Employers: Why Use an NAPBS Accredited Firm as a Background Screening Provider?
What’s all that ruckus you ask, well PreCheck’s been celebrating. If you haven’t heard, in early May 2013, we were awarded industry accreditation from the National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS). As the individual responsible for coordinating the accreditation effort in my firm, I could go on and on about the labor, the hours, the effort, the blood, sweat, and tears. But other than those who’ve suffered through a similar plight and emerged victorious, no one would care. Those of us who’ve borne the responsibility of spearheading any audit or accreditation effort recognize in each other the soul-draining effects of that monolithic project. And if we come out of it alive and kicking, we gain instant membership into a brethrenhood of survivors—a special breed, we are.
So I won’t bore those non-members of this elite-class with the gory details of accreditation, but I will share why it even matters. As an employer using or looking for a background screening firm, why does NAPBS Accreditation matter?
Now, it’s crossed my mind to deliver the expected marketing spiel about “the benefits of accreditation,” but since I have this opportunity to tell you in my own voice, let me give it to you straight. My pledge to you in this piece: no marketing fluff. I will keep this as simple and straightforward as possible as not to waste your time or insult your intelligence. As the person in my company who lobbied for accreditation and who saw it through, this is my list of why I think employers should use an NAPBS accredited firm.
Top 5 Reasons to Use an NAPBS Accredited Firm for Background Checks
1. Accredited firms are committed to quality. Earning accreditation is no joke. It involves demonstrating compliance with all 58 clauses that cover six categories including “Data Information and Security,” “Legal and Compliance,” and “Client Education,” among others. A firm has to comply with all 58 clauses to earn accreditation. It’s all or nothing; there’s no B+ rating. After the application process, once a company is ready, it submits to a desk review of all its policies and procedures, and then it undergoes a site audit by a third party auditor.
All screening companies talk about commitment to quality, but the accredited firms were willing to put in the money, the man-power, the hours, the effort, and the resources to actually earn accreditation. Upon achieving accreditation, all accredited firms come to the same conclusion: the accreditation process resulted in more efficient operations and made them even better equipped to take care of their clients.
2. They operate above industry standards. Achieving accreditation comes down to demonstrating that the firm’s operations meets or exceeds industry best practice. This part is pretty straight forward. If the firm wasn’t up to snuff, it had to implement a better way.
3. They take security and privacy concerns seriously. Again, it’s easy to make unverified promises about privacy protection. And having the best technology and IT team is only half the battle. It’s absolutely critical to have ongoing staff training, effective processes, and tight procedures in place and executed on a daily basis to ensure employees are protecting the sensitive information they work with day in and day out. Most data breaches don’t result from external intrusions but rather internal oversight and failed controls.
4. They focus on compliance. If you order background checks, you should know that there are regulations around creating and using those reports. The screening firm that produces those consumer reports as well as the employers that use them to make hiring and retention decisions must comply with both federal and state laws. Accreditation means the background screening firm understands and is adhering to their legal duties and can help you understand your responsibilities as well.
5. They are committed to their industry. You may think accreditation is strictly about an individual firm distinguishing itself from its competition in the sea of background check companies. That’s absolutely true. But you should also know that for those of us who are active members of NAPBS, like myself, we are in fact rooting for our colleagues in the industry to reach accreditation as well. We know the more firms that get accredited, the more the public will understand that ours is an industry that is committed to doing things right. In the long run, after many more companies have become accredited, it’ll be apparent which firms aren’t making the cut, whether they can’t or simply can’t be bothered.
And exactly what does all of this mean to you, the employer? Simply put, using an accredited firm translates into higher quality background checks, better customer service, stronger client education, and less risk for your hiring decisions. There you have it, employers. Now you know what separates the men from the boys.
FCRA Compliance: What Employers Need to Know Before Running Background Checks
As an employer relying on a third party to run background checks on job candidates or existing employees, you must follow the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). Your responsibilities are detailed in the document entitled “Notice to Users of Consumer Reports: Obligations of Users under the FCRA.” Below is a breakdown of your essential duties under the Act. If you have any questions, consult qualified counsel.
FCRA Compliance Basics in 5 Steps
1. Permissible Purpose - Ensure you are only ordering background checks for employment purposes. "Employment" is a broad category that includes hiring, retention, promotion, transfers, and can include volunteers, contractors, etc. In the case of a Medical Staffing department, for example, this can include appointment or reappointment of physicians.
2. Disclosure - In a written document, inform the consumer that a background check may be obtained as a condition of employment. The disclosure can't be combined with any other form except the authorization.
3. Authorization - Before ordering a background check, obtain written consent from the individual that a consumer report can be obtained now and throughout the term of employment.
4. Certifications - As the "end user" of consumer reports, you must certify the following to the screening firm:
- You will only obtain background checks for permissible purpose (employment).
- You will make clear disclosures to and obtain consent from consumers before ordering reports.
- You will not use the consumer report in violation of any federal or state equal opportunity laws.
If you make a negative employment decision based on information on the report, you will properly follow adverse action procedures, as outlined below.
5. Adverse Action - If adverse information on a report is used by you to make a negative employment decision, you must take the following actions before rescinding an offer of employment or terminating an employee. Remember, taking adverse action involves a two-prong notification process:
In a written, oral, or electronic pre-adverse notice, inform the consumer of:
- The name, address, and telephone number of the background screening company that assembled the report.
- The fact that the background screening firm did not make the adverse decision and cannot explain why the decision was made.
- His/her right to a free file disclosure if a request is made to the screening firm within 60 days.
- His/her right to contact the screening company directly to dispute inaccurate or incomplete information on the report.
- Once the pre-adverse notice is sent, allow the consumer 5 days to contact the screening company to dispute the report. After 5 days, if you do not hear from the consumer or the background check provider, proceed with your final employment decision.
- However, if the consumer disputes information on the report, the screening firm will perform a reinvestigation that must be completed within 30 days and at not cost to the consumer. The screening company must update you and the consumer of the reinvestigation results.
If and when making a final adverse decision, you must send the consumer a final adverse notice.
Changes to Georgia Expungement and Restriction of Certain Criminal Records
On May 2, 2012 Governor Nathan Deal signed into law significant changes to O.C.G.A. §35-3-37, the law that governs expungement, restriction, correction and supplementation of criminal records in the state of Georgia. This legislative reform is aimed at removing barriers to employment and housing for individuals with criminal history in order to reduce recidivism rates in the state. The Georgia Justice Project (GJP) focuses its mission on breaking the cycle of poverty and crime. GJP sites that at the time of their arrest, 90% of individuals are considered below the poverty line. When certain criminal history information like arrest and dismissed records follows individuals, it further reduces their chances of obtaining stable employment. Without the ability to provide for themselves and their families, the likelihood for recidivism increases.
The new law, which goes into effect July 1, 2013, affects those with criminal history in two key ways. First, it effectively shifts the current burden of the expungement process from the subject of the criminal record to the agencies that will now be responsible for restricting criminal data eligible for expungement and restriction. Secondly, it expands the types of criminal history eligible for restriction/expungement.
Currently, if a record qualifies for expungement in the state of Georgia, the subject of the record is responsible for the potentially costly and typically time-consuming and slow moving process of petitioning the court for record expungement. Additionally, even after a record has been officially expunged at the court level, it may have previously been collected by companies that own and maintain criminal record databases, and these firms may not update the changes in a timely manner. Therefore, if background screening companies and employers obtain their information from these databases that do not possess the most up-to-date information, the subject of the record is still potentially harmed even if his/her record is already expunged.
Effective July 1, 2013, under the following conditions, the arresting agency and the Georgia Crime Information Center will automatically restrict the following information:
- certain arrests are not referred for formal charge
- the prosecution dismisses without seeking formal charges
- the Grand Jury returns two “no-bills,”
Further, the new law directs the following agencies to restrict/expunge certain eligible criminal data after formal charges:
- The arresting agency -The Georgia Crime Information Center
- Jails and detention centers (must restrict within 30 days of request by individual)
- Clerks of Court (must restrict within 60 days of an order of the court)
There are eight (8) types of cases where an individual may qualify for expungement/restriction after formal charge, and this includes cases that are dismissed or not prosecuted (nolle prosequi). There are also notable exceptions to the overall qualifications for expungment/restiction. Detailed and comprehensive information compiled by the Georgia Justice Project can be found here. Georgia employers and schools are highly advised to consult this document to gain a complete understanding of the information to which you will no longer have access come July 1, 2013.
Photo credit: Jimmy Emerson.
Criminal Searches Uncovered, Part 1
At PreCheck, we’re often asked about criminal record searches whether it be how they are obtained, what coverage they offer the clients we work with day in and day out, and other burning questions. Our clients aren’t alone; we know the world of criminal records can be a confusing one! Today (and as part of an ongoing series) we hope to set the record straight and shed some light on this mystical topic by sharing a few basics regarding criminal record searches. Other related topics coming up in this series will be fingerprinting, as well as the threats that currently exist to criminal record reporting.
Types of Criminal Searches
Criminal record searches come in a wide variety of type and scope. The most often requested searches for the purpose of this blog are County level, State level, National and Federal searches. It should be noted that in the healthcare industry the terminology "primary source" holds great importance especially in light of certain accreditation programs. Primary source speaks to the original source of information, and when considering criminal records, the primary source is in most case the County level record. The charge and documentation often begins within the County Courthouse, and consequently, contains a high level of detail.
Statewide searches are sometimes utilized to supplement County level searches, or in some areas a Statewide search might be known to be an equally detailed search in comparison with the Counties within that state. It is important to understand that there is no enforcement mechanism for ensuring how often a county shares their criminal record information (and any updates after their original filing) with their home state. This also holds true for what details are shared, as a record located at a County Courthouse can have more detail than what is shared with their state.
National searches (aka National Criminal Database Searches) are a term used that can be exceptionally confusing. For the record, there is no single database that reflects real-time up to date county level information for all counties across the country. Not even the FBI's database offers this. In a 2006 report from the Attorney General regarding criminal history background checks, it was stated that the FBI's repository known as the Interstate Identification Index (III or "Triple I") system, although quite comprehensive, was "missing final disposition information for approximately 50 percent of its records." Acknowledging this statement, it stands to reason that research would still be required at a primary source or County level to confirm current status of records located without disposition to ensure reportability under the Fair Credit Reporting Act. This is not to discredit the value of the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) or the III. The NCIC is a great tool for those who have access to it, and for our clients who have access to the NCIC database, we recommend a blended approach of using County level searches along with the NCIC.
Federal criminal searches are performed at the Federal Court level. They are often utilized on background checks for candidates being considered for executive level positions, those who may handle sensitive data or financial information. Criminal records filed at federal district courts will not be found if only county or statewide searches are conducted.
Methods of Performing Criminal Searches
Not only are there many types of searches, but how they are performed can vary as well. County level criminal searches may be performed at public access terminals provided right inside the courthouse, or may require a search request being provided directly to a court clerk. Some Counties will offer online searches of their system. At a minimum, searches are conducted by name and date of birth to establish a match. Common names would require additional unique identifiers to confirm a record match. Due to privacy concerns, most criminal records do not have a social security number associated with them, so searching by SSN is not an option.
Statewide searches are performed online through a website provided by the state, or if required by a particular statute, there may be a specific process for how someone approved with access submit their inquiry for a statewide search.
National criminal database searches are often done online through a site hosted by the data aggregator.
Federal court searches may be performed by using a public access website service provided by the United States Judiciary. Searching can be done in a limited number of ways, including case number and name. Federal court records are not searchable by SSN, however, which can create quite a challenge when searching a common name. Imagine how many possible matches one might find for "John Smith."
How Long does a Criminal Record Search Take?
One of the more popular questions received in our industry concerns how long it will take to complete a criminal search. So, what's the answer? I know our readers are on the edge of their seats... You know the joke where when asked to choose between two things someone simply responds with "Yes?" Criminal search turnaround time is a lot like that punch line—confusing, unclear, and in most cases, not funny.
Full disclosure is important, however, and it's in that vein that we must tell you it really can vary across jurisdictions. Why? A number of reasons contribute to turnaround time. Accessibility of the information, for example—is it readily available to the public at a terminal onsite at the courthouse or via a website hosted online by the court? Does the court require search requests to be submitted in person? And are you "at the mercy of the court" and must simply wait indefinitely for the clerk to conduct the search him or herself? If the search is made or performed in person on site at a courthouse, is that courthouse open five days a week? Be aware, streamlined budgets and furloughs are a reality that many states and counties face and, in turn, can impact how quickly a result can be received.
Another factor to consider that will impact turnaround time would be the potential research required to confirm or rule out a possible match. In discussing the methods for performing searches you'll recall the point made that not all records contain a SSN, one of the identifiers thought to be most unique to an individual outside of fingerprints. When the only search filter criteria are Name and Date of Birth, and you receive multiple possible matches, additional work is required to ensure that you have an accurate record information. That work involves trying to locate additional identifiers to positively confirm or clear a record. When identifiers are limited, a public records investigator must be resourceful in order to uncover relevant information necessary to resolve a search.
These are some of the most common contributing factors to turnaround time, and the good news is that one can see instant or same day results in those places where access is provided to the public by website or terminal. The bad news is that one can also experience longer wait times for results certain areas of the country (greetings to our San Luis Obispo, CA readers!). If there's ever a particular area that you're curious about, give us a call and we'll be happy to advise on expected turnaround time.
I hope you've enjoyed this first installment of our Criminal Searches blog series. For our more advanced readers who are already familiar with the Criminal Records Search basics just covered, I do hope you'll come back as we cover other topics.
Photo credit, Lisa Padilla.
Details NBC's Today Show Neglected to Disclose Regarding Background Checks
Earlier this morning, NBC’s Today Show aired a segment about how employment background screening inaccuracies can cost applicants their jobs. While the examples shared during the segment are unfortunate, they do not represent the overall standard of quality in the industry. More importantly, the practices discussed in that segment do not reflect the manner in which PreCheck conducts and reports criminal records to our clients.
We would like to take this opportunity to address some of the issues raised in the Today Show segment:
Database Searches – It’s important to recognize that all the examples of errors featured in the story stem from one type of screening practice, that of automated database searches. When employers demand low-cost background checks and insist on completely automated products in order to get results back instantly and at minimal cost, rest assured there are background screening firms readily available to offer such options. However, PreCheck understands that such products do not meet the needs of our clients. Therefore, we conduct county level court searches to ensure accurate results for our clients.
Name Only Records – PreCheck does not report records that are matched only by name with no other identifier. We believe that practice does not meet the legal requirement of “maximum possible accuracy” as stated in the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), the law that governs background checks. We typically report records based on name and date of birth match, in addition to other identifiers, if available. Further, we absolutely require an additional identifier for common names. However, employers and consumers alike should be aware that with the threat of identity theft, lawmakers and the courts are pushing to redact more and more identifying information on criminal records, believing such a practice protects consumers’ sensitive information. Unfortunately, removing unique identifiers makes it more and more challenging to clear possible records.
10% Error Rate – While the source of this figure was not cited during the interview, this error rate likely compromises all types of inaccuracies, not strictly misattribution of records where an individual is reported to have a criminal record when s/he in fact does not. PreCheck’s annual error rate based on total number of reports that we amend due to an error or inaccuracy versus total number of reports is .22%. We have over a 99.7% accuracy rate. When we calculate this percentage based upon the total number of individual criminal searches we conduct, the percentage falls to a miniscule .007% of all criminal searches that result in an error.
Reinvestigations – The segment correctly stated that the FCRA allows background screening companies up to 30 days to correct any mistakes or inaccuracies, but when PreCheck receives any disputes from consumers, we work with them to resolve inaccuracies immediately. On average, we complete reinvestigations and amend reports in less than three business days. In the event it may take longer, it is typically because PreCheck must await additional information or materials from the subject of the report or from the actual court.
PreCheck feels it is unfortunate that the Today Show segment chose to focus strictly on a few sensational errors while completely failing to acknowledge the necessity in conducting employment background checks. We hope the points discussed above shed light on any questions you may have. We invite you to contact our Director of Compliance, Vu Do, should you have any concerns.
We also encourage you to read the official press release from NAPBS, Setting the Record Straight: NAPBS Responds to Today Show report on Background Screening.
Video still credit: MSNBC.com
Why Employers Should be Concerned About Diploma Mills
As the job market remains competitive, PreCheck has noticed an upswing in our detection and reporting of diploma mills as we conduct education verifications for our clients. There is no indication this trend will decrease. So what does this mean for employers?
What's a Diploma Mill?
A diploma mill is a fraudulent education institution that primarily markets its programs online and awards degrees or certifications for a fee when little or no work is actually performed to earn that degree. Essentially, the degree awarded by a diploma mill offers no value to an employer. To the purchaser, it provides the appearance of educational achievement.
The Federal Trade Commission, the federal agency that focuses on preventing consumer fraud, issued a consumer alert on diploma mills back in 2006 entitled "Diploma Mills: Degrees of Deception." The alert identifies a diploma mill as "a company that offers 'degrees' or certificates for a flat fee, requires little coursework, if any, and awards degrees based solely on life experience."
Diploma Mills' Impact to Employers
If undetected by the employer or the background screening firm performing the education verification, the fake degree can potentially result in harm to others if the job requires technical knowledge and training that the applicant does not actually possess. Additionally, an undetected diploma mill can eventually be the cause of embarrassment for an employer if the public, the media, a client, or a regulatory agency learns that an employee or company official does not possess a degree from an accredited education institution. There is certainly an expectation that this information is adequately verified when an applicant becomes an employee. Employers performing their own education verification or relying on a screening firm to conduct primary source verification need to be vigilant and be aware of the pervasiveness of these bogus institutions.
The Tell Tale Signs of a Diploma Mill
The common denominators to identify a diploma mill include:
- The ability to earn or be awarded a degree, diploma, or certificate when little or no work is performed. Degrees awarded for "life experience."
- The ability to earn a degree in a matter of days or a few weeks
- A degree guaranteed for a flat fee
- School's lack of accreditation by an accrediting agency or association that is recognized as an accrediting agency or association of institutions of higher education
- Verification of the accrediting body may reveal that it is connected to the institution itself
- A very standard website that closely resembles other online degree program websites
- An institution bearing a name very close to the name of a legitimate and widely known institution (Clemson College vs. Clemson University in SC, Columbia State University vs. Columbia University in NY, Dartmouth University vs. Dartmouth College in NH)
What Employers Need to Do When They Discover a Diploma Mill
It is essential that employers have an actual policy in place that defines consistent and appropriate actions when they learn an applicant or employee received a degree or certificate from a diploma mill. Among other points, an employer's policy should consider:
- Explicitly defining its position as it relates to the acceptance/rejection of degrees awarded from a diploma mill
- Defining what constitutes acceptable degrees (i.e. must be awarded by an institution accredited by an agency recognized by the US Department of Education, institution must not be named on listings of known diploma mills, etc.)
- Any exceptions when a diploma mill-issued certification/degree is not relevant to or a requirement of the actual position
In addition to establishing an internal HR policy, the employer should inform applicants and employees that it will not recognize degrees, diplomas, or certifications awarded from diploma mills. In drafting and posting job requirements, employers should specify that in order to meet the education requirements for positions, applicants must attain those degrees or certifications from institutions accredited by an agency recognized by the US Department of Education and that the institution must not be named on listings of known diploma mills.
Employers are advised to consult with qualified counsel to draft an appropriate policy.
Photo credit, .:[ Melissa ]:.
The Fundamentals of a Social Trace
You've heard the term and you suspect you know what it is, but what exactly is a social trace, and why is it important?
Background Report Basics
The social trace is a fundamental tool and part of most employment background checks. Let's first understand the standard components of a background check to better grasp the function of the social trace.
Typically, an employment background check consists of conducting some or all of the following searches:
- Social Trace
- Sex Offender Registry Search
- Criminal Records Search (county, state, multi-jurisdiction or national, federal, etc.)
- OIG Sanction Check
- Professional License Verification
- Employment Verification
- Education Verification
- Professional References
Each of the above components contributes one puzzle piece to an applicant's history. But how does an employer or background screening firm know where to look for criminal records or under what names to search? Typically, this information is provided by the applicant or employee in an employment application. That means searching for critical information about the applicant or employee relies exclusively on that individual's full disclosure.
Obviously, when the applicant wants the employer to verify his/her educational achievements or favorable work history, it's in his/her best interest to give the employer complete and accurate information to search. But what if the applicant has something to hide or does not want to reveal the complete picture to a potential employer? This is where the social trace serves as a critical tool.
What is a Social Trace?
The social security trace is a search based on the social security number submitted by the applicant. The search itself returns all the credit header information associated with that SSN. This does not mean a credit check is being run. As consumers and employers are sometimes confused, this bears repeating: credit header information is not the equivalent of a credit report and does not involve credit scores. The information returned on a social trace product are all the names, including aliases and variations, all the dates of birth (now truncated to not include year of birth), and all address history associated with that SSN.
Social Trace—A Tool Not Without Its Shortcomings
Once the social trace is returned, the background screening firm combs through the report to extract names, aliases, and jurisdictions to conduct the various criminal records searches. This exercise can actually be more of an art than a science for the following reasons:
Because consumer information is entered and compiled countless times over from various consumer databases, inaccuracies such as typos, transposed digits, misspellings, are not uncommon. Additionally, the following scenarios must be considered in reviewing the contents of a social trace.
- Names of other individuals such as parents, spouses, family members may appear on the social trace if they have ever co-signed for the applicant or if the two individuals' names appear together on an application for credit.
- The names and DOBs of both father and son may appear on the same social trace for men who are second, third, etc. generation and bear the same name (e.g. George Williams II & George Williams III or Michael James Jr. and Michael James Sr.)
Sometimes, an SSN will not return any results on a social trace due to:
- The applicant's limited credit history, often a result of their young age and absence of credit history
- The applicant's limited credit history if s/he was only recently assigned a social security number
- Data entry error by the client
- Reporting error by the applicant
- Fraud by the applicant
The True Value of a Social Trace
Most screening firms train their staff to order appropriate searches based on a thorough review of the contents of the social trace. They look for strong associations between names and jurisdictions. They typically would not order searches for names that are obvious typos or misspellings.
Above all else, they are particularly interested in names and locations that have not been disclosed. And they should be conducting the appropriate criminal records and other searches based on that uncovered information. One of the most gratifying discoveries for a background screening firm is to run a search on an undisclosed name in an undisclosed jurisdiction and to locate a pertinent criminal record that can be positively tied to the applicant who made a conscious effort to hide that information from their prospective employer. Without the social trace, the discovery of such a criminal record would not be possible.
What a Social Trace Does Not Do
Users of background reports should understand that the social trace does not verify or confirm the validity of a social security number issued from the Social Security Administration. Nor is the social trace a comprehensive identity verification tool. If an employer submits to its background check provider an applicant's SSN that in turn produces identifying information that does not match that of the applicant or that does not produce any results at all, the employer needs to pursue further verification with the applicant directly. Ultimately, it is the employer's responsibility to verify the applicant's/employee's identity through the I-9 or other process. The social security trace is not a tool used for this purpose.
Photo credit, DonkeyHotey.
Hospitals May Be Running the Right Kinds of Employment Background Checks, but What About the Staffing Firms They Use?
The recent case of David Kwiatkowski, the traveling radiologic technologist who exposed countless patients to Hepatitis C, shines a spotlight on healthcare employment screening practices in general and those of healthcare staffing firms in particular. Kwiatkowski allegedly stole Fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opiate used as a post-surgery anesthetic, and replaced the syringes with saline where those needles were then used on patients, infecting them with Hepatitis C. Working for numerous healthcare staffing companies, this serial infector moved from state to state, harming innocent patients along the way. Kwiatkowski is believed to have infected over 30 patients at Exeter Hospital in New Hampshire until he was apprehended by authorities in July 2012.
At the heart of the tragedy is how Kwiatkowski managed to move effortlessly between states, staffing companies, and hospitals when he in fact has a history of substance abuse and drug diversion. Most disturbing is that some previous employers terminated him for these very reasons, and yet he was able to quickly hop on a plane and head to his next hospital stint. Prior to working at Exeter, Kwiatkowski worked in Arizona, Pennsylvania, Kansas and Georgia. It was while he was employed in Arizona that Kwiatkowski was fired for diverting Fentanyl. The Exeter outbreak that came to light only leads to more speculation about the extent of the damage he has wreaked.
Now that screening practices such as license verification and employment reference checking are being called into question, both the staffing companies that hired Kwiatkowski and the hospitals where he was placed are deflecting blame. Finger-pointing aside, this case forces healthcare employers and staffing firms alike to examine and fortify their own practices.
A hospital utilizing a staffing partner cannot afford to operate under assumptions. Before signing an agreement with a staffing provider, the hospital must lay out the terms of the background screening requirements. The individuals being placed by staffing firms are technically the employees of the staffing firm, not the hospital where they will be placed. However, patients, patients’ families, and the community at large do not distinguish between a hospital employee and a staffing firm employee. If a health provider’s name makes it in the news because of a patient violation, the community and public at large associate the crime with the hospital, not the staffing firm. Hospitals need to ensure they know who is working with their patients and colleagues.
So, how can healthcare employers and their staffing partners work together to ensure only the right types of individuals are being assigned?
Hospitals should require more than a general attestation or a single clause in a contract requiring a staffing firm to vaguely "run background checks on their employees."
The Hospital should outline in a contractual agreement the specifics of the types of screening the staffing firm is required to run on candidates it will place. In general, the staffing background check should mirror that which the hospital runs on its own employees.
At minimum, the details should include the various search types and components (e.g. primary source professional license verification, education verification, previous employment verification, sanctions and exclusion screening, criminal records search, sex offender registry search, etc.), how far back searches need to be conducted, inclusion of maiden/alias name searches, search sources, etc.
The hospital is also in a position to specify which approved background screening company or companies must or should be used.
A decision must be made about who will be viewing the actual background check results. If the hospital will be gaining access to these consumer reports, the language in the consumer report authorization form should reflect this permission granted by the subject of the report.
The two parties should agree on who will be reviewing and make decisions about any negative information that comes back on a report.
And in advance of that discussion, there needs to be an understanding and agreement on what constitutes negative information. Will the staffing firm be interpreting the healthcare employer's hiring standards? Will that standard be specific enough and include details about what results are disqualifications for which positions?
- Both parties need to understand their duties under the Fair Credit Reporting Act and pay particular attention to properly carrying out their adverse action responsibilities.
Hospitals rely on the services of their staffing partners to deliver safe and effective healthcare to patients. They need qualified and experienced healthcare professionals who can fill a position quickly. Unfortunately, it's the need for speed that is sometimes directly responsible for shortcuts and oversights, like the ones that led to the repeated hiring of David Kwiatkowski. Healthcare employers must work effectively with their staffing partners to fully understand and approve of the screening that occurs prior to any candidates being placed in their facility.
Photo credit, Frenkieb.
How Your Authorization and Release Form Can Make a Big Difference
As a reputable employer yourself, it probably comes as no surprise that the majority of employers and educational institutions that we contact for verifying applicant history or credentials require that we provide them with an authorization (release) form signed by the applicant before they will provide any information. As people continue to become even more concerned with sensitivity of personal information and maintaining secure data, we are seeing an increasing trend in such requirements.
Issues arise when we are unable to provide the form at the time of our request, and the completion of the background check is delayed. To compound the situation, hiring is as competitive as ever, if not more so.
If you are not already today sharing your release forms at the time of placing your order with us we urge you to reconsider. If you collect hard copy forms you can simply include the form along with your order, whether you fax or email to us. If you’re interested in an electronic and paperless solution, we even offer an online release form that you can ask applicants to complete on our website, reducing your need to forward that particular form to us. You provide them with a link or even verbal instructions, including a code specific to your location, and they are stored until you place your background check order through whatever means you choose.
Whatever option you employ, having the release form at the time that we contact an employer, educational institution, or other agencies on your behalf can make a big difference. We understand how important it is to make fast and informed hiring decisions. Having the release form from the beginning of the process also ensures we have all alias names an applicant may have gone by.
If you’d like more information about our online release form solution or have additional questions, please contact your PreCheck Client Account Manager.
Photo credit, Filippo Diotalevi
The Optimal Time To Submit Your Background Check Order
Ever wonder if there's a best time for submitting your background check order? PreCheck recommends a general rule of thumb—the earlier in the day you can send in your request, the better. We don't publish a hard and fast cut-off time because we know that volumes and hiring practices can fluctuate, but we suggest sending in orders during the first half of your day.
Consider the following when submitting your background check:
- Most employers, schools, and courthouses keep similar hours to you and your office. So if you receive a request for employment verification at the end of the day, like most other employers, you're probably not likely to respond at that time.
- With more and more employers running background checks and hiring back on the rise, employers, schools, and courts are hit with higher than ever request volumes.
- Much like our recommendation for you to submit orders early in the day, our criminal record researchers request the same from us. Depending on the county, some researchers head out to the courts either once or twice a day. Late submissions typically go out the following day.
- For those court record searches that must be conducted by court clerks, after the researcher submits the search request to the court clerk, that request sits in a queue until the clerk runs the search.
Clearly you see that requests that come in can't be processed immediately for a number of reasons, but by following our rule-of-thumb of morning submissions and providing complete information, we believe you'll start to see a faster return on your background reports.
Photo credit, Josh Suhr