News & Resources

Screening issues under fire in 2012

Mar 12, 2012 Matt Roesly

There are more issues and questions surrounding background checks and credit reports for employment than one may initially think. A list recently complied by Employment Screening Resources about the top background check trends for 2012 touches on a variety of subjects, including greater U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) scrutiny,  social media and relatively unknown terms such as "diploma mills" and "offshoring," HR.BLR reports. For instance, the EEOC held a meeting in July to examine how arrest and conviction records are used by employers for background checks to determine employment. Its investigation correlated with increased scrutiny over the "Ban the Box" movement, which aims to remove the criminal history question from job applications altogether. What's more, the validity of credit checks when determining employment eligibility has also come under fire. So far, seven states - California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Oregon and Washington - have enacted laws that limit credit checks by employers for employment purposes, as proponents believe the negative effects of the down economy may have exacerbated many credit issues that would otherwise be moot under normal circumstances. Social media and automation are seen as two alternative screening methods - however, both carry a fair share of risk due to privacy issues. Looking up employment information on platforms such as Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn raises a plethora of red flags about what constitutes private information, and the news source predicts more lawsuits in this area throughout 2012. Automation allows employers to increase efficiency when it comes to sifting through job applications, but risks remain prevalent because unfiltered or inaccurate information may be sent directly to employers. Another harrowing trend is the increase in ''diploma mills," described as "largely online entities whose degrees are worthless due to the lack of valid accreditation and recognition," according to the media outlet. It cites a 2011 report from a European background screening firm that found these mills to have increased in number by 48 percent from 2010. A similar shady effort called offshoring involves employers who send personally identifiable information collected during the screening process outside of the United States to entities not subject to American privacy and ID theft laws. Despite the fact that the U.S. has passed multiple laws that enforce the protection of personally identifiable information - such as the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 - the acts don't extend protection to outside the U.S," according to the website for a Virginia-based screening service. Most companies utilizing this practice do so because it curbs costs, but greater scrutiny of this seemingly illegal practice is likely to impede it going forward.