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Lawmaker introduces bill to amend criminal background screening

Nov 01, 2013 Quinn Thomas

For decades, companies across the United States have been using pre-employment criminal record screenings to ensure they are hiring the best candidates possible. In recent years, the practice has come under heavy scrutiny by a number of groups, including the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Although the organization has been unsuccessful with its attempts to limit such checks in recent months, some lawmakers are taking steps to overhaul policies regulating the use of criminal records in the employment review process.

Earlier this year, Rep. Keith Ellison, D-M.N., introduced a bill that would amend the process the FBI follows when a background screen is requested by an employer.

"Up to 600,000 Americans are wrongfully denied a job every year simply because the information on their background checks is wrong," Ellison said in a statement. "When employers request a background check on a potential employee, the FBI should be required to make sure the information given to employers is accurate and complete."

Named the Accurate Background Check (ABC) Act, the bill would require the FBI to step up efforts for researching missing and incomplete data found on criminal records. Under the proposed legislation, the bureau would have 10 days to fill in such gaps. If the organization is unable to collect final outcomes relating to previous arrests or court cases, the FBI would have to exclude the incomplete entries from their final reports.

Also, the pending policy would allow Americans who apply for positions in the federal government to challenge the accuracy of their criminal background screens.

Errors in checks reported
According to the National Employment Law Project (NELP), about 17 million background checks were conducted by the FBI in 2012. The source noted that mark was six times the number of screens completed a decade ago.

NELP estimated that 1.8 million workers were the subject of FBI screen reports that included false or incomplete data last year.

It's likely that lawmakers will take this information into consideration if Ellison's bill is put to a vote. If passed, the background screening landscape could see a major shift. For this reason, businesses might want to avoid conducting such screens on their own, given the increased scrutiny many lawmakers and federal groups are expressing over background checks.

By partnering with a reputable screening organization, enterprises can ensure that they are conducting lawful checks, which will reduce their chances of being involved in litigation.