Background Checks


The answer to the foregoing question is a clear and unequivocal “no!”  Why not?  Like the information in any data base, the FBI fingerprint data base is only as good as the information sent in by the vast multitude of law enforcement agencies throughout the country.  Some states, for instance, don’t require local law enforcement agencies to send in fingerprint records to the FBI.  Some states don’t even take the fingerprints of people accused of committing misdemeanors.  More fundamentally, if a job applicant has a record of poor job performance, incompetence, or a series of terminations, there will be no fingerprint record for that person because merely doing a poor job isn’t a crime!

There are other basic problems with relying on nothing more than a fingerprint to decide whether to hire someone or not.  For one thing, doing a fingerprint check on every candidate for employment could violate the guidelines of the EEOC because of the potential disparate impact on minorities.  For another, the way information on the results of a fingerprint check is sent back does not allow the candidate to dispute the results, as required by the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

The problem becomes even worse when fingerprinting is used by public and private schools as the sole determinate of who gets hired and who doesn’t.  In many instances a teacher who behaves in an incompetent, immoral, or insubordinate manner is simply given the choice of resigning or being fired.  Any teacher given that option would be foolish not to resign instead of waiting to be fired, but in neither instance is the departing teacher charged with a crime, so fingerprints are never taken.  Therefore, no fingerprints are on file.  So, what’s the point in a school corporation doing nothing more than a fingerprint check on applicants for teaching positions?  Incompetence in the classroom, for example, is not a crime.  To make sure that a prospective teacher’s background is clear, not only do his or her credentials need to be verified, but also references need to be contacted to access the candidate’s past job performance.  A court record check can also be done, but it needs to be a county specific court check, along with checking the multi-state criminal data base and the sex offender registry.  None of the foregoing data bases require a fingerprint to conduct a far more thorough – and less expensive – criminal court check.

So, is a fingerprint check a safe way to insure that employers, including public and private schools, are using reasonable care in the hiring process to avoid potential accusations of negligent hiring?  No!  Employers need a far more thorough background check to make sure that candidates for employment not only are who they say they are, but also can do the job they claim they can.