Top 5 Reasons Why Employers Shouldn’t Rely on FBI Fingerprint Background Checks

Top 5 Reasons Why Employers Shouldn’t Rely on FBI Fingerprint Background Checks
Senior Director of Marketing

FBI fingerprint background checks have gained popularity. When it comes to state legislation regarding background screening requirements for healthcare organizations like home health agencies, for example, FBI background checks are one of the most commonly required types of searches. If legislators are consistently requiring them, they must be a comprehensive background check, right?

The answer, however, is “not necessarily.” While fingerprint-based background checks can be a component of an effective background check process, assuming they offer employers the most accurate, up-to-date, and comprehensive background information could not be much further from the truth.

As a healthcare exclusive background screening firm, PreCheck is dedicated to protecting patient safety in our nation’s healthcare system. While I applaud legislators and States for requiring healthcare organizations to run background checks on new hires, the types of background checks most commonly required leave much to be desired when it comes to mitigating risk. In this article, I review five of the key reasons to supplement the FBI background check with a more comprehensive background check searches.

1. The FBI Database is Inaccurate and Incomplete

In 2013, the National Employment Law Project published a report estimating that the FBI’s inaccuracies are blocking 600,000 Americans annually from “jobs for which they may be perfectly qualified.” One of the key issues with the FBI’s database is that their records fail to report the final outcomes of arrests. According to the U.S. Justice Department, roughly half of the records in the FBI’s database are inaccurate or incomplete. Some legislators have already drafted bills to address the FBI’s faulty database. In July 30, 2013, House of Representatives Bill 2865: Fairness and Accuracy in Employment Background Checks Act of 2013 was introduced to provide safeguards with respect to the FBI criminal background checks prepared for employment purposes. What’s also concerning for employers is that not every conviction is reported to the FBI. Many times, criminal records are only reported to a State database, and that may not be shared with the FBI. Even if a State decides to share records with the FBI, they may not be shared in a timely manner. In other words, the FBI database does not contain the latest and most up-to-date information.

2. An FBI Background Check Doesn’t Meet the Joint Commission’s Primary Source License Verification Standards

An FBI background check does not meet the Joint Commission’s (formerly JCAHO) accreditation standards regarding Primary Source verification of licensure/certification required to practice a profession. The Joint Commission requires verification of competency of all individuals who have direct contact with patients or employees. Competency extends beyond technical skills to an individual’s criminal history. Partnering with a background screening provider, like PreCheck, who understands healthcare accreditation standards can help you design a comprehensive background check that encompasses all of the various components necessary for healthcare professionals. At PreCheck, for example, we’ve even developed a healthcare license management system LicenseManager Pro to help healthcare organizations monitor professional license and certifications on an ongoing basis and comply with the Joint Commission’s standard HR.1.20.

3. FBI Background Checks Don’t Contain OIG/GSA Exclusion Information

In case it wasn’t clear yet, the FBI background check is not a healthcare-specific background check. Consequently, it does not contain information regarding excluded individuals and entities from participating in federal healthcare programs such as Medicare and Medicaid. The Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector General (OIG) has the authority to exclude individuals from participating in programs as well as State Medicaid authorities. But if an FBI background check is the only component of your healthcare organization’s screening program, you’re missing critical healthcare-specific information that can leave your facility exposed to excluded individuals, fraudsters, and criminals. Furthermore, in 2013, the OIG issued a Special Advisory Bulletin in which it recommends that all healthcare organizations participating in federal healthcare programs check the OIG’s List of Excluded Individuals and Entities (LEIE) on a monthly basis in order to minimize the level of risk. Not doing so could leave your facility at risk for incurring Civil Monetary Penalties (CMP’s). At PreCheck, we perform our proprietary SanctionCheck search for new hires, which includes checking the OIG’s LEIE, the GSA’s SAM, the 34 State Medicaid Exclusion Lists, as well as several other federal exclusion lists. This is just another example of information that’s critical for healthcare employers yet it is not available through the FBI’s database search.

4. Consumer Reporting Agency (CRA) Background Checks Are Fast and More Comprehensive

Consumer reporting agencies or CRA’s, like PreCheck, can offer customized background check packages that are more comprehensive in scope than the FBI’s fingerprint background check. I’ve already discussed some of the additional components that a background screening firm can include in the background check package, such as primary source license verification and a federal and state exclusions and sanctions search. There are other components that can also form part of the background check, however, including education verification, a social security trace, employment verifications, and personal references, to name a few. Another advantage of CRA-based background checks is the fast turn-around time for results when compared to the FBI fingerprint background check. FBI fingerprint results can take as long as weeks compared to just days for a CRA background check.

5. CRA’s Offer Greater Consumer Protections

We’ve discussed how the FBI fingerprint background check has been shown to negatively impact around 600,000 Americans seeking jobs each year, according to the latest statistics. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has recently issued its Enforcement Guidance on employers’ use of criminal records, after concern that criminal convictions have a negative impact on the employability of certain minority groups. Consumer reporting agencies or CRA’s, like PreCheck, are subject to consumer protection laws ensuring accuracy and fairness, including the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). These protections include providing disclosure to the consumer (i.e. the job applicant), obtaining written consent from them, and providing them access to a free copy of the report as well as the ability to dispute in the event that there is an inaccuracy. The FCRA guidelines are designed to promote fairness for consumers.

After considering the five points above, it’s clear that there are many disadvantages to the FBI background check specifically for healthcare employers who are subject to accreditation standards and guidelines for participating in federal healthcare programs such as Medicare. While certain states may require an FBI background check for healthcare organizations, it is highly recommended that you conduct additional background checks as part of your employment screening process in order minimize the level of risk for your organization, avoid CMP’s from the OIG, and simply ensure that you are reviewing up-to-date and accurate information.

Are you reviewing your healthcare organization’s background screening program? Contact us today to learn how PreCheck can help you modify your employment screening initiatives to meet the latest healthcare standards and best practices.

PreCheck Background Screening Resource Kit