Restricting Criminal Background Checks – Will it Affect Your Right to Protect Your Company

Dec 18, 2018
The City of Seattle enacted its Fair Chance Housing Ordinance last year (Seattle Municipal Code Sec. 14.09) that restricts the use of criminal record information in tenant screening reports.  Will this create a trend that will prevent companies from obtaining criminal background checks for tenant screening, employee screening or other purposes?  I do not believe it will and here is why: Last month the National Association of Professional Background Screeners filed a legal brief in support of the Rental Housing Association of Washington's lawsuit to overturn Seattle's Fair Chance Housing Ordinance.  This reinforced the brief already filed by the Consumer Data Industry Association.  These two trade associations both promote the responsible use of consumer reports (background screening reports) that help mitigate risk for companies that request these reports, while protecting consumer rights under the FCRA – Fair Credit Reporting Act, the federal law that regulates background screening/consumer reports. The arguments being presented in these legal briefs are very strong.  They include citing that the Seattle Office of Civil Rights (SOCR) – the Seattle agency tasked with enforcing th…

Be Wary of Background Checks – Especially from Referral Services

Nov 22, 2018
There is a plethora of referral services (and other types of companies) that promote, "our members (or employees) are background checked."  Some of these companies advertise on television and other media formats, while many others only promote their services via brochures and signs.  When you check "the fine print" of the websites of most of these companies, the efficacy and adequacy of their background checks are typically disavowed. Most companies and regrettably, even many individuals responsible for human resources, do not fully understand the complexities and issues in performing a "best practices" background check.  There are several reasons for this: There is no criminal database that exists that covers the entire country There are approximately 3,300 counties in the USA, and based where a person has lived, separate county criminal searches are needed, if not sufficiently covered in a criminal database Most criminal records have no Social Security Number attached to them, which requires that criminal records be searched by legal name and date of birth Maiden names and other legal names need to be checked, as a crime committed under a maiden (or other) name will not be…

Issues with Searching Criminal Records through Publicly Available Court Websites

Oct 10, 2018
There are issues with searching for criminal records on publicly available court websites.  The indented language below was taken verbatim from one state's public access to court information website.  Although it is the language from one particular website, it is reflective of most publicly available court websites. Please be aware of the following limitations of the case records displayed: The information may not be a current, accurate, or complete record of the case The information is subject to change at any time The information is not the official record of the court Not all cases from a participating court may be included The information should not be used as a substitute for a thorough background search of official public records. When searching for county criminal records, it is best not to rely on open websites that anyone can access.  These records are NOT the official court record.  Many background screening companies employ "screen scraping" technology to obtain such "county criminal records" that are available to anyone on the web, even though, as listed above, these searches cannot act as a substitute for an actual county court house reco…

Revised FCRA Summary of Rights For Background Checks Must Be Used as of 09-21-18

Sep 18, 2018
A revised FCRA Summary of Rights must be used starting September 21, 2018. The key compliance impact for companies and other organizations that need to obtain a background check  ̶  be it employee screening, tenant screening, franchisee screening, country club membership screening or other type of permissible business purpose background check  ̶  is that a new FCRA Summary of Rights must now be provided. This required change is due to the recent amendment to the FCRA (Fair Credit Reporting Act) by the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act (S. 2155). The main effect of the amendment is that whenever an FCRA Summary of Rights is required to be given to a consumer, this Summary of Consumer Rights must also include notice of the consumer's right to obtain a "security freeze" on their credit report (which will prohibit a consumer reporting agency from releasing their credit file without the consumer's expressed authorization). As an alternative to a security freeze, consumers have the right to place an initial or extended fraud alert on their credit file at no cost. Just last week the CFPB (Consumer Financial Protection Bureau) finally got around to issuing a…
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