Written by: Roy Maurer
This is the first article in a two-part series. The next installment will examine how employers can ensure data security in the screening process and what to expect with forthcoming artificial intelligence technology.
Employers are ramping up their use of social media screening and real-time employee monitoring in 2019. And the demand for workers in a tight labor market will push more companies to consider applicants they may have once ignored: those with criminal records.
Social Media Checks
Employers have shown increasing interest in screening candidates’ online presence.
In 2019, more background-check providers will offer online and social media searches as part of their suite of products, but employers must ensure that these searches protect candidate privacy and don’t run afoul of the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) or standards set by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
“Social media screening presents opportunities for recruiters to find candidates and to reduce risk, but at the same time, these searches can create a legal minefield of potential liability,” said Les Rosen, founder and CEO of Employment Screening Resources, a background-screening firm in Novato, Calif.
Interest in social media screening has grown significantly over the last few years, said Bianca Lager, the president of Santa Barbara, Calif.-based Social Intelligence Corp., a leading provider of social media screening reports. “We now see almost daily news stories of someone getting into trouble with their employer over what they’ve written online,” she said. “Hiring companies know they can’t get away with ignoring social media as part of the background-screening process any longer, but the DIY approach is incredibly troubling for candidates in terms of privacy, accuracy and discrimination.”
If HR professionals are conducting their own online searches on job candidates, they need to stop, said Montserrat Miller, an attorney with Arnall Golden Gregory, based in Atlanta. “The potential for a discrimination claim far outweighs the cost of adding a social media screening option from a vendor.”
Rosen said that employers should be wary of discovering too much information—or “TMI”—on social media. ” ‘TMI’ means by looking at [an applicant’s] social media site or perhaps a photo or something that they have blogged about, you are going to learn all sorts of things as an employer you don’t want to know and [that] legally cannot be the basis of a decision,” he said. Job applicants can sue employers for discrimination if they believe they were not hired due to protected characteristics covered by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, including race, color, religion, sex or national origin.
“Even the appearance of a decision not to hire someone based on a negative impression related to race, gender, religion, or other protected classes could subject [employers] to a discrimination lawsuit,” said Christine Cunneen, CEO of Providence, R.I.-based background-check company Hire Image.
Experts agree that if employers decide to screen an applicant through social media, the best way to reduce legal risk is by having a third-party vendor perform the search instead of doing it in-house. Background-check providers that perform social media screening must comply with the FCRA and produce accurate reports scrubbed of protected characteristics.
“Social media reports won’t show whether or not someone is Muslim or gay or a military veteran, to protect the employer from a discrimination claim,” Miller said. “They will only provide instances of actionable, offensive information, for example relating to criminal activity, violent behavior or making racist comments.”
Cunneen added that employers need to be careful not to violate candidate privacy. Social media screens should be drawn only from user-generated, publicly available information and not from third-party content or password-protected sites. “If the applicant’s social media settings are set to public, that information is open for anyone, including potential future employers, to review,” she said. “However, if their profile is set to private, the employer cannot try to bypass those settings without risking exposure to potential liability down the road.”
New technology lets companies go beyond pre-employment checks and rescreens to real-time monitoring of current employees for warning signs of illegal or other concerning behavior.
“Employee monitoring is one of the biggest trends I’m seeing,” said Jason Morris, an employment screening consultant and industry expert with Morris Group Consulting in the Cleveland area.
“Justifiably, employers will always want to know who is working for them—not just [during] hiring but throughout their employment relationship,” Cunneen said. “A current employee can engage in illegal behavior as much now as he or she could have before they were an employee.”
Uber announced plans last year for ongoing monitoring of arrest and conviction data on their drivers. “These tools have been around for a while, but end users are finally seeing the benefits, and the data is getting better,” Morris said.
Uber teamed with San Francisco-based screening firm Checkr to get continuous updates about drivers’ records, including new criminal violations and license suspensions. The technology will notify Uber, for example, when a driver is charged with driving under the influence.
“It is a subscription that listens to a candidate’s data over time, looking for and identifying changes in their background to mitigate risk for companies,” said Tomas Barreto, vice president of product and engineering at Checkr. If new information triggers a full background check, the worker is also notified, he said.
“While there are some industries whose regulations have mandated continuous or some form of periodic screening, such as health care, we are seeing more industries embrace the idea,” said Melissa Sorenson, executive director of the National Association of Professional Background Screeners. “Like any background-screening program, it’s important for employers to ensure they follow both federal and state law related to background screening—including following disclosure and authorization requirements before conducting a background check, as well as adverse action processes in the event that the results of the background check lead the employer to consider not hiring, promoting or retaining the individual.”
Hiring People with Criminal Records
Research shows a majority of HR professionals find little difference in quality of hire between applicants with and without a criminal record.
“The fact that employers cannot find workers due to the current labor shortage has caused them to turn to an untapped and underutilized source of labor: ex-offenders and [former] inmates from the approximately 20 million Americans who have been convicted of a felony,” Rosen said.
The Prison Policy Initiative calculated the ex-offender unemployment rate to be 27 percent, higher than the total U.S. unemployment rate at any time, including during the Great Depression.
Alonzo Martinez, associate counsel for compliance at background-screening company HireRight, said that with the number of unfilled positions now exceeding the labor pool, employers are recognizing the potential in this previously untapped group of candidates.
“While a criminal record should never be an automatic deal breaker—especially for candidates who have misdemeanors on their records, have served their time or have been rehabilitated—in the current market, employers are increasingly considering candidates with criminal records and redefining policies and requirements to lower some of the barriers to employment that ex-offenders face,” he said.
“Companies recognize that hiring from this population is the right thing to do, but it’s also good business,” said Richard Bronson, the founder and CEO of 70MillionJobs, the first for-profit job board specifically for job seekers with criminal records.
“Companies are motivated by the bottom line, and they recognize that unfilled jobs are costly. Every single company I talk to says they are facing a staffing shortage or they have trouble retaining their workers, particularly at the lower end of the wage scale. Perhaps they would not have been eager to consider this population before, but I think they generally recognize that they can ill afford to ignore any large pool of talent out there, and this is arguably one of the largest. One in three adults have a record of some kind.”
The industries most hospitable to people with criminal records have been call centers, construction, health care, manufacturing, retail, and transportation and warehousing. “The technology sector has been woefully reticent to take action,” Bronson said. “They talk a good game but don’t deliver when it comes to actually hiring.”
Martinez said HR must be cognizant of the challenges involved with screening the ex-offender population, such as a longer turnaround time to ensure a complete assessment.
“Companies should continue to perform thorough background checks and conduct individualized assessments of candidates with criminal history, per EEOC guidance,” he said. “It would also benefit companies to review their hiring requirements to determine the types and depth of screening that is necessary for each job position. This can reduce the volume of acceptable hires that are unnecessarily flagged for additional review for reasons that are not related to the role’s responsibilities.”
Written by IT-ONLINE
Digital transformation is changing the way people and industries engage. Access to information has become easily attainable and platforms have evolved to allow for remote services on-demand.
What does this mean for the background screening industry? Should professional vetting companies utilize this online data because it is now easier to access, and is background screening still meeting its purpose on these platforms?
With social media platforms making personal information available at a click of a button, it is difficult for employers to ‘play blind’ to the reality of what is available for public scrutiny. “While it may be hard for an employer to ignore character traits of an employee based on what the employee has posted or been tagged in on social media, it is very important that the employer considers if such screening is compliant, and consent based,” says Michelle Baron-Williamson, CEO of Managed Integrity Evaluation (MIE).
“We have all read stories about people losing their jobs because an employer discovered something incriminating on their social media pages. However, new regulatory legislature such as the Protection of Personal Information (POPI), are set to guide what personal information is directly relevant to companies when they make hiring decisions, especially as private information becomes more exposed in the public sphere,” adds Baron-Williamson.
“It has been said that compliance will impact technology, processes and the manner in which employers process personal information. As much as technology is providing for easy access to information, as well as convenience and agility, it is still essential that these technologies cater for accuracy and mitigate the risks that come with cyber fraud that can exist on digital platforms.”
As industries make a rapid shift from traditional methods to digital platforms for their own internal processes, the transition is also impacting the background screening arena.
“In recent times, background screening vendors have updated their tools and solutions in an effort to create a seamless candidate and employer experience. Some of the very visible evolutions have been online applications and verifications that provide candidates with progress status in real-time,” elaborates Baron-Williamson. ”
While this is great for user experience, authentication technologies are still important to ensure you are dealing with the right person. Solutions that are merged with biometric verification, such as fingerprint and iris identification, are classic examples of narrowing risks and ensuring accountability.”
Background screening remains an essential practice in the hiring process – which is why it is important to maintain compliance and keep up-to-date with the changing legislation that regulates data. The erupting digital environment is also set to advance in the nuance and sophistication needed to tackle these types of issues, as they arise in the digital world.
“It is possible to embrace new technology without losing credibility for background screening. Digital adoption needs to be centered on security for accuracy – which is the very essence of background screening,” concludes Barron-Williams.
Written By: Aly J. Yale
A full 75% of those landlords were unaware of the scam until after move-in, only noticing when a rent payment was missed or another issue occurred. More than a quarter didn’t notice until seven months later or more.
By then, thousands of dollars in rent and other costs have already been lost. According to TransUnion data, an average of $4,215 is owed per fraudulent tenant, and that doesn’t even include the costs to evict, the lost rent during the months-long eviction process and the additional costs of marketing, readying and re-leasing the property.
An Even Bigger Problem
It doesn’t stop there, though. According to Mike Doherty, senior vice president at TransUnion, there are even more long-term costs to consider.
“Besides the huge potential financial losses, reputational damage is also a top concern of how fraud impacts the organization,” Doherty said. “With some of these emerging fraud types, such as synthetic fraud, the process can become even trickier as the ‘resident’ may not even exist in the first place. This saddles property managers with an even longer time frame for identifying and addressing the issue.”
Synthetic fraud — one of the more common types of renter fraud — occurs when the applicant creates a fake identity in an attempt to secure an address, open lines of credit using that address, and then run up the balances until they’ve been maxed out.
“Synthetic fraud has become a new weapon of choice for fraudsters in which the applicant is nothing more than a manufactured identity,” Doherty said. “In the rental industry, these fraudulent identities are used during the application process and if approved, the fraudster now has access to an address for the purpose of establishing credit. While the fraudster is running up high balances or maxing out credit cards under this false identity, property managers are left with a renter that does not exist and is likely not paying rent.”
The problem lies largely in online applications, which now account for 59% of all rental applications, according to TransUnion.
“Online applications are outpacing those that are submitted in-person,” Doherty said. “This shift to digital has increased accessibility and convenience but as a result, has also increased the propensity for fraud.”
Still, online applications aren’t all that’s at work here. According to James Hilliard, vice president and screening GM at RealPage, data breaches, cyber attacks, and easier access to falsified documents also play a role. Falsified documents only cost a few hundred dollars and take much longer to detect compared to other types of fraud, Hilliard said.
Unfortunately, stopping fraud against property managers isn’t always easy — especially as scam artists get savvier. In fact, according to the TransUnion study, 95% of property managers say they have difficulty identifying, preventing and mitigating fraud.
There are certainly red flags landlords can look out for. According to Hilliard, these include things like exorbitant behavior, lavish income claims, refusal to meet in person or a thin credit file. Only listing friends or family as references is also a warning sign.
But noticing these things isn’t always a sure-fire way to recognize fraud — and denying a renter based on them could even pose legal issues.
“Oftentimes even these basic red flags can be deceiving,” Hilliard said. “Applicants live remotely, use a nickname or middle name, or are young or foreign-born and have no established credit history. What’s more, leasing staff individuals can open themselves to Fair Housing related legal issues if their fraud-seeking actions are not applied equally across applicants.”
Ultimately, the best approach is a multi-layered one, Doherty said. Properly pre-screening tenants, requiring all documentation and identification match exactly and using technology solutions designed to mitigate fraud can all help address the issue more comprehensively.
The Fair Credit Reporting Act (“FCRA”) provides federally-imposed limitations on all employers who seek information from a Consumer Reporting Agency about an applicant or employee for use in making an employment decision, such as a hiring or promotion. The FCRA contains specific notice, authorization, and reporting requirements related to obtaining a Consumer Report, including credit reports and criminal background checks, and potentially taking an adverse employment action based on that information.
Requirements before you request a Consumer Report:
- You must provide a stand-alone notice to an applicant or employee about whom you (1) intend to get a Consumer Report; and (2) may use the Consumer Report information to make an employment decision.
- The notice should not be part of (or included on) the job application or any other document.
- The notice must be signed by the applicant or employee before you request the Consumer Report.
- You must obtain an authorization from an applicant or employee that authorizes you and your agents to obtain a Consumer Report.
- Although technically the authorization language can be included as part of the notice form, given the potential to include language that a court may deem inappropriate for the notice, we recommend that you provide a stand-alone authorization form.
- The authorization must be signed by the applicant or employee before you request the Consumer Report.
Requirements before you take an adverse employment action based on a Consumer Report:
- Pre-Adverse Action Notice
- You must provide the applicant or employee with a pre-adverse action notice, which contains:
- Notice that the employer is contemplating taking an adverse action;
- A copy of the Consumer Report; and
- A copy of “A Summary of Your Rights Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act,” which can be found here.
- On September 21, 2018, this “Summary” was updated to alert the applicant or employee of their right to place a “security freeze” on their Consumer Report, which would prohibit a Consumer Reporting Agency from releasing information in a frozen Consumer Report without express authorization.
- IMMEDIATE ACTION: Employers should ensure that they are using only the current, updated version of the Summary.
- You must provide the applicant or employee with a pre-adverse action notice, which contains:
- Pre-Adverse Action Waiting Period
- You must provide the applicant or employee with a reasonable period of time to respond to the pre-adverse action notice. We recommend that you wait at least five business days.
- During this time, you should not fill the open job position or take other action that would constitute an adverse employment action.
- If you receive additional information from the applicant or employee, you must consider it, but you are not required to change the decision you made prior to sending out the pre-adverse action notice.
After you take an adverse action based on a Consumer Report:
- Adverse Action Notice
- You must provide the applicant or employee written notice of the actual adverse employment action, which includes:
- The name, address, and telephone number of the Consumer Reporting Agency that provided the Consumer Report;
- A statement that the Consumer Reporting Agency did not make the adverse employment decision and cannot give specific reasons for it; and
- Notice of the applicant or employee’s right to dispute the accuracy or completeness of the information the Consumer Reporting Agency provided, and the applicant or employee’s right, upon request, to get a free copy of the report from the Consumer Reporting Agency within 60 days.
- You must provide the applicant or employee written notice of the actual adverse employment action, which includes:
- Up to $1,000 per discrete violation, plus punitive damages and attorneys’ fees.
- Significant exposure can result from the filing of class action claims.
- For example, if a noncompliant notice form is used for 100 applicants, the employer may be exposed to liability of at least $100,000 in a class action lawsuit.
- The FCRA does not include a liability cap.
Employers should also be aware of state and local restrictions that impact employer background checks, which may include greater protections for the applicant or employee, as well as “ban-the-box”-type requirements that impact when and how the employer can request information related to an applicant’s criminal background.
A background check is one of the most crucial pre-employment screening steps that are necessary for small businesses and companies before making a decision to hire. As a small business owner, running a background check on any potential employee should be taken seriously. This is because it helps protect your establishment from numerous potential risks which could cost you a fortune and productivity in the days ahead.
While resumes might look decorated and appealing, small business owners shouldn’t just assume that their potential employees are telling the truth. If you want to get the right person for the job, going that extra mile is necessary as it could help unearth any information likely to be concealed during resume writing.
What you should know about the background check
Before running a background check on the potential candidates, a business owner should, first of all, define their needs. There are different background check services ranging from drug test to criminal records to driving records among others.
As such one should decide which one is best for their business as a matter of importance. That said, let’s look at why conducting an employee background screening is essential for small businesses:
It helps avoid liability
Small businesses have different needs ranging from drivers to salespeople. Hiring someone without running a background screening could cost the company dearly especially when it comes to drug and alcohol problems. A case in point is where you hire a driver who has an issue with drugs or alcohol only for them to cause an accident while on duty.
As the employer, you are likely to be considered liable as a result of negligence if you do not run a background screening. The good thing is that conducting the screening isn’t such hard and expensive and you could get results within a short time using effective tools such as a drug test cup. Avoid liability and do due diligence before hiring.
It’ll save you money and time
While a potential employee could have a decorated resume, drug issues could easily be a problem. You do not want to hire someone with good academic results only for it to turn out that such a person was the wrong candidate for the job thus necessitating a replacement.
Replacing an employee is costly both in terms of time and money but this could be avoided by simply running a background screening before hiring. You can protect your business from unexpected expenses that could result from non-compliance to background check related legal laws and also make the right hiring decision with ease.
It guarantees workplace safety
When you put a job advert out there, chances are that it will attract all sorts of people ranging from drug users to violent criminals to sex offenders. Well, you don’t want to be sorry but safe both for yourself, your other employees and the business in general. You can safeguard your small business with ease by simply running a background screening exercise as you conduct interviews on the potential candidates.
As you put your workplace safety as a top priority, make use of the background check exercise to achieve your goals and wind out any elements likely to put others in danger.
It’s a recipe for job competence
Job applicants will always make claims of how competent and effective they are. However, the best way to verify this is by conducting a background screening especially when it comes to matters lifestyle. A drug user, for example, can’t be trusted to be competent and you do not want to put your business under unnecessary pressure by hiring an incompetent person. A screening exercise will help come up with a positive hiring decision which will set your company on a path of success.
When conducting a background screening especially on drug-related issues, it is very important to ensure that everything is done within legal confines to avoid some risks that are likely to arise in case of a lawsuit. That means getting the right screening tools, personnel, and certification.
You want to make sure that your workplace and business, in general, are safe without compromising on anything at all. As such, conducting a thorough employment screening process is paramount and cannot be handled without due diligence.
It is very important to handle different aspects of the screening process especially when it comes to drugs and this will protect you from repeated employment screening process. Always make sure you have tools that guarantee accuracy and reliability when conducting this exercise.
You should also come up with a consistent background screening policy for your small business and this way you can avoid allegations of intrusion and personal discrimination by the candidates being checked.
Always get a written consent before carrying out the exercise to help you keep up with the legal requirements surrounding background screening.