Internet & Criminal Background Checks


By Connor Roe, Summer Associate

Chances are, there's someone else in this world with your same name. And those people may not be as upstanding a citizen as you are. Samuel M. Jackson is a 26 year old white guy. When he applied for a job at a new company, the HR man who does the hiring ran a background check on him. Who wouldn't? It's standard procedure for most companies to do this before hiring someone into their work force. In fact 93% of all companies do it. But the background check that Sam's potential employer used was faulty. The screening came back with three hits. Three felonies that Sam allegedly committed. All three of those cases were rape cases. Needless to say Sam didn't get the job. But what the company didn't know was that all three of those hits were from different Samuel Jackson's. So not only does Sam share his name with the star of Pulp Fiction, but also three registered sex offenders. The screening company did no further research on Sam's name. If they had, they would have realized that all three of those sex offenders were much older than Sam. Not to mention they were all African-American!

But faulty background checks don't only hurt those who share the same name as a convicted felons, but also the felons themselves. Take for example a college graduate with an expunged juvie record. She is taking all of the steps to make a life for herself. She put herself through college and is now struggling to find a job. Who isn't? Jobs are hard to come by, even without time served in a Juvenile Detention Center for aggravated assault. Even though her records were sealed, the background check may only see a news article that reported on her case that happened so many years ago. Or maybe her probation record showed up on the check and shed light on her past issues. Even though those records were sealed, the employer saw them in the check and cannot disregard them. The college grad with a good work ethic won't get the job solely because the background check was faulty and brought past offenses back into the light.

A study done by the National Consumer Law Center uncovered more common errors in background checks. Some screenings will show the same offense numerous times. That will definitely hurt your credibility when applying for a job. After all, three counts of vehicular manslaughter looks a lot worse than one. Other times the screening company may misclassify the offense. Once again, a first degree felony drug possession charge looks much worse than a misdemeanor first degree. An adult who sold marijuana in college is far more likely to get a job than a cartel member. A misclassification in the background check could be the difference between the two in an employer's eyes.

Steps can be taken to avoid these mistakes. Screening companies should have to register federally in order to ensure that they complete all necessary research for each screening. In addition, standards for ensuring accuracy in background checks should be outlined more clearly. Finally, regardless of the alleged offense, companies should give applicants ample time to explain any areas of concern on there background checks.

It's hard enough to get a job as it is. People looking for work should not have to jump through the extra hoops of explaining everything on their background checks because some billion dollar screening company didn't do the necessary research to ensure accuracy.