COVID-19 Update: Despite court closures in many areas, Sterling is still able to complete criminal checks with minimal disruption thanks to our proprietary end-to-end automation that allows us to access court information. For additional info on how Sterling is handling the COVID-19 situation, please visit our COVID-19 page.

May 13th, 2015 | Sterling

Background Check Oversight at Most U.S. Airports Leave Threats in the Air


Since the tragic events that occurred on September 11, 2001, billions of dollars have been spent every year on airport security screening. While the majority of screening is done on the 1.8 million passengers who travel through U.S. airports every day, CNN discovered a back door security loophole that involves baggage handlers and other airport staff.

The investigation revealed that many U.S. airports do not conduct daily security screening for all employees with access to airplanes and tarmacs. In addition, once an employee has passed their initial background check and been given an identification badge, almost no follow-up screening is done to determine if the individual has been involved in any illegal activity after they’ve been hired.

These screening gaps pose very real threats to travelers, crew, and the American public as a whole. For example, a former baggage handler at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport has been accused of smuggling guns through the airport and handing them off to a passenger who had already cleared security.

Re-screening and employee monitoring is a part of the background screening program that is often overlooked, but employers must understand that they are putting their organization at risk by never re-checking the criminal histories of their staff. In the case of airports, borders, and other security-sensitive environments, continual employee monitoring is an imperative component of an effective background screening program.

According to SterlingBackcheck’s 2015-2016 Benchmarking Report, approximately one third of employers participate in some form of post-hire criminal record checks or monitoring programs; however, they are not always up to par. Criminal record checks provide information based on a specific point in time and therefore, they become outdated shortly after they are conducted. Just because an employee had a clean record when they were first hired, it doesn’t mean that record will remain clean forever.

Background screening providers have evolved their services to satisfy the need for employers to continually screen their workforce. These programs can be customized to “re-screen” employees at set intervals, such as every month, every quarter, or every year.

Alternatively, employers can opt for a service that provides risk alerts based on the victim notification database in real-time, which is the most effective option available. Employee risk alerts compare staff lists against records for more than 2,000 booking jurisdictions to determine whether or not any employees have been recently arrested. If a record is found, the employer is notified instantaneously so that it can immediately determine what action, if any, should be taken.

Given the considerable investment made in airport security and the extent of security screening conducted each day to keep our country safe, real-time employee monitoring for airport staff should not be overlooked. Airport staff such as baggage handlers, restaurant workers, and maintenance personnel have access to secure areas and a security breach could be devastating. Why spend so much time and money screening passengers who enter through the front door, only to let potential criminals walk through the back door unnoticed?

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.