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Recognizing and minimizing hiring bias with background checks

Despite advances in equitable hiring practices over the past several years, unconscious biases still cloud otherwise impartial judgement. Unconscious biases—the automatic, unintentional, learned stereotypes we use to form impressions of new people and environments—are not always benign. However, everyone has them and everyone can learn to recognize them. We’re here to help you recognize and reduce hiring bias at your company.

First impressions are important in the hiring process, but unconscious biases can incorrectly shape those initial meetings by recognizing your biases and taking measures to promote neutrality in your hiring, you can create an equitable system that ensures you’ll find the best candidate. Background checks and smart hiring practices are effective ways to minimize biases. Let’s dive into a few screening methods you can implement to make your hiring unbiased and successful.

Partner with a screening agency.

Sometimes it can be tricky to decipher what the information in a background report means. Your interpretation of a report might not be completely correct, leaving you with an impression of a candidate that doesn’t reflect who they are.

Professional background check agencies have years of expertise to help you understand what background reports really mean. When you partner with a company like One Source, you get help interpreting reports and developing a consistent approach to all background checks. Working with professionals removes misinterpretation and error that could skew your view of a candidate and harm your hiring.

Thoroughly write job descriptions.

Clear and thorough job descriptions aren’t only helpful for attracting the best candidates, they allow your hiring managers to make choices based on facts instead of assumptions. Include a full list of skills, job expectations, professional background needs and other elements of the position.

Be sure your description is clear of any words that could be associated with a gender, race, age, group or any other identifier. Run your description by your human resources team before you post the job to ensure it meets all expectations.

Customize your screening scope

After you have a job description and employment policy in place, make sure that you are screening the correct scope. The depth and width of the package you are screening with are two things to consider when creating your process.

How many years of names and addresses do you wish to search? The Federal Government typically searches seven years, making it the industry standard, however you can customize to five or even ten years.

How far back you want to search in each location? Many jurisdictions allow you to search at minimum seven years from the final disposition. Other jurisdictions have information back indefinitely. Do you only wat to see a certain scope? If so, work with your screening partner to customize you scope to fit your organization and industry.

At One Source, we want to help you make the best hiring decisions for your company. We’ll work with you to help you navigate background checks fairly and accurately. Contact One Source Client Relations team today to learn more about our screening services.

New Compliance Laws You Should Know in 2020

If you haven’t been staying up to date on new compliance laws over the past few months, we can’t blame you. Every aspect of life has been altered by the pandemic, and your top priority should be the health and safety of your family, employees and customers.

One Source is here to support you through difficult times and update you on new compliance laws that may impact your organization. Regardless of whether your company is hiring right now, these new compliance laws will likely affect you down the road.  So it’s best to stay one step ahead and be prepared when your business is ready to hire again. Here are some of the most important state and federal regulations about screening and hiring that have been passed in recent months.

The Fair Chance to Compete for Jobs Act

This federal law goes into effect in December 2021. It declares federal agencies (all departments and offices within the federal government) cannot request a criminal background check until a conditional job offer has been extended to an applicant.

Law enforcement agencies and positions with access to classified national security information are exempt from this law. This law only applies to government agencies, not private businesses. It is a version of a “ban the box” law that delays a criminal background check until much later in the hiring process.

Updated Form I-9

Every employer in the U.S. must complete a Form I-9 for each person they hire. Form I-9, used to verify an employee’s identity and employment authorization, is an important, routine part of the hiring process. 

The U.S. Citizen & Immigration Services agency released an update to the I-9 in October 2019, and the updated version became mandatory on May 1, 2020. You can visit the UCIS website to learn more about the changes to the I-9.

Drug Screening in New York City and Nevada

A new law went into effect in New York City on May 10, 2020, banning marijuana testing from pre-employment drug tests. Some jobs are excluded from this rule, especially jobs with safety requirements. If an employer screens a candidate for marijuana against this new law, the employer will be charged with discrimination.

Additionally, a new law went into effect January 1, 2020 in Nevada. This law prohibits employers from taking adverse action against applicants who test positive for marijuana. Employers can still test applicants for marijuana, but they cannot take adverse action based on a positive test result alone.

New Jersey Salary History Ban

Private employers in New Jersey can no longer inquire about their applicants’ salary history, past benefits or any other past compensation. This law was enacted January 1, 2020. The Salary History Ban is meant to encourage employers to pay new employees what they think their position is worth without context from an employee’s previous positions. Salary history bans attempt to address gender pay gaps by putting all applicants on an even playing field. Employers in New Jersey should work with their credit reporting agency to make sure salary history is not part of their employment verification reports.

Regulations and expectations in the hiring world continue to evolve. As the landscape of hiring changes, One Source stays on the cutting edge to help you make your best hiring choices. Contact One Source Client Relations today to learn how we can assist your hiring team.

Can I ever run a background check without permission?

The reasons to run a background check—and contexts in which you could need a background report are numerous: You may need a report ASAP. You may be running a check outside a formal hiring process. You may need a large number of reports completed at once.

Under a time constraint and without the strict rules of a hiring process, you might wonder whether it’s necessary to get the subject’s permission to run a screening. Technically, if you have someone’s full name, you could run a background check on them without their knowledge. However, that doesn’t mean you should. Ethically—and often legally—you should always obtain permission before screening anyone.

So the short answer is no, you can’t run a background check without permission. Screening ethics aren’t quite that simple though. Background checks in personal and professional settings have different expectations. Let’s dive into the rules, expectations and potential consequences of running background checks in different contexts so you can decide what makes the most sense for you.

Background checks in larger organizations.

If you are a landlord or an employer that hires frequently, you likely run background checks on your applicants to help you decide who to hire or rent to. In organizations with a full HR department, things are a bit different. You have employment policies and all the disclosure and authorization forms you need to properly run a pre-employment background check. But there are legal obligations for organizations that perform a lot of screenings that require consistent care, and you shouldn’t go it alone.

The information you gather from consumer reports has a direct impact on someone’s future, so you must abide by the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). The FCRA protects applicants with specific rights through the entire background check process. The law requires you to get their approval to run a consumer report—and they have the right to dispute that information.

No organization or landlord should ever disregard the FCRA. Those who do can end up in serious legal trouble like image-damaging class action lawsuits. A screening partner like One Source can help guide you through the FCRA with ease and make screening a simple and clear process. Often, credit reporting agencies (CRA) will provide you with an FCRA disclosure and authorization form as well as a sample policies and procedures to help you start. You don’t want to start off on the wrong foot by running a background check without permission. 

Background checks on a smaller scale.

Not everyone who runs a background check hires frequently or has an HR department. Smaller organizations that handle professional hiring may only need to run one or two background checks. Or you may be an individual wanting to run a report on just yourself. 

Even if you don’t hire frequently, that does not mean you shouldn’t inform those that you intend to screen. You should still have an employment policy in place and treat each new hire for similar positions equally. If you decide to utilize a CRA for this type of background check, then you will need to follow the FCRA requirements.

One Source can help with screenings on a smaller scale with our specializations in screenings for contractors and contingent works. If you want someone to do work on your office or rental home, you can screen them under the permissible purpose of site access. While you could look up the contractor online for reviews of their work, you can get a professional report on their background by utilizing a CRA. In order to do that, you must inform them of your intent to screen. Once again, you must not run a background check without permission.

At One Source, we help you see how the FCRA and screening ethics fit into your background check needs. Contact our Client Relations team today to see what screening options are best for you.

The state of the screening industry during the pandemic

While the current COVID-19 crisis and efforts to contain it have brought several industries to a halt, some businesses find themselves urgently in need of more team members. The healthcare and supply chain industries are working nonstop to fulfill the demands of sick and social-distancing populations. The screening industry has become more important than ever to these industries that are experiencing a spike in demand.

The industries with high demand have to hire new workers quickly. However, that doesn’t mean proper hiring protocols can be pushed aside.  Different security risks have arisen from having an entirely remote staff.

Background checks and monitoring are still necessary—even as the landscape of hiring changes. One Source is still here to serve your screening needs, and we’ll be totally transparent about ways COVID-19 has impacted the screening industry.

One Source Background Check’s COVID-19 protocols.

We created processes to keep our operations as normal as possible while prioritizing our team’s safety when we realized social distancing and stay-at-home orders were on the horizon for our clients.

Certain office closures around the country and the world will cause delays as we gather information for your reports. Some aspects of background checks that may be delayed across the entire screening industry include:

  • Court Records. We can process record requests in about 90 percent of U.S. counties at the moment. Many courts have ways to access records electronically. We will experience some delay for county courts that don’t have electronic records and are closed due to the pandemic.
  • Drug and Alcohol Testing. Some clinics in the U.S. are not open to those without respiratory symptoms. Some clinics are entirely closed. However, only 8 percent of the clinics in One Source’s network are currently closed. Double check with your local clinics to make sure they’re available for testing.
  • Education and Employment Verification. It may take longer to process verification requests due to some schools and organizations being closed right now.
  • International Criminal Records. Closures worldwide can slow processes and delay record requests.

Despite potential delays, we will still provide your reports on time and clearly mark if any parts are incomplete. You can see our entire COVID-19 process at the link at the top of our homepage.

Considerations for your own screening process.

You may be considering loosening some of your screening processes so you can hire faster if your demand for employees has increased. However, consider how the changes will affect your business down the road before you change your procedures.

For example, a business could choose to temporarily suspend criminal record checks to expedite hiring—a choice with potential negligent hiring and civil rights legal consequences.

Hiring without screening opens the door to negligent hiring charges. And if that business decides to reinstate criminal record checks, future hires could claim that criminal screenings were never necessary to the business and are a form of discrimination.

While we’re all taking this pandemic day by day, businesses do still need to plan ahead and consider the future of their workforce. Background checks play a big role in building a strong, consistent team and they shouldn’t be reduced for temporary circumstances.

To learn more about One Source’s COVID-19 response and how we can help your organization through,  Contact the One Source Client Relations 

Answering all of your Fair Credit Reporting Act and adverse action FAQs

The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) guides the background check process for employers and offers privileges and rights to the candidates who undergo screenings. Following the FCRA is essential for any hiring team, especially when it comes to adverse action, which is the process of removing an applicant from consideration due to screening report results.

Complex and important aspects of the background check process, both the FCRA and adverse action can raise plenty of questions for employers. One Source’s team can guide you through the FCRA and answer any questions about adverse action. Below we have discussed some frequently asked questions.

How long do I have to wait to remove an applicant from consideration after I notify them of my intent to take adverse action?

Once you decide to take adverse action against an applicant, you must notify them of your decision and the specific parts of their report led to your choice. You must then put any further actions on hold to give the applicant the opportunity to dispute their report. Generally, you must wait five business days before sending a final notice. The waiting period can vary by state, though, so be sure to check with your background check agency.

What if a candidate declines to consent to a background check?

If screenings are one of your company’s requirements for employment, then refusal to participate in a screening would disqualify them. However, the FCRA does not apply to applicants who don’t want to be screened. By refusing a background check, they waive their FCRA rights. Therefore you can remove them from consideration without taking adverse action.

Do I have to follow adverse action with contractors and volunteers?

Yes. Contingent employees and volunteers are protected by the FCRA, so you must follow FCRA guidelines in order to remove them from your recruitment process. There are several functions to which FCRA applies, including contractors, and volunteers. 

What if the information we are basing adverse action on is vague?

Sometimes, a criminal record won’t provide much context to a charge, so you’ll have to take adverse action without a full understanding of how an applicant got a criminal record. That’s why it’s required to wait several business days before you can finalize adverse action. You leave space for an applicant to provide details about their charges or dispute their accuracy. Plus, this gives you time to consult your screening firm. They will help you decipher what the codes on a criminal record mean and explain how the record translates into actual crimes. You can then make a better judgement about whether or not to keep the applicant in consideration.

With the help of an expert screening partner like One Source, your team can navigate the FCRA with ease. Contact the One Source Client Relations team today to see how we can help you manage your hiring process.

Employers’ Crash Course: The Fair Credit Reporting Act

Background checks are nothing new, and now essentially customary in the recruiting and hiring world. Most employers run checks on all new applicants for every open position and even those up for promotions.

So while screenings are a normal part of the hiring process, keep background check regulations in mind to protect your organization and your applicants. Designed to protect the rights and information of job applicants, the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) carries immense influence.

When followed properly, the FCRA will help you make informed hiring choices while protecting your candidates. When broken, however, the FCRA gives people the power to levy lawsuits against organizations. To protect your business, make excellent hires and avoid potential legal trouble, brush up on your knowledge with this Employer’s Crash Course on Fair Credit Reporting Act.

What is the FCRA?

The FCRA outlines the responsibilities of consumer reporting agencies and the rights of those undergoing background and credit checks. It requires consumer reporting agencies to report accurate and complete information to businesses when they evaluate employment candidates. It also allows job applicants to see their reports and dispute any inaccurate information.

Under FCRA rules, background check agencies have a duty to be thorough and accurate in their reporting. Job applicants too have the right to advocate for their reputation and true identity. The burden of the FCRA isn’t just on reporting agencies, however. Employers must uphold the rights of their applicants in order to stay FCRA compliant.

How can I be compliant?

Employers must follow certain procedures when recruiting and hiring to comply with the FCRA:

  • Inform applicants you are going to screen them, then get written consent from every applicant to begin the background check process.
  • Explain what information your background reports gather and why you need it but only if an explanation does not cause confusion.
  • Be aware of your state’s screening restrictions and adhere to them. “Ban-the-box” laws have become more common in recent years.
  • If you are going to take employment action—such as rejection or termination—due to the content of a background report, you must follow the adverse action process. This includes sending pre-adverse action and adverse action letters, a copy of their report and their FCRA Rights.
  • Understand that applicants have the right to dispute their report at any time. When you send a pre-adverse action letter, you have to allow a reasonable amount of time—typically around five days—for the individual to dispute their report.

If you follow these steps, you will stay within FCRA rules and avoid negligent hiring suits.

What are the consequences of noncompliance?

The number of lawsuits brought under the FCRA reached an all-time high in 2019 and have continually increased every year since 2011. If an employer and their consumer reporting agency fail to meet FCRA standards, they put themselves at risk for an expensive lawsuit.

Because background screening is often part of standard hiring processes, organizations can repeat the same FCRA infraction multiple times. This can lead to costly class-action lawsuits from multiple parties.

Eliminate the possibility of FCRA non-compliance suits and maintain your responsibilities by partnering with a trusted background screening agency. One Source is completely FCRA compliant and here to help you navigate its regulations easily. That was your Employer’s Crash Course on Fair Credit Reporting Act. Contact One Source Client Relations to learn more about our services.

Your Fair Credit Reporting Act compliance crash course

In 2016, Florida woman Theresa Jones applied to drive for Lyft, Inc. The rideshare company ran its typical pre-employment screening then immediately barred her from employment because of her criminal record.

However, the record reported in Jones’ screening was not hers. It was that of a different woman with the same name and same date of birth. Lyft’s credit reporting agency pulled these records with a “name-based only search,” which means common names like Jones may show multiple results. The agency did not dig farther into each result’s specific information to find the report that matched the real Jones. Lyft cleared up the confusion by confirming Jones’ identity with her fingerprints, but she still filed a lawsuit against the company.

She claimed the rideshare company took adverse action without giving her a chance to dispute the background check first. This unjustified consequence cost Jones weeks of work and broke compliance with the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).

In 2019, Lyft rescreened Jones. Again, Lyft’s background check provider presented the wrong criminal record report and Lyft once again suspended her employment. This time, Jones filed a lawsuit against both Lyft and its screening provider. Jones now drives for a Lyft competitor.

Stories like this underscore why FCRA compliance is so important in the background check industry. When screening agencies and the organizations hiring them maintain the standards of the FCRA, all of these problems can be prevented.

Below is a breakdown of the Fair Credit Reporting Act compliance and how to protect your employees, business and reputation.

What is the FCRA?

According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the FCRA “promotes the accuracy, fairness, and privacy of information in the files of consumer reporting agencies” to protect those subjected to background checks.

Under the FCRA, the candidates you screen have several rights throughout the background check process. In order to be compliant with the FCRA, your organization and the background check agency you hire must respect those rights.

Anyone you run a background check on has the right to know everything in their file. If they request access to their report, your consumer reporting agency must provide them with the information they have.

Those you screen also have the right to dispute any part of their background check they believe is incorrect or incomplete. Before you can take adverse action against an applicant, you have to give them the chance to dispute their report.

If the person disputing information in their report provides the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau with enough information to investigate their claim and their dispute is resolved, they have the right to get all the incorrect information erased or changed. Once this process is complete, you can proceed with hiring decisions.

How can I make sure my organization complies with the FCRA?

The most important and simplest thing any organization can do to stay complaint with the FCRA is ensure everyone gives written consent to a screening. No background check agency can give you any information without certainty that the subject is fully aware of the check. Including a consent form early in your application process is an easy way to secure compliance.

Once you have an applicant’s report, you must immediately notify them if you want to take adverse action against them. You need to explain what specific information in their report led you to your decision so they can see if the report is accurate.

In the case of Lyft, they were taken to court for notifying Jones that they had already taken adverse action without giving her any opportunity to correct her report. Following the FCRA can help you avoid this. 

To learn more about the FCRA or One Source’s FCRA compliance practices, contact One Source Client Relations.

A beginner’s guide to completing background checks

You found the best applicants. What’s next?

Growing businesses often reach a point where their workload exceeds the time of their staff. When that point approaches, managers must consider recruiting and hiring new team members to meet the rising demand.

Growth opportunities are an exciting sign of progress, but expansion comes with responsibilities and potential liabilities. Minimize risk and hire with confidence by running background checks on your job applicants as part of your hiring process.

If you are new to background check procedures, follow this beginner’s guide to completing background checks. Then, we will help you establish an efficient, transparent process for screening your new employees.

Choose a background check agency

No matter the needs of your company, your hiring team can benefit from a partnership with a background check agency. Companies that specialize in background checks offer unique resources and insights to guide you through the entire screening process. Build a relationship with an agency early in your company’s life to set a solid foundation for future hiring.

Your screening agency should be compliant with the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), offer accessible and responsive customer support, customize its services to your needs and provide cost-effective and timely reports.

Explain your screening process to candidates

The FCRA and screening best practices oblige you to maintain transparency with applicants. Before you begin screenings, clarify to candidates why a background check is necessary and how the report can affect their employment.

You and your background check agency will set packages and searches based on your needs and industry. You will then establish an employment policy and guidelines for your screening process. Make these guidelines available to potential applicants so they can decide whether or not to pursue a position. When applicants are aware of the potential consequences of their reports, give them an FCRA-required consent form that they must sign for you to proceed with screenings.

Gather information from applicants

Once candidates know how you will use their report and submit their signed consent form, your background check agency may begin searching their records. Most agencies will check local, state and national criminal records, sex-offender registries, watchlists and identity verification records. The more information about your applicants you can provide to your agency, the more comprehensive and accurate the reports will be.

A full name, a Social Security number and a birthdate can be enough information for a basic background check. However, to get more specific results and maximize accuracy, it can be helpful to provide a current address. Driver’s license numbers or passport numbers may be also required for driving record checks or international watchlist checks.

Review and interpret the report

Your background check agency will present you with their findings and should be available to answer any of your questions about the contents of the reports. As you review their results, refer to the guidelines and employment policy. Your company established for acceptable background reports to stay aligned with your requirements.

If the results of an applicant’s report are the reason you choose not to hire them, you must notify them and explain how the report influenced your decision. At that point,  they will have an opportunity to dispute the report before you move forward with your remaining applicants.

With that, you now have your beginner’s guide to completing background checks. Now what?

To kick off your background check process, contact One Source Client Relations and start hiring with confidence.

How far back does a background check report?

FAQs about the background check process

Background checks are common for volunteer organizations and nearly universal for employers. The vast majority of job seekers will go through the background check process several times through their career. However, few people ever see the results of their reports or know how reports can influence hiring decisions.

Below are some frequently asked questions about the behind-the-scenes of background screenings, so you can be prepared for your next job or volunteer application.

How far back does a background check report?

To provide a comprehensive report, One Source looks back as far as each county allows. The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) does not restrict the time frame that can be searched for criminal convictions. Many background check companies do not search further back than seven years, but One Source searches further back whenever possible. By searching an extended period of time, One Source can report felonies and dangerous crimes that may not appear in a seven-year check.

Some states have their own guidelines that may prevent extended background checks, but One Source will report as much information as possible. If you would like to check a limited amount of time, One Source also has options for seven-year and 10-year checks.

Where is the information in a report found?

Background check agencies draw from numerous databases and court records to complete a screening. One Source searches public records including the Death Master Index and residential records to verify identities. Basic screenings also include checks of county, state and nationwide criminal records as well as the National Sex Offender Registry and global watchlists. Based on an organization’s specific needs, One Source can include additional checks such as driver history, professional license verification, drug testing and more.

How do background check companies make sure information is accurate?

To ensure a more complete and accurate report, provide background check agencies with as much identification information as you can. One Source needs a full name and a full birthdate to verify criminal case information. A Social Security number, an address and a driver’s license number will also help further authenticate records.

The FCRA requires screening companies do everything they can to “assure maximum possible accuracy” in their reports. One Source uses several trusted, verified databases and proven processes so you and the organizations you work with can have peace of mind.

Can I get a copy of my background check report?

Yes. If an organization runs a check on you, you are always able to request access to the report. You may ask the organization ordering the screening to send you a copy of the report or you can contact the background check agency directly. Contact One Source Client Relations to learn more about how you can receive a copy of your report.

Can I contest the results of my report?

Under the FCRA, the subject of a screening has the right to know what is in their report, and the right to amend any incorrect information. While One Source does everything in its power to provide accurate reports, you are free to contest the contents of your report at any time. Therefore, a background check agency must investigate a claim of false information within 30 days. If an organization takes adverse action against you based on incorrect data, notify the screening agency as quickly as possible.

To learn more about the background check process, request a report or contest a report, contact One Source Client Relations.

What background checks do — and don’t — include

Hiring new employees is a fantastic opportunity for your business or organization to gain fresh knowledge and skills. However, the hiring process always contains an element of risk. Background checking your applicants serves as the best way to mitigate risk and ensure you find the best people. But what do background checks include?

To expedite your background screening process, it helps to understand what information you will receive in a background report. Once you know what to expect, it is easier to interpret reports and recognize if you need extra information.

One Source runs screenings through its unique TotalCheck packages. This comprehensive screening system is tailored to your company’s needs and your industry’s regulations. No matter your needs, TotalCheck always includes all the necessary parts of a common background check. Let’s take a look at what background checks do — and don’t include.

What’s in a background check?

A TotalCheck background report is comprised of six essential searches to give you peace of mind when hiring. These searches include:

Applicant History Trace

This search ensures your applicants are who they say they are. TotalCheck examines public records to verify an applicant’s identity and residential history. This search also looks into potential aliases and appearances on the Death Master Index.

County/Statewide Criminal History

We look at real-time county court criminal records to report any felony and misdemeanor convictions that may not be included in broader searches. Statewide searches also can be included where available.

Multi-Court Jurisdictional Database

This is an additional criminal check that searches millions of records from across the United States. We source the records from the Department of Corrections, county courthouses, state police reports, traffic court and more.

National Sex Offender Registry

TotalCheck searches sex-offender registries from all 50 states, Washington, D.C., all U.S. territories and more than 100 tribal registries.

Global Report

We examine an extensive database of public government watchlists and federal, state and industry sanction lists. We also check new records as governments release them.

Nationwide Federal Criminal

TotalCheck cross-references the government’s Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) U.S. Party Case Index with the Federal Bureau of Prisons database to ensure your check is comprehensive and valid.

What’s not in a background check?

The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) determines what information can and cannot be included in background checks conducted by third-party agencies. The standards set by the FCRA protect applicants’ privacy rights throughout the hiring process. One Source is compliant with the FCRA, so some credit information will not be in a TotalCheck package. The FCRA prohibits background check companies from reporting the following information:

  • Bankruptcies from more than 10 years ago.
  • Civil suits, arrests or non-convictions from more than seven years ago.
  • Paid tax liens from more than seven years ago.
  • Any adverse information, excluding criminal convictions, from more than seven years ago.

To learn more about how to use background checks or to start your company’s screening process, contact One Source Client Relations.