Dec 03, 2012 Quinn Thomas
Regardless of who wins, the Arizona case has shown the pitfalls of information overload in an era when virtually all companies are protecting themselves against liability by having background checks done on prospective hires. The Society for Human Resources Management has found that 68 percent of employers conduct criminal background checks on job candidates in addition to verifying job history and other qualifications. But in its Staffing Research report, it acknowledged the difficulty of obtaining accurate information on criminal matters because there is no national clearing house that supplies criminal records for every jurisdiction. As online information proliferates, there are more places to look for information, but also a greater chance that databases will not contain the same facts. Earlier this year, the National Consumer Law Center reported that many databases used by background searchers mismatch people, classify criminal offenses incorrectly and omit critical information. Zachary Kramer, who teaches employment law at Arizona State University, said he isn't surprised that companies that conduct such searches sometimes rely on incomplete or outdated information when they look into a person's background. "It happens a lot," Kramer told the Arizona Republic. "A background check is supported by data, and when the data isn’t right, it’s an incredible hassle for everyone to try to correct [it]."
The upside is that filing complaints and lawsuits when incorrect information leads to a job loss "can encourage the background-check companies to do a better job," Kramer added.