ScreenDiscussion

Blogging background checking and security issues

2.24.2005

Dating a Felon

Yes, background checking’s sphere of influence is growing. Mr. or Ms. Perfect may not be as perfect as they appear to be, and while this has been a well-known fact in the human resources and personnel management industry, an article recently published in the Oakland Tribune shows that background checking is already a prerequisite for one online dating community, and will likely soon be for others as well. Herb Vest, the Chief Executive and found of True.com is pushing for legislation that will require all online dating services to do a background check on its members.

Of course, this does make a great deal of sense. If you’re going to go on a relatively blind date with someone, alone, wouldn’t you want to know if that person has a criminal history, especially violent or sexually related charges?

I wonder what kind of legal issues will come out of this. The Fair Credit Reporting Act governs the reporting of criminal activity for employment purposes, but as far as I know there are no laws that state you may not decline to date someone based on anything in their consumer report. If someone loses a date because of incorrect information in his or her consumer report, what will the recourse or compensation be? Force the person who rejected him or her in the first place to go on a date? Put a monetary amount on the value of the potential future these two individuals could have had? Will the person who did the rejecting also be able to claim damages for the loss of the potential relationship since the decision was based on inaccurate information? This sounds like a mess to me, but with the speed at which we’re moving as a society toward increased safety and security, I can’t see how it’s going to be avoided.

2.22.2005

Holes

No pre-employment background check is without shortcomings. For example, if you commit a crime, especially if it’s misdemeanor (which, by the way, still encompasses a number of serious charges like theft, assault, trespassing, etc.), in a state or even county in which you’ve never lived, it’s very likely that a background check will not find the record. Most background checks are conducted based either on addresses listed on the applicant’s application form, or on a search through a company that collects addresses and then sells them to employment screening companies. If you haven’t lived in a certain county or state, it will likely not be searched. The most thorough background checks are done at the county level – the more focused you get, the smaller the scope of the search. Unless you commit a more serious crime, probably felony level, a search that covers a broader area probably won’t find it. Courts don’t communicate all that well with each other…yet. On top of that, many employers don’t even conduct a search beyond the county level.

My point here is not that companies shouldn’t do background checks. Just don’t do a background check and expect it to always be perfect. You won’t find out everything there is to know about your applicant. Court records systems are getting better, but they still have a long way to go.