June 5th, 2014 | Sterling

Do-It-Yourself Background Checks: Why You Could be Facing a DIY Disaster

Do-It-Yourself Background Checks | SterlingBackcheck

You wouldn’t attempt to re-wire your home without experience as an electrician and we’ve all seen what happens when mom decides to get out the bowl and scissors and give everyone a haircut. In reality, there are some things that are better left to professionals, and background checks certainly fall within that category. Criminal and civil court proceedings are a matter of public record so in theory, anyone can walk into a courthouse and conduct a background search. Some employers might think that it is faster or cheaper to apply a do-it-yourself (DIY) method to their background screening program; however, there are a number of reasons why it is a risky idea.

Here are three reasons why you should step away from the courthouse and call an accredited background screening provider:

1. The Ever-Changing Legal Landscape

Legal requirements and limitations on the use of criminal records for hiring purposes are constantly changing. From “Ban the Box” to restrictions on credit checks, the rules surrounding how to conduct background checks evolves and transforms on a regular basis. Accredited background screening companies often employ legal teams to remain up-to-date on these changes and other factors that are impacting the industry.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is a government entity responsible for establishing and enforcing laws to protect individuals from employment discrimination. Among other things, the EEOC offers guidance on how employers can lawfully gather criminal record and other personal information. This means that employers who base their hiring decisions on inaccurate information or disqualify applicants because they have criminal records may face considerable consequences.

2. Understanding the System

Court records are not always straightforward or easy to comprehend, often requiring knowledge of the criminal code. Some employers opt for in-house screening to avoid the regulations that govern Consumer Reporting Agencies and the dissemination of consumer reports. What these employers often fail to realize is that they still must abide by the rules set out by the EEOC and there may be other laws in place that impose FCRA-like regulations on employers who use in-house screening; for example, the California Civil Code §1785.53.

3. Not All Courthouses Are Created Equal

The record retrieval procedures for courthouses throughout the United States vary widely. While some provide searchable records online, others only accommodate manual retrieval by court clerks. A typical criminal background check includes county searches based on residential history, but what happens when your applicant has recently moved from the opposite end of the country? With over 3,100 counties or county-equivalents in the United States, the knowledge required to conduct criminal court searches is not something that can be gained overnight.

Using a professional background screener can also improve due diligence in locating relevant information and eliminate the opportunity cost associated with in-house screening. When you consider all of these factors, it becomes clear that DIY screening is not necessarily cheaper and in fact can be a dangerous liability.

How to Select a Provider

Choosing the wrong background screening provider can be just as dangerous as DIY background checks so it is imperative that you use a company that is well established in the industry and preferably a member of The National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS) that has achieved accreditation. An NAPBS accreditation recognizes the highest standards in processes and procedure and companies achieved accreditation are rigorously audited and must meet 56 strict standards. NAPBS is a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting background screeners in maintaining ethical and compliant business practices. SterlingBackcheck is an accredited member having passed the Background Screening Agency Accreditation Program.

To find a list of accredited background screening companies, visit https://www.napbs.com/.

This publication is for informational purposes only and nothing contained in it should be construed as legal advice. We expressly disclaim any warranty or responsibility for damages arising out this information. We encourage you to consult with legal counsel regarding your specific needs. We do not undertake any duty to update previously posted materials.