Compliant Criminal Background Checks for Staffing Organizations
Staffing organizations have a duty in upholding their clients when it comes to vetting the most competent and qualified candidates. In most cases, staffing firms will conduct a very basic background check on their workforce only if requested by their client. In other cases, no background check is conducted at all.
The main reason these background checks are not being completed is due to cost and turnaround of finding viable temporary employees to pass a background check in a timely manner. To avoid this, staffing organizations should align themselves with a competent and compliant background screening vendor. Investing in compliant criminal background checks could save staffing organizations millions of dollars.
What does a compliant criminal background check for staffing organizations look like?
Social Security Trace – All felony and misdemeanor convictions are held in each county nationwide with over 3,200 counties nationwide. Unfortunately there is not a search that will provide “real time” conviction history from all counties nationwide; therefore, a social security trace is conducted on the temp’s social security number (SSN) to determine residential addresses resided in currently and previously. The SSN trace will also reveal any and all names associated with the number. This is vital since criminal records are held by a name and date of birth match. The address history search is an instant search allowing the company to select counties from the trace to search for criminal convictions.
County Level Criminal Search – The most reliable and accurate criminal public records for compliant criminal background checks are stored in county courthouses nationwide. With the advancement of technology, the majority of counties have remote public access through the counties website where visitors are able to search felony and misdemeanor convictions in real time without having to physically visit the courthouse. In instances where a courthouse does not have remote access, a live person must physically access the court and search criminal public records by doing what is known as a “hand search”. The turnaround time in counties that have no public access on average is 24 – 72 hours in most cases.
Cursory Nationwide Criminal Database Search – What happens if an applicant committed a crime outside of the county that they resided in? The only way to search other counties for potential convictions is to conduct a cursory nationwide criminal database search. These databases have more than 500 million records from various sources nationwide (county courthouses, state police, state sex offender registries, etc.) Once a record is revealed through the online database, the county of record will be queried for case details. It should be noted that the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) has placed two restrictions regarding online databases. The first reason is because the information disclosed on these databases is not up to date. In some cases, public records are updated monthly or even quarterly. The second reason is because the information is not complete. When reporting convictions, the background screening vendor has to quality-assure the information being reported to look for disposition, sentencing, and at least two personal identifiers.
Social Security Number Verification – This search verifies that the applicant’s name, social security number (SSN), and date of birth all match. This service goes in hand with our Social Security Number Trace and allows employers to match an employee’s name and SSN with records kept by the Social Security Administration (SSA). Social security number verification is used for W-2 wage reporting purposes (Internal Revenue Service Wage and Tax Statement) to ensure the records of current and former employees are correct.
Social security number verification greatly aids employers in avoiding additional processing costs for unmatched records. This search will determine if in fact a social security number is active or inactive. An inactive SSN response likely means that the person assigned to that number is now deceased.
Here is a real life story where no background check was done by both the staffing organization and contractor:
BP, very large oil conglomerate, hired a temporary staffing organization, to assist with a very large oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The temporary staffing organization hired a candidate named Rundy Charles Robertson to supervise contractors tasked with the clean-up. Robertson eventually convinced a female clean-up worker to allow him to give her a ride home.
After doing so, Robertson sexually assaulted the female worker. It was later determined that Robertson had a criminal history dating back to 1991, according to police records. He was put on the national sex offender registry for a 1996 conviction for contributing to the delinquency of a minor in Louisiana. He is also on probation after being convicted in 2003 in Georgia for cruelty to children. The tragedy of this whole story resulted from a background screening report that was not done, which would have revealed Robertson’s previous convictions for serious crimes, and potentially prevented alleged rape.
Both the staffing organization and contractor immediately pointed fingers at each other and refused to take responsibility for the lack in compliant criminal background checks having been performed. One argument was that the staffing organization holds liability since the worker was their employee. In a statement to BP, spokesman Robert Wine said, “BP does conduct full checks on its employees, and under normal business conditions can make it a part of the contract for full backgrounds to be conducted by our long-term contractors.
This was not done for all contractors in this response; the responsibility lies with the employing company for their own staff. The requirement on sub-contractors to BP’s contractors is one further step beyond BP’s scope of control.”
The staffing organization explained that they do not perform a background check on their temporary workforce unless their client requires it. In this case, they claimed that BP did not request a background check, and argue that they should be held liable. “We are not liable for anything that happens,” he said. “Once we deliver the people to be supervised by our client, we don’t have anything to do with them anymore.”
Distinguish your organization from other firms in your space and decrease the inherent risk delivered with temporary staffing employees. Whether you are a recruiting company, or a temporary staffing organization—your reputation is dependent upon the quality of the people you bring to the table.
Do not leave it up to your client to perform compliant criminal background checks—secure your relationship by being prepared with a background check completed. Your clients will rest easier knowing that the candidates you are vouching for are dependable.