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March 23rd, 2016 | Sterling

Would You Call a Plumber if You Needed Legal Advice?

Would You Call a Plumber if You Needed Legal Advice?

How many times have you been warned about not believing everything you read on the Internet? I won’t wait for a response, but let a recent article I read on the Huffington Post serve as “Exhibit A” as to why truer words have never been spoken.

The article, “5 Best HR Tools for Small Businesses You Aren’t Using (But Should)”, offers advice on the “best sites” employers can use to maintain compliance and “juggle multiple job responsibilities at once”. While both well-intentioned and well-written, the article suggests that employers should use a free background screening website (name intentionally withheld) that our “expert blogger” claims is “fast, efficient, and comprehensive”.

I was curious to see exactly what this site offered so I entered in my own information. And true to its word, it quickly found my name and current address. Also true to its word, this “fast” site instantly told me that if I paid them $29.95, they would share information about things such as prior arrests, convictions, bankruptcy records, divorce records and relatives.

Umm. Didn’t the author claim this service was free?

That’s only the half of it. Any experienced HR professional knows very well that arrest records that didn’t result in a conviction are pretty much off limits today. We also know that while obtaining bankruptcy records might be okay for certain positions, most employers don’t want to touch them with a 10 foot pole. How about the lurid details of a candidate’s relatives? Cue the evil music. Dun Dun Duh!

It gets better though. They told me that the person that I was screening would never know I ran the report. Gasping yet?

They didn’t ask for my social security number or date of birth. How would they know if the records they were reporting actually belonged to me? Not to worry, there was an FAQ for that.

“This website is a provider of information gathered from publicly available data. This website does not create, verify, or guarantee the accuracy of such data; rather, website receives its information from various sources, including Internet sites. It is not necessarily affiliated with or endorsed by these sources, or compensated by them. All materials and information available through website are provided “as is” and “as available,” and without warranties of any kind, express or implied, and specifically including the warranties of merchantability and fitness for a particular purpose.”

And here was my favorite part, when I went to run my report I got the following warning:

“Do not use our service or the information it provides to make decisions about consumer credit, employment, insurance, tenant screening or any other purpose that would require FCRA compliance.”

In the immortal words of Arnold Jackson, “What you talkin about Willis?”

But Mr. Expert blogger told me this was a sure fire way to maintain compliance and make my life easier. It has to be true, right?

Here’s the truth. That employment background check is going to cost you thousands in litigation expense and damages. Let’s take a look at the cornucopia of Fair Credit Reporting Act violations you would have racked up by conducting this search for employment background screening purposes.

  1. You wouldn’t have provided written authorization to conduct the check. Ding!
  2. You wouldn’t have provided the candidate with a summary of their rights. Ding!
  3. You wouldn’t have set up a mechanism to maintain maximum possible accuracy. Ding!
  4. You might have used arrest records that didn’t result in a conviction. Ding!
  5. You wouldn’t have implemented a process for the candidate to dispute the findings. Ding!
  6. Oh and while not an FCRA violation, you just violated the terms and conditions of the site which specifically states these reports should not be used for employment purposes. Bada Bing!

How’s that free employee background check working out for you now Mr. Expert Blogger?

For more compliance tips and screening best practices, read our free eBook:
Background Screening 101.

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.