Background Checks


Today we continue our recommendations based on a recent paper published by representatives from the National H.I.R.E. Network, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and the National Workrights Institute, called Best Practice Standards: The Proper Use of Criminal Records in Hiring, with a look at point #5:


This one sounds like we at Barada Associates wrote it, but we really didn’t! There are a couple of clever sayings that come to mind, nevertheless. The first is “You get what you pay for,” and “When you buy something cheap, that’s what you get.”

One can spend less than $20 bucks and get what is purported to be a national court check that relies on several other data bases. The thing to remember is that a data base is only as good as the quality of the information put in it. The simple unvarnished truth is that there is no national data base anywhere that contains every felony and misdemeanor conviction that has ever occurred or, for that matter, that has occurred within the last ten years. Why is that? Because there is no law that requires every court clerk in every county in the United States to transmit every conviction record to some national data base somewhere. So, any vendor that claims to be able to do a national court check simply isn’t being honest with you! It can’t be done. A national data base check is useful, but only when used in conjunction with other checks.

The best source is to check the court records in the county in which the offense occurred. While that may sound simple, it’s not. People typically don’t just stay in one county. A resident of County A may have been convicted of a crime in County B, or County C, or any one of thousands of counties throughout the fifty states.

So, what’s an employer to do? The best thing is to use a Consumer Reporting Agency (CRA) that, as a matter of policy, uses reasonable care to ensure that the court check is as thorough as possible, based on the employer’s needs and desires. Furthermore, the employer should direct the type of court checking that’s to be done, rather than being stuck with picking from the CRA’s menu of options that may or may not meet the employer’s needs.

While it’s not possible to check every county in the United States, or would it be cost effective, it is possible to use reasonable care in the court checking process. Normally, that would mean checking all counties of residence and employment – plus adding a social security trace, alias name searches, and national and/or state criminal databases. This type of search will clearly show that reasonable care was used in the event that something unforeseen should happen.