March 17th, 2021 | Alla Schay, General Manager, Sterling - Industrials, Government & Education

Common Criminal Screening Trends Within Industrials

The reason for conducting a thorough background check as part of the hiring process is well-known. Many job applicants are likely to answer questions on an application or within an interview process honestly and completely. However, some may overlook or fail to disclose criminal activity, or outright fabricate parts of their backgrounds. Bringing these individuals onto your jobsite can present serious consequences to the safety and well-being of your employees and the customers you serve. It can also harm the culture you have worked hard to create. Workers have an expectation that their employer is providing a safe and secure environment, and individuals who have not been through a thorough background check may jeopardize that culture and trust.

We at Sterling see screening as a critical part of a “trust, but verify” approach. The background check is not intended to create disruption . Instead, it is an effective way to make sure that everyone is who they say they are and that they bring the skills, experience, and characteristics you value most.

Specific hiring needs and areas of focus vary greatly by business. Within the Industrials, which include Manufacturing, Transportation, Construction, Energy, and Utilities—among other areas—needs will differ both across various functions and when compared to other industries. Effective background screening is far from one-size-fits-all. A sophisticated, customized approach will allow you to achieve your desired goals.

Keys to a Thorough and Effective Criminal Background Screening

In the same way that the quality of a car can vary greatly from manufacturer to manufacturer, the overall quality and effectiveness of different background screening companies can differ. Below are key factors when considering the criminal background check program that’s right for you:

  • Casts a wide enough net when looking at locations where criminal activity may have occurred, not solely based on the applicant’s address history
  • Provides you criminal record data directly from a primary source such as a court rather than aggregated data from a third party
  • Can operate with a minimum amount of human intervention to reduce delays or complications often associated with the need to physically access certain court records. 86% of Sterling searches are fulfilled via automation and 98% of searches were completed during the height of the pandemic amid court closures.
  • Rapid turnaround times that do not sacrifice quality for speed
  • A simple candidate experience that can be completed on any device
  • An intuitive system for clients that features user-friendly dashboards and reports, supplemented by best-in-class servicing
  • Continuously reviews, understands, and grows with your needs to ensure a continued best fit over time
  • Is attentive to compliance, including Federal Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), and provides tools that can be leveraged to help mitigate compliance risk

The Right Product Makes All the Difference

We asked Chris Cassimus, Sterling’s Vice President of Product Management, to provide his thoughts on what companies should look for when assessing different criminal background check products available on the market. “Companies understand the importance of Criminal Record Searches in the background screening process to build their foundation of trust and safety, but not all Criminal Record Products available on the market are equal. Sterling has invested heavily in automating data acquisition to reduce cost and turnaround time, while increasing quality. Where an automated data acquisition is not possible, Sterling has its own network of court runners to ensure that we can enforce similar standards of TAT and quality. 92% of Sterling’s volume is fulfilled by Sterling, not a subcontractor, one of the highest in the industry.”

“Once criminal record data have been acquired, it is important for any background screening company to have rigorous personally identifiable information (PII) match logic in place to minimize the possibility of a false positive. Sterling’s SmartData engine automates these important steps of the screening process, paired with human oversight, to enable our customers to only receive data that they can use to make a compliant hiring decision.”

“Finally, it is important to understand that Sterling will only provide our customers with criminal data that we receive from a primary source – a court – rather than relying on data aggregated through a 3rd party.”

The Long Game: Rescreening and Monitoring

You may already have an effective program in place to efficiently create a safe work environment with individuals who have the requisite background characteristics you carefully selected. While some elements don’t change over time once verified— like work experience or completion of a certain education level—criminal behavior can occur at almost any time. To account for this, companies often have a self-disclosure policy, wherein employees must report any time they have been arrested. As is the case with disclosing criminal behavior that is not subject to ban and box or inquiry restrictions, many are forthcoming with accurate information, while others may overlook or fail to disclose important changes over time.

Halliburton, one of the world’s largest oil field service companies with operations in more than 70 countries, encountered this problem when it brought back employees who had been furloughed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. By policy, the company rescreens workers who have been separated for more than 30 days. Recent experience in this area was jarring.

“Many things can happen, some that can have negative impacts, and [employees] may not have alerted the company,” said Jamie Newsom, Senior Global HR Business Process Manager at Halliburton. “Though it is stated in company policy, things have come to light for rehired employees that they did not note through local HR management and it has disqualified them from becoming re-employed. It’s very important that we continue to follow this practice for Halliburton’s security and for our customers.” According to Newsom, the legal issues they found did not occur during the furlough period, but instead happened while originally employed by Halliburton.

Unpleasant revelations, and recognition of the risk they represent, can be avoided through Workforce Monitoring. Instances of workplace violence, negligent retention litigation, and potential exposure to threats can be reduced through this practice. Some clients choose a program wherein an employee population is continuously monitored and new criminal activity is directly reported. Others achieve a similar effect by rescreening either all or some of an employee population at defined time increments.

A sampling of effective client solutions for ongoing workforce monitoring could include:

  • Performing a nationwide rescreen for all employees
  • Quarterly rescreens for selective populations
  • Annual rescreen of contractor population
  • Rescreens on a schedule determined by regulatory requirements, for example every five or seven years

The Screening Imperative Within Industrials

Certain Manufacturing, Transportation, Construction, Energy, and Utilities employees may literally have a finger on the big red button. Actions that are taken—or not taken—can have devastating effects across a wide population. It was recently reported that a hacker tried to poison the water supply of Oldsmar, Florida by accessing a water treatment facility’s IT system and raising the level of the chemical sodium hydroxide to a dangerously high level. This attempt to induce injury and mayhem came from outside the walls of the utility.

What if there had been a bad actor within the IT space? Such an attack could have been at least partially successful if undertaken by someone with more knowledge of system safeguards. This illustrates the critical need to know the backgrounds of employees with access to key infrastructure and equipment to exclude any individuals with histories that can indicate higher levels of risk. Beyond criminal considerations, it is also critical to ensure that key individuals meet fit-for-duty requirements to operate safely.

Across the Industrials, consider these real-life examples where a high degree of trust is placed in employees:

  • A bus driver who is responsible for the direct safety of dozens of people and the indirect safety of the wider motoring public
  • A utility worker who enters private homes and conducts inspections or repairs, often when there may be nobody else present beyond that worker and a single homeowner or renter
  • An operator of heavy machinery that, if used improperly, can cause injury or considerable financial loss
  • A truck driver hauling either a dangerous or particularly valuable payload
  • Key executives and those with access to key planning and financial systems

In these and other cases, companies must take all reasonable actions to safeguard their employees and the wider communities where they operate.

Sterling Insights: Common Approaches Within Industrials

Some common themes across Sterling’s Manufacturing, Transportation, Construction, Energy, and Utilities business can provide valuable guidance for your own background screening program. Focusing first on Criminal Background Checks, the most common searches selected are:

94% County Court Record Search. This is the most common starting point across background screening

81% Department of Justice (DOJ) National Sex Offender Public Website Search

80% Enhanced Nationwide Criminal Database. This is an additional layer beyond County-based search based on known residences

75% State Search. Includes state-based repositories or state police records as an alternative source for criminal record information

57% Federal Court Search

52% Locator Select. Unique to Sterling, this queries over 2,400 jurisdictions for bookings and incarcerations, covering most of the incarcerated population in the U.S., and locates additional jurisdictions where a candidate may have committed a crime

44% Global Criminal Search

31% Alias Name Package

Across the searches noted above, and due to Sterling’s investment in automation, turnaround time varied from an average of 0.07 to 0.43 days for U.S.-based searches and was 4.5 days for global. Instances where a search identified a criminal record ranged from a low of 0.2% for Federal Court Search to 10.6% for Locator Select.

Separately and predictably, Motor Vehicle Records searches are prominent among the Industrials at 62%. For these searches, a reportable record was revealed more than a quarter of the time. This is important direction for companies with drivers so they can make smart hiring decisions and determine any corrective actions that need to be proactively considered. Additional violations that can impact eligibility may then be prevented.

Sterling can help manage and automate the program that is appropriate for your needs.

Final Thoughts

Effective background screening requires a customized approach that considers each company’s individual needs. Common program traits across the Industrials– Manufacturing, Transportation, Construction, Energy, and Utilities— can provide a valuable starting point for identifying the right fit. A layered approach that includes records from a range of sources will typically yield the most complete picture of an applicant, enabling companies to assess the risk associated with extending an employment offer.

Sterling is not a law firm. 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.