John Shelby is trying to clear his name after being wrongly declared as a felon on background checks for 13 years. Over a decade ago, after being offered a job to run three casino bars, that offer was revoked when a background check showed he was a felon, and he was supposed to be in the city jail.
“I had no idea what was in store for me,” said Shelby, who lives in Chesapeake. Shelby claims police in El Paso negligently linked his name to someone else’s criminal record in 1997 when that man gave Shelby’s name as his own. That record pops up when prospective employers run background checks on Shelby, limiting or killing his chances at securing a job. And that, Shelby argues, violates his civil rights by invading his privacy and ruining his ability to make a living.
After Shelby lost the casino job, police at first told him the problem was “cleared up ” and gave him a letter stating so. But the erroneous record lived on in various databases that background-check companies use. Shelby’s name remained listed as an alias for the other man. To try and repair the damage of the last 13 years, Shelby has a $7.5 million federal lawsuit pending against the city of El Paso. At an initial hearing in Texas on Friday, a judge allowed the case to continue and ordered the parties to develop a trial schedule, said Stephen Casey, Shelby’s Austin, Texas-based lawyer and Regent University law graduate.
It is unfortunate that one mistake has caused an individual so much harm, and Shelby deserves the situation to be put right. Nonetheless, we ought to look at the larger picture here – background checks are in place for a reason, and they most certainly do more good than harm. We shouldn’t let one human error cloud our judgement. Let us make right this mistake and move forward.
So not only are job applicants and online daters subject to Facebook background checks, but members of the public who are being considered for jury duty may also have their Facebook profile investigated. Some lawyers are “Facebook-ing the jury” as part of a background check in jury duty selection.
Through PC Mag, Amber Yearwood, a consultant from juror consultancy Trial Behavior Consulting tells us that “Sites like Facebook and MySpace offer limited relevant information for the purposes of jury selection, but it does become useful when we have very limited information about the juror”.
Typically she looks for case-specific attitudes; someone who makes public generalizations about insurance companies would probably not be selected by a defense attorney in an insurance fraud case, for example.
But the biggest general flag Yearwood looks for in profiles is a person who with a dominant, opinionated personality. “If I see someone posting on a gazillion topics and giving advice to various Facebook friends, or going on long rants on things in the news, that tells me that the person is a leader,” Yearwood explains. “Each side looks for who their problem jurors are and what attributes they’ll have. ‘Leadership’ functions as a magnifier of how bad someone might be for you. Suddenly a borderline strike becomes a priority strike.”
For instance, last year Yearwood crossed out a potential juror from a product-liability case when the person’s Facebook profile made her sound highly opinionated. The prospective juror also doled out lots of unsolicited medical and sex advice. “We were concerned she might lead the charge against us, so we struck her,” Yearwood said.
Such news resounds among Facebook users as a reminder that anything you do online can be seen, and interpreted, by many different people. Ultimately, it could be to your detriment. A lesson to be learned? Be careful what you post.
As Facebook becomes an ever more prominent tool for every aspect of society, what role should it play in pre-employment background checks? At what point should a line be drawn between your work persona and your personal life, or is there even a difference?
We have all heard many stories about someone losing a job over a Facebook status, or no longer being considered for a position after an employer viewed their profile. When Facebook first became popular it was considered more of a social tool between friends, and many didn’t think of the ramifications of putting certain things online – where it becomes so visible. It has now become a place which will dictate your online personality, and your profile will become a personal brand that defines you on the internet whether you want it to or not.
Due to this, a lot of employers – particularly in the public service industries – are placing conditions on employment, such as the right to delve into their employees social profiles. A recent story in the news notes how the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is championing the case of a Maryland corrections officer, Robert Collins, who does not believe his employer should have the right to scour his personal Facebook account as a condition of employment.
According the ACLU, the Maryland corrections division has a “blanket requirement” that job applicants, as well as current employees undergoing re-certification, provide the government with their social media account usernames and personal passwords for use in background checks. The ACLU calls the policy “a gross breach of privacy” and a violation of state and federal law “which protect privacy rights and extend protections to electronic communications.” As of late last week, the advocacy group had received no response from the state.
Should Facebook be a part of employment background screening, or is that taking a step too far into an employees private life?
A bill has been proposed that would require “candidates for the legislature” to submit to drug tests, which turns the Chandler v Miller case of 1997 on its head.
Illinois representative Bill Mitchell (R-Forsyth) has introduced HB 1402, to require candidates for the legislature to submit, along with their ballot access petition, the results of a “substance abuse test”. The test must have taken place within the 60 days before the petition is submitted. Mitchell is not a neophyte state legislator; he was first elected to the Illinois legislature in 1998.
Mitchell is also a prominent campaigner for welfare change, suggesting that drug testing of welfare recipients would go some way to reducing the cost to the taxpayers . He says: “Representative Brown and I have filed a package of bills to reform our welfare system and save the State tens of millions of dollars. Governor Quinn and his Democrat allies in the legislature just stuck taxpayers with a $7 billion tax hike. Yet they have opposed these common-sense welfare reform proposals in the past. We feel that taxpayers should not have to pay for welfare benefits for illegal aliens and drug abusers”.
This type of welfare testing has been suggested in various states in recent months, and it will be no surprise if Illinois move forward with this legislation. No doubt other states will do something similar as 2011 progresses.
I came across this cartoon while browsing the internet for news on drug testing
, and I thought it was worth a share. It’s terrible I know, but it gave me a chuckle and I hope it does for you too!
A “trusted traveler” was arrested at the Nogales border crossing after authorities found more than 80 pounds of marijuana. We’ve blogged previously about how these ‘trusted traveler’ checks may not be as successful a tactic as was originally assumed, and this story emphasizes exactly that.
The driver, who had a SENTRI card, drew the suspicion of a Customs and Border Protection officer during a routine search. According to a Customs and Border Protection press release, posted by KOLD:
At approximately 6:30 am on Feb 14, during routine screening of vehicle and travelers crossing through the SENTRI lane at the Dennis DeConcini Port of Entry in Nogales, a CBP officer encountered a 31-year-old driver of a 2010 Mazda CX-7 SUV. During routine questioning, the officer became suspicious of the driver’s answers and asked the driver to open the trunk. When the officer looked in the trunk, he noticed what appeared to be packages of contraband so he took the driver into custody. An intensive inspection of the vehicle revealed bundles of marijuana concealed in a storage compartment in the truck, in the engine area, and in a luggage bag.
Officers seized seven bundles of marijuana, weighing more than 80 pounds. The driver, a US citizen, was arrested and turned over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement for further investigation and prosecution.
Applicants to the Homeland Security Department’s SENTRI program must submit to an extensive screening process, including a comprehensive background check. The program, for “trusted” border crossers, “allows members access to a dedicated commuter lane that expedites crossing between the U.S. and Mexico,” according to their website.
This begs the question whether this alternative to going through the long and arduous security checks at border crossings are actually that effective, and whether they are a valid replacement for the regular screening measures.
More than half of consumers approve of the idea of banning the use of job applicant credit reports by employers for employment background screening, according to a recent survey. It’s a hot topic of debate right now, with many states leaning towards banning credit checks as part of a pre-employment background check.
The results of the research on employers using credit report background checks found that most consumers agreed that this practice should be banned:
-More than half (53.5 percent) of consumers surveyed said they agreed with a proposed ban on employers using credit reports to screen job applicants:
- 38.3 percent of consumers surveyed said they were OK with allowing the practice of employers using credit reports to screen job applicants.
- 8.2 percent of consumers surveyed said they didn’t know.
- In addition, the survey found that more women (55 percent) opposed the use of credit report background checks for employment than men (51.7 percent).
Four U.S. states – Hawaii, Oregon, Washington, and most recently Illinois – have laws regulating credit report checks for employment screening and other states are considering such legislation. It looks that many more states are considering following suit.
The outlook on credit checks this time next year could be very different from what it is now.
In an apparent victory for the N.F.L. regarding a drug testing case, a state appeals judge in Minnesota upheld a lower court ruling that allowed the league to suspend two players on the Vikings – Kevin Williams and Pat Williams – who were found to have taken StarCaps, a supplement that included a banned substance, according to the New York Times.
This story dates back to 2008 when they both failed a test for bumetanide, a diuretic that can mask steroids and can be found in StarCaps. The players admitted taking the supplement, but the two Vikings fought their suspensions, arguing in court that as employees of a company based in Minnesota, they were governed by the state’s drug-testing rules, not those of the league.
The decision makes it less likely that other players will make similar legal challenges if they are suspended by the league for taking banned substances.
The NFL drug testing policy was a subject of one of our posts earlier this month, and this news seems to at least answer a few of those questions posed in that – primarily, that the NFL does indeed enforce a ‘zero-tolerance’ policy and will take cases through the courts to ensure the validity of their drug testing processes and the measures they enforce.
As we predicted, credit checks involvement in pre-employment background screening has started to rear it’s head in 2011. Maryland State Delegate Kirill Reznik has introduced House Bill 87 that would prohibit Maryland employers from using a person’s credit report as a background screening tool for hiring and retention decisions.
The Job Applicant Fairness Act exempts financial institutions, including banks and credit unions, and law-enforcement agencies that are required to perform credit checks. Reznik told the Huffington Post that the legislation is mainly intended to help blue-collar workers. “We’re not trying to target the CFOs or the folks involved in dealing with companies’ millions of dollars,” he said. “We mean nurses, school teachers, janitors, plumbers … blue-collar workers having trouble making ends meet, so that they don’t have one more hurdle to overcome.”
Reznik also said the idea that a poor credit score says anything about one’s ability to perform in a job is a myth, emphasizing that there are multiple reasons for someone to have bad credit that extend beyond their ability to perform a job successfully.
As another state begins the process of removing credit screening measures from background checks, what are your thoughts? Does someone’s personal financial situation reflect their ability to perform a job?
As an employer, the most important part of the background screening process is when it comes to the final decision. What is it, and how does an organization make the decision on the hiring of an applicant? NAPBS explains it like this:
Decision-making is the process of judging and evaluating the information gathered and relating it to the job requirements. Both federal and state laws should be considered in this process. Typically, the individual search is reviewed to determine if it meets or does not meet minimum employment standards.
The entire process should be memorialized in the form of a written policy, which ought to address the measures mentioned above and establish the sequence of the process of reviewing the applicant’s file and applying the employer’s stated internal review criteria. Once these bases are covered, an employment decision is made.
NAPBS notes that the policy should include the following:
- Statement of Policy and Purpose
- Statements of Confidentiality
- Menu of searches for different jobs
- Review process and procedures
And that, readers, is how an employer comes to a decision on the employment of an applicant post-background screening!
Over the last five posts I have tried to give you a better understanding of what a background check involves and how MYB is instrumental in this process. I have attempted to provide a summary of the different factors and portray the time and effort it takes to compile a check. It is a job full of responsibility, and a task the Mind Your Business takes very seriously. It is our duty to make the workplace, and society as a whole, a safer place – and we do this to the best of our ability.
Our emphasis on customer service and the quality of our work proves our worth in the industry as an accredited member of NAPBS, and we’re looking forward to the challenges and success that this year will bring. The NAPBS Annual Conference is at the end of March, so watch out for a post on that nearer the time.
I hope these last five posts have helped you – if you have any further questions, we’re here for you!
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