1st Annual ProScreening Chili Cook Off

It's that time of year. The weather is cold. We're buried in snow, and the body yearns for something rich and hearty to warm your bones. What better time than now for the 1st annual ProScreening Chili Cook Off? 


Winners of the 1st Annual ProScreening Chili Cook Off:

1st Place Gold - Amy Pratt "White Chicken Chili"

2nd Place Silver - Daniel Wetsel "Gourmet Chicken Chili"

3rd Place Bronze - Kyle McKinney "Black Bean & Corn Chili"


Special thanks to all who participated and taste tested.

FBI Background Check VS. CRA Background Check: What you Really need to know.

All you have to do is a quick Google search and you will see all kinds of promises of “instant” background checks – you can even run one on yourself!  Although quite cost effective, this type of background check is highly inaccurate.  Where is this information coming from? How is it obtained? There are vast differences between a do-it-yourself internet background check and one that entails accurate and complete information. Let’s examine the difference between an FBI run background check and a background check run by a Consumer Reporting Agency (like ProScreening).

In order to understand the differences between these two types of background checks, we need to start with some important information about FBI background checks.

According to an article written by Melissa Sorenson, a member of the National Association of Professional Background Screeners, there is no such thing as a single, all-encompassing FBI Database. There is also no such thing as a National Database comprised of every criminal record in every single state. The FBI database is not one single database, but rather a lot of different systems all organized under the umbrella of the National Criminal Information Center, or (NCIC).  By their own admission, the information on the NCIC is limited and may contain only 50 to 55 percent of all available records and fingerprint information in connection with arrests, federal employment, naturalization and military service records.  Additionally, employer access to the NCIC is restricted and permitted only if State and Federal law has authorized access.  Unfortunately, there are a few holes in this wide cast ‘net’ of information!

As most employers cannot access the FBI database, Credit Reporting Agencies use other sources to obtain this information.  This information can be found by searching a type of database most accurately termed a “Multi-Jurisdictional” database.   This database consists of information compiled by purchasing copies of criminal records from different sources and combining these records into a central database.  Sources may include arrest information, court records, incarceration records, sexual offender registries, county and state records and government watch lists (Sorensen). This type of search is extremely useful but should also be used with caution as there are some “holes” in this net as well.  Let’s examine a few of these “holes”:

Multi-jurisdictional databases contain millions of records, but they don’t contain EVERY single criminal record and the data is only as accurate as the person adding it to the database.  Additionally, when compiling data from many sources into one database, the structure data can impact the search results.  A good example, given in Melissa Sorenson’s article is a name search – like ROBERT SMITH.  This search might not include a middle name or initial, or nickname like BOB or BOBBY.  Separate inquiries may be needed for each name variation, and this varies from one database to another.  Finally, Credit Reporting Agencies must be in compliance with the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) when reporting records and compliance standards vary from state to state.  Where a person lives and works determines what records may or may not be reported in a background check.

For all of the reasons stated above, professional background screeners, (like those employed by ProScreening), use database searches as one of many tools to complete background checks.  We know that records obtained through a database search MUST be verified by researching official court records.

At ProScreening, all of the criminal county searches are done with researchers in the courts, accessing records in person and when necessary, utilizing the help of the court clerks.  The so-called “instant” searches available online are not part of the way we do business because they are not accurate and are often incomplete.  Any records or “hits” we receive are verified and in total compliance with each state’s laws and the FCRA.

As alluring as the thought is that a background check can be instantly obtained, the reality is that in order to provide a comprehensive, complete and accurate background check report, searches take time and effort.

ProScreening may not be the FBI when it comes to providing a background check report, but you can rest assured that we take pride in providing our clients with the most comprehensive, accurate and compliant information as possible and go above and beyond to make sure that an employer has all the relevant information needed to make the best and most informed hiring decision.

Are Ban the Box Laws Working as Intended?

‘Ban the Box’ laws are meant to help remove some of the disadvantages applicants with criminal records face when applying for jobs. Ban the Box or ‘Fair Chance’ laws are rapidly growing in popularity and can found in almost every part of the country at the state, county or municipal level.

But are Ban the Box laws doing more harm than good? A recent study by the University of Michigan and Princeton University found that while Ban the Box laws are effective at providing more opportunity for applicants with criminal records, these laws might actually be creating more racial disparity when it comes to actual callbacks for applicants.

This study claims that before Ban the Box laws were in place, white applicants received a slightly higher callback rate than black applicants. However, after ban the box laws were introduced, the racial disparity for callbacks increased significantly. The study indicates that employers may be basing their decisions on assumptions regarding criminal records and an applicant’s race, using an applicant’s name alone when criminal record information is not available.

You can read more about the study here in the Chicago Tribune.

EEOC and Background Checks Go Hand in Hand

Making the proper hiring decision can be a heavy task, especially when using background checks to assist in the hiring process. You’ve weeded through the potential candidates, made your selection and spent the money on vetting your potential employee against your background check procedures.  But, what if that person’s criminal history does not align with your company goals? Do you even have a procedure for disqualifying applicants? If so, does that procedure align with the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission’s (EEOC) guidelines for handling these types of situations? As a human resources professional it is important that these guidelines be understood before actually running background checks.

As your background check provider has hopefully told you, there are laws that you must follow when performing background checks for employment purposes. These laws are written in the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), which is governed by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and most recently the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).  Background screening companies are required by law to notify their clients about the FCRA but that is essentially where the line is drawn. The compliance and hiring decision is typically left for the employer to discern within their hiring procedures. The FCRA and other background check laws are very important but beyond the scope of this article. The information herein will focus on the EEOC’s guidelines to making hiring decisions when background checks are involved.

It should go without saying that you as the employer should be constantly on the lookout for discriminating against any person in regards to race, gender, national origin, color, disability, age, sexual orientation or religion.  The best way to do this is to perform the same type of background check for every employee within a certain job type (with absolutely no exceptions). As an example if you have an entry level position in your company a new applicant must be screened with the same level of background check that each employee prior to them (in the same position) has had. You must also use consistency in disqualifying individuals from employment. It is best to have a firm policy in place for what is not acceptable on a background investigation. The EEOC states that “blanket policies” are unacceptable. An example of a very common blanket policy is “any potential employee that has a felony conviction is not eligible for hire with ABC Company”.  Remember to be very specific when writing your hiring policy. The EEOC says to:

Take special care when basing employment decisions on background problems that may be more common among people of a certain race, color, national origin, sex, or religion; among people who have a disability; or among people age 40 or older. For example, employers should not use a policy or practice that excludes people with certain criminal records if the policy or practice significantly disadvantages individuals of a particular race, national origin, or another protected characteristic, and does not accurately predict who will be a responsible, reliable, or safe employee. In legal terms, the policy or practice has a "disparate impact" and is not "job related and consistent with business necessity."

It is also necessary to make exceptions to your policy in certain situations. Actually inquire about the situations from your potential employee through an “individual assessment”. Get the entire story from their angle before making a decision.  Remember to take into account if the conviction is related to their direct ability to perform the tasks involved with the position, within the best interest of the company, and the safety of its employees. Consistency with this last part is key; apply the same level of inquiry to everyone and make exceptions due to concrete details. Treat every situation fairly; that is two applicants with the same criminal history are treated the same way. Never base a decision on race, gender, national origin, color, disability, age, sexual orientation or religion.

Lastly, be mindful of the EEOC’s document keeping guidelines:

“Any personnel or employment records you make or keep (including all application forms, regardless of whether the applicant was hired, and other records related to hiring) must be preserved for one year after the records were made, or after a personnel action was taken, whichever comes later. (The EEOC extends this requirement to two years for educational institutions and for state and local governments. The Department of Labor also extends this requirement to two years for federal contractors that have at least 150 employees and a government contract of at least $150,000.) If the applicant or employee files a charge of discrimination, you must maintain the records until the case is concluded.”

Managing risk is one of the most difficult things that an HR professional must do. Staying abreast of local and federal laws is of the utmost importance. ProScreening recommends that employers examine their current policies and processes to ensure that they are remaining compliant with each of the issues discussed.

Legal Disclaimer: This article is designed solely for informational purposes, and should not be inferred or understood as legal advice. Persons in need of legal assistance should seek the advice of competent legal counsel.


Background Checks and the FCRA: What Employers Need to Know

Originally enacted in 1970, the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) is a federal law that regulates the collection, dissemination and use of consumer information. While the name of the law may infer that regulations apply only to the procurement and use of credit reports, it’s important to note that the FCRA regulates consumer reports and investigative consumer reports, otherwise known as background checks, prepared by background check companies.

The purpose of this article is to highlight specific areas of the FCRA that are critical for users of background check reports to remain in compliance with FCRA regulations.

Lawsuits targeting employers for failing to comply with provisions in the FCRA are on the rise. Large companies such as Dollar General, Whole Foods, Panera, and Michaels have been the subjects of class action lawsuits for allegedly violating certain parts of the FCRA. The sharp increase in lawsuits largely revolve around three key areas:

  • Failure to provide a disclosure to an applicant before a background check is ordered
  • “Extraneous” information in a background check disclosure
  • Failure to comply with the FCRA adverse action requirements

So what can employers protect themselves from a potential lawsuit? Below are key pieces of the FCRA that every employer utilizing background checks should be following.

Before Ordering a Background Check Report

The FCRA requires employers to provide a “clear and conspicuous” disclosure in writing to the applicant. The “disclosure” must explain that a Consumer Report and/or Investigative Consumer Report may be procured for employment purposes. The disclosure must also include the background check agency’s name, address, and telephone number, describe the nature and scope of the background check reports to be ordered, and meet all other requirements specified by applicable law.

The FCRA further states that the disclosure shall “stand alone,” meaning that the disclosure must not be combined with or stapled to any employment application or other document. The disclosure must also not contain any extraneous information. The most common extraneous information inserted into a background check disclosure is a release of liability. As mentioned above, the extraneous language in background check disclosure notifications has been the source of many new lawsuits.

While the FCRA is a federal law, some states may have additional disclosure requirements for background check disclosures. We recommend checking with an employment law attorney in your state to ensure compliance with any state required disclosures.

Employers must then obtain authorization in writing, or by electronic means from the applicant prior to obtaining the background check report.

Adverse Action Requirements

The adverse action requirements are a critical piece of the FCRA and provide the applicant with an opportunity to review and dispute (if necessary) any inaccurate or erroneous information in a background check report. Adverse action is generally described as action to deny an applicant employment based on information contained in an applicant’s background check. Considering an applicant for a position other than the position he/she originally applied for “based in whole or in part” on a background check report may also be considered adverse action.

Before taking adverse action based “in whole or in part” on a background check, an employer must provide the applicant with a copy of the background check and a copy of “A Summary of Your Rights Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act.” The employer is then required to allow a “reasonable period of time” to pass to allow the applicant to identify any possible errors or inaccuracies in the report. While the FCRA does not provide a specific amount of time, the general consensus is that 3-5 business days is appropriate.

After taking adverse action, the employer must provide the applicant with the name, address and telephone number of the background check agency that prepared the report and a statement that the agency “did not make the decision to take the adverse action and is unable to provide the applicant with the specific reasons why the adverse action was taken.” Furthermore, the employer must provide notice to the applicant of the applicant’s right to obtain a free copy of the background check report from the background check agency within 60 days of the notice, and their right to dispute the accuracy or completeness of any information in the report.

If you have any further questions about the items mentioned in this article, or if you would like ApplicantPro to assist you in building a compliant background check program, please contact us.

Legal Disclaimer: This article is designed solely for informational purposes, and should not be inferred or understood as legal advice. Persons in need of legal assistance should seek the advice of competent legal counsel.


Ban The Box Legislation: Does it Effect Your Hiring Process?

Chances are you’ve heard the term Ban the Box. Perhaps your organization hires employees in one of the many regulated jurisdictions throughout the United States, and you’re a well-seasoned veteran of the regulations. Maybe you’re unfamiliar with the concept entirely! Whatever your situation may be, we hope this article can shed some light on the ever-growing, ever-changing Ban the Box movement.

What is Ban the Box?

In a nutshell, Ban the Box is a generic term used for a law or regulation that essentially prohibits an employer from inquiring about criminal records on an employment application, and in some cases, delays the time in which an employer can inquire about criminal records until later in the hiring process. The term derives from the criminal record question “checkbox” found on most employment applications.

Statistics from the United States Department of Justice indicate that there are approximately 650,000 individuals released from prison every year. These individuals have a need, and often a desire, to work and become productive members of society. In essence, Ban the Box is a well-intended movement designed to give individuals with criminal records a “fair chance” at employment. The conventional wisdom is that removing the criminal record question from an employment application will prevent an employer from making an automatic disqualification decision without first examining an applicant’s qualifications or providing a chance for him/her to explain his/her side of the story. Whether or not these laws are necessary or working as intended is entirely up for debate and certainly a topic for a separate discussion.

Currently, the following jurisdictions have some form or another of Ban the Box legislation on the books:

States: Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island

Counties: Montgomery County, MD Prince George’s, MD

Municipalities: Baltimore, MD; Buffalo, NY; Chicago, IL; Columbia, MO; New York, NY; Philadelphia, PA; Rochester, NY; San Francisco, CA; Seattle, WA

Because Ban the Box laws vary greatly from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, you should consult with competent legal counsel in your jurisdiction to ensure compliance if your organization operates or hires employees in any of the aforementioned jurisdictions. In some jurisdictions, the law may or may not apply depending on the size of your organization and whether or not your organization is public or private. Nevertheless, it’s vitally important to understand if and how the law applies to your organization. This is especially true for employers with multi-jurisdictional operations who may hire individuals from different parts of the country. While all Ban the Box jurisdictions prohibit the use of a criminal record question or “box” on the employment application, many jurisdictions go beyond this basic requirement and require the employer to delay inquiring about criminal records or even running a background check until an interview has been performed or an offer extended.

Below are some examples of when an employer can inquire about criminal records during the hiring process:

Carefully examine your current hiring practices and examine whether or not it is necessary to ask applicants about their criminal history

The cities of Chicago, IL and Seattle, WA along with the states of Illinois, Massachusetts and Minnesota allow an employer to ask about criminal records after an “initial screening of applicants.”

Employers in Buffalo, NY, the states of Oregon and Rhode Island can ask about criminal records during the first interview, while employers in Montgomery County, MD; Price Georges County, MD; the state of New Jersey, Philadelphia, PA; Rochester, NY and San Francisco, CA can only inquire about criminal records after the first interview.

Finally, the cities of Baltimore, MD; Columbia, MO; New York City, NY; the District of Columbia and the state of Hawaii require employers to wait until after a conditional offer of employment has been extended to the applicant.

Given the growing trend of Ban the Box legislation across the country, ProScreening suggests that employers carefully examine their current hiring practices and examine whether or not it is necessary to ask applicants about their criminal history. Employers in Ban the Box jurisdictions should be especially careful with the risks of asking about criminal records, and should only do so when legally permissible.

Legal Disclaimer: This article is designed solely for informational purposes, and should not be inferred or understood as legal advice. Persons in need of legal assistance should seek the advice of competent legal counsel.


What Background Check Should Your Company Run In Order To Perform The Proper Due Diligence On A New Hire?

The first thing you should know is that a single "National" database containing all criminal records does not exist outside of the FBI system. Are you surprised to hear that? Most people usually are!

Unfortunately, employers and background check agencies cannot simply enter an applicant’s name, date of birth, or social security number into one place and receive all of their criminal records. Rather, criminal records are stored in several completely separate systems, including places such as in County Courthouses, State Repositories, and in privately owned multi-state databases. Clearly this can be overwhelming, especially when you are trying to determine which of those you need to have searched as part of your new hire background checks.

At ProScreening, we feel the best practice for an accurate and comprehensive criminal search is to perform BOTH a multi-state database search as well as a search of all county court records where an applicant has lived within the last 7 years. We call this search package our "Comprehensive Criminal Check". The following describes why it is important to include both types of searches in your background checks.

Searching an instant multi-state database can be compared to casting a wide net across the country to see if there are any crimes that your applicant committed across the country. Although these instant database searches are essential to find any crimes committed outside of where an applicant has lived, unfortunately they are estimated to only contain approximately 50% of court records from across the country. Due to that, databases should never be used as your only source for criminal records.

In order to perform a comprehensive criminal search, the industry standard (which we support) is to also search each counties felony and misdemeanor records where an applicant has lived. The best practice to do this accurately is to first determine where your applicant has lived, worked, and/or gone to school during the past 7-10 years. In order to do this, ProScreening utilizes a Social Security Number Trace to access 7 years worth of an applicant’s address history. With this information, we can make an informed decision as to which county criminal records we should search. County records are the most detailed, accurate and up-to-date type of criminal searches available. Unlike databases, the information contained in county criminal records is usually updated in real time and will contain the most accurate case disposition information.

Due to the different demographic restrictions of both the database searches and county records, we strongly recommend that your background check includes BOTH our Instacriminal Multi-State Database and 7 Years of County Criminal Records in order to provide you with a background check that is truly thorough. Aside from an actual FBI Background Check, our recommended Comprehensive Criminal Background Check is your best option to truly know what kind of person you might be hiring.