BACKGROUND A screening provider usually uses multi-jurisdictional databases to perform background investigations to uncover criminal convictions. These databases should be considered excellent secondary tools to uncover a criminal conviction. They should never be considered a primary source of criminal convictions.
Section 15 U.S.C. §§ 1681k and 1681l of the Fair Credit Reporting Act allows two options for reporting potentially adverse information:
(1) at the time such public record information is reported to the company requesting the reports, notify the consumer i.e. the applicant, of the fact that public record information is being reported together with the name and address of the organization to whom such information is being reported; or
(2) Screening provider should maintain strict procedures designed to insure that whenever public record information which is likely to have an adverse effect on a consumer’ s ability to obtain employment is reported it is complete and up to date.
The latter option above means taking measures that the adverse information i.e. the criminal conviction, is up to date. This entails confirming that the conviction still exists at the jurisdictional level.
This confirmation procedure is important because convictions in a database could have been expunged or could be otherwise inaccurate. There are over 300 million people in the United States. Many have the same name, live in the same county and perhaps even share the same date of birth as others.
A nationally prominent screening provider used information in a multi-jurisdictional to report convictions on a client’s applicant, Kevin Jones. The nationally prominent screening provider did not conduct any due diligence to confirm the accuracy of the adverse information. Rather, the information was merely reported to the client. And, to make matters worse, this screening provider did not properly respond to the individual’s statement that the conviction was incorrect. According to Mr. Jones, had they checked the court, the suit says, they would have noticed that while the Kevin Jones with the criminal record had the same birthdate as Jones, he was white, had a different middle name, and didn’t live at any of them same addresses Jones had. The plaintiff is black.
In our discussions with companies, many times we are told that the provider is providing criminal conviction very quickly. When we hear this, we know that the screening provider is merely providing information from a multi-jurisdictional database. The law provides communication in accord with the first bullet above. We believe this is neither fair to the company requesting the report nor to the applicant. We consider this to be a shortcut in handling potentially adverse information.
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Randisi & Associates, Inc. is a member of Concerned CRAs, a background check consumer protection group with 200 members. Consumer Reporting Agencies (CRAs) that participate in Concerned CRAs pledge to verify the accuracy of information provided and avoid offshoring Americans’ personal information. ESR never uses databases as a primary source of information. To learn more, visit http://www.concernedcras.com/.