Employer Ability to Conduct Reliable Background Checks is at Risk: What You Need to Know

November 23, 2021 Accurate Background

By Bon Idziak, Chief Compliance and Government Relations Officer, Accurate Background

The ability to conduct background checks before making employment offers is a critical part of the hiring process. This is especially true for certain high-risk industries and roles, such as the healthcare and financial services industries, teachers, childcare providers, and other sensitive positions. Employers need the confidence and peace of mind of knowing that those they hire represent low risk to the organization and those it serves.

Unfortunately, the accuracy of background checks could be at risk.

Employers, Consumer Reporting Agencies and FCRA

The federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) regulates background screening companies. One critical element of these regulations is ensuring that the person in the report is the same person applying for the job. That has traditionally been done through an extensive background check, including public records —criminal history, driving records, educational background, etc.

Those records need to be accurately matched against the candidates being considered. FCRA requires this accuracy, employers and candidates need this accuracy, and consumer reporting agencies need to be able to provide this accuracy.

Efforts currently underway in California and Michigan to restrict access to date of birth (DOB) information put this accuracy at risk. That means employers — and the background screenings companies that serve them — lose the ability to have confidence that the records they’ve attained belong to the specific candidates they’re considering.

That’s unfair to employers and their key stakeholders (e.g., employees, customers, vendors) and prospective employees.

Inability to Match Records to Candidates Creates Risk

Consider this scenario:

Candidate Chris Smith has applied for a CFO role. In conducting a background check, a company’s consumer reporting agency unearthed a criminal record indicating that Chris has a felony embezzlement charge. But is Chris the applicant you’re considering the same Chris with the record? Date of birth, partial Social Security number, and driver’s license number are critical data elements to ensure reporting accuracy. Without that accuracy, companies are at risk of hiring a candidate with the potential to harm the organization and its stakeholders.

DOB verification is one of the most essential pieces of information used to run adequate background checks. Without the ability to verify DOB background screening providers — and the employers they serve — cannot reliably provide information on applicants’ backgrounds. It becomes impossible to make a reliable match between the person in the report and the person applying for the job with an acceptable level of certainty. 

Important for Employers to Get Involved

Proposed rules in California and Michigan will require clerks to redact personally identifiable information from documents that are filed in court and made available to the public. This limits employers’ ability to ensure that the person whose record they have received is the same person they are considering for a position.

Employers conduct background checks to:

  • Ensure that employees hired do not have certain types of prohibited convictions for specific roles in specific industries.
  • Protect their organizations from incidents of negligent hiring related to theft or violence.
  • Protect other employees, customers, and the communities they serve.

Even if your company is not located in California or Michigan, you are at risk when doing public records checks on candidates who may lived, worked, or gone to school in these states. In addition, the passage of these rulings raises the likelihood that additional states may follow suit.

Accurate and other consumer reporting agencies are working with Professional Background Screening Association (PBSA) to act related to the Michigan PII/ date of birth redaction ruling. We, and other background screening companies protect businesses so they can make informed hiring decisions. We encourage you to join us in taking action against these rulings to protect your ability to effectively screen job candidates wherever your business is located. 

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