey found that more than half of respondents to a recent Society for Human Resource Management survey said they don’t use credit checks in the hiring process. That’s an increase from 2010, when 40 percent of organizations reported not using credit background checks. In 2004, 39 percent said they did not use such background checks when hiring.
The survey also found:
Most employers focused on credit histories of two to seven years. Only 6 percent of organizations said that all years of credit history were equally important, a decrease from 17 percent in 2010.
Of the 34 percent of employers that conducted credit checks on selected job candidates, 87 percent did so for positions with financial responsibilities and 42 percent used them for senior executive positions.
More organizations saying that complying with state law requirements was among the primary reasons criminal records checks were done, up from 20 percent in 2010 to 28 percent today.
Fifty-eight percent of organizations allowed job candidates to explain the results of their criminal checks before the decision to hire was made.
The findings suggest employers are becoming more selective on the background check processes they use and are tailoring the vetting process to more acutely select the kind of background information most useful for each individual job description. This comes on the heels of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s new guidelines on criminal background checks.
Last month the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) voted to create new Guidance regarding employer use of criminal records under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Criminal background checks have become increasingly popular as a means for employers to, among other things, lessen the potentially tragic and expensive claims of failure to supervise or negligent hiring.
In the past the EEOC had at least partially disavowed criminal checks except in very limited industries because they were considered to be disproportionately negative for certain minorities.
The new EEOC guidance reiterates the four factors used to determine whether an employer’s hiring and other employment decisions and policies relating to criminal background checks violate the law:
Convictions as opposed to arrests
The nature and gravity of the offense or conduct
Time that has passed since the offense
The nature of the job held or sought.
It also provides specific examples of criminal background policies which the EEOC believes violate Title VII.
The EEOC also suggests employees who undergo criminal background checks should be told that they were denied the job because of a criminal conviction, and that there would have to be an opportunity for that applicant to demonstrate either that the screen was inaccurate or to state why they should not be denied the job. The employer would also have to review any additional information provided by the prospective employee regarding the conviction or their credentials.
It’s difficult to put a dollar figure on the value of background checks. But that got a lot easier recently for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York. The value for them turned out to be $1 million – that’s how much a woman embezzled over a seven-year period while working as a volunteer bookkeeper at the famous St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan.
The bookkeeper was hired in 2003 before background checks were a routine part of the hiring process. If the diocese had run a background check on her, it would have discovered she had been convicted of grand larceny in one case and had pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor in another, according to an article in The New York Times.
This story should serve as a reminder to all those who still believe pre-employment screening is not worth the time and money it takes to conduct them. Criminal records and credit checks are a must for anyone who will be entrusted with the finances of your business. In particular all those who handle money, or care for others, should be thoroughly vetted.
Last month three of the largest online dating websites – eHarmony, Match.com, and Spark Networks – along with California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris issued a Joint Statement of Key Principles of Online Dating Site Safety, in which they espoused the importance of background checks on dating website members in an effort to avoid making dating site members vulnerable to sexual predators. The statement also aims to protect online dating website members from identity theft and scams.
Last week the Illinois Senate passed legislation that would require online dating websites that offer services in Illinois to clearly disclose whether or not they conduct criminal background checks on all members. The bill also would make it so online dating sites must disclose whether they admit members who have criminal records, and use government databases, including criminal court records and sex offender registries.
If it passes, those who are found to be in violation of the law could be fined up to $50,000 per violation. The measure, just like the joint statement issued last month, is indicative of a trend in social networking and online dating – where people often get to know each other before they even meet face to face – to take more precautions to make sure members are kept safe.
Did you know there are different levels to a criminal background check? If you’re using an inexpensive online service that advertises “criminal background checks that are fast and cheap,” chances are you’re getting results that are fast and cheap — and highly incomplete.
There are several levels to a criminal background check, and a reputable employment screening servicewill take the time and resources necessary for a thorough search on every level. At Verify Protect, our background screening services cover the following levels, depending on your criteria and unique needs:
County Criminal: A real-time search for felonies and misdemeanors for a particular county, going back at least seven years.
Statewide Criminal: A statewide search of felonies and misdemeanors as reported by the counties. This may contain wants/warrants from other states as well, but is not available in all states.
Multi-State Criminal Database: An instant search of over 300 million criminal records from hundreds of sources in all 50 states as well as some international records. This also includes sex offender registries with over 3.5 million pictures.
Federal Criminal: A search for crimes prosecuted at the federal level, which can include cases of embezzlement, fraud, drug trafficking and other federal crimes. This covers all 84 U.S. District Courts in one search. (A single district search is also available.)
Last week’s news about child sexual abuse by a former Penn State University football coach made national headlines and stirred emotions everywhere about the seriousness of child abuse by those with whom we trust our children.
Former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky was arrested on 40 counts stemming from sexual misconduct with eight male victims over the course of several years. Sandusky allegedly found the victims through his own foundation, The Second Mile, which he started to help underprivileged boys in Centre County, PA. While Sandusky has never been arrested or convicted of a crime, the sordid details of the investigation — and a possible cover-up by those who knew and worked with Sandusky at the university — has made sports teams, recreational leagues, foundations that serve children and countless other organizations and businesses take a closer look at how they handle background checks of coaches, volunteers, staff members and anyone else who comes into contact with the children under their care. It’s absolutely imperative for such organizations to check sex offender registries and search for the criminal records of any prospective employee, coach or volunteer.
Background checks for such businesses and nonprofits have largely been in place for some time now, but a case like Sandusky’s brings into sharp focus the diligence such organizations must have in the protection of the children they serve.
When it comes to their beliefs on pre-employment screening, there are four types of employers.
1. The Believers: These guys are on board with the pre-employment screening process. They believe in it as an investment in the safety of their employees, their customers and their business, and they hire the very best, most reputable employment screening service to oversee every background check, every time.
2. The Room for Improvements: They may be recently on board the pre-employment screening bandwagon, and though they’ve got some processes firmly in place, they are looking for ways to improve their background check system and tighten their ship.
3. The Skeptics: Those who don’t believe background checks are necessary but they go through the motions because either their industry demands it or their customers expect it. These folks typically just do the bare minimum that is required of them.
4. The Handshakes: Those who subscribe to the old business belief that people should be taken at their word with a firm handshake. They think they are a good judge of character and don’t need to rely on criminal records and legal documents to back up their instincts about a prospective employee. Most of these folks don’t have any formal pre-employment screening process in place.
If any employer is still wondering whether background checks work to protect people, consider Initiative 1029 in Washington state. Back in 2008, voters overwhelmingly passed Initiative 1029, which required federal background checks and increased basic training for the people who care for seriously ill seniors and people with disabilities. The initiative received more “yes” votes than any other initiative in the state’s history. And yet, the reforms were never implemented.
In the three years legislators have dragged their feet on it, the number of crimes against seniors and the gravely ill at the hands of their caregivers has continued to rise. Residential Care Services, which investigates allegations against employees or volunteers of long-term care facilities, reported a more than 15 percent increase in citations of neglect and abuse in adult family homes, to more than 20,000, in 2010. Yet right now the state only requires a limited background check for home care workers, not an exhaustive search into their criminal records in other states.
It’s common sense, not just good business, to prevent anyone off the street to care for those who can’t defend themselves. No matter what state your business is in, you should be ensuring the safety of your customers and employees by using employment screening services that include a federal background check. It’s as simple as that.
It would be super-convenient if there was some magical nationwide database that held every criminal record of every person ever arrested or convicted of a crime. Unfortunately, that database does not exist. While there are private databases that hold millions of records from all 50 states, none claim to have all records from all states. And while many states have adequate databases of the crimes committed by residents of their states, they do not include crimes committed by current state residents while they lived in other states.
Using these private databases can be a good back-up measure, a resource to use to double-check the background information gleaned from other sources. But they shouldn’t be considered an exhaustive search.
The smartest thing for an employer to do is to hire a professional employment screening service that can attack the background check process thoroughly and systematically. Gathering previous addresses and former names used by the applicant in the last 10 years is a good first step, that way criminal records can be found in all states, counties and towns where the applicant has resided in the last decade.