2015 NAPBS conference stresses compliance

  • 10/7/2015
  • Kevin Rosenquist
2015 NAPBS conference stresses compliance image
September represents a great time of year. The start of fall, the return of football, and the annual conference for the National Association of Professional Background Screeners. But, of course, everyone knows that. It is the conference where the people of our industry get together to share ideas and learn about new laws and trends that shape how we do business. Three of us attended this year and the knowledge gained was invaluable. We also passed our advanced FCRA exams so we now hold Advanced FCRA Certification from NAPBS.

The overall theme of the conference was compliance. Specifically, complying with the Fair Credit Reporting Act. The FCRA serves to protect consumers from unfair treatment. As an employer conducting background checks on potential employees it’s important to understand what the FCRA requires to help minimize the chance for class action lawsuits. We’ve all binge watched Law and Order here and there. But ensuring your company complies with the FCRA will help keep the court room drama in your Netflix queue and away from your business.

Paperwork is key. Most litigation stems from non-compliant paperwork. It is important to work with your screening company as well as your counsel to ensure your forms match what is required by law. The disclosure (the document that explains what information will be collected during the background investigation) must be a standalone document. That is extremely important. I would put it in all caps and bold it but it’s hard on the eyes. Major companies have dealt with class action lawsuits solely based on that requirement. It cannot be part of any other document. In other words, you cannot put the background check disclosure on the back of the application or buried within documents stating company policy. It must be its own document, separate from everything else. The idea is that it should be very clear to the applicant that a pre-employment background check will be performed on them.

There was talk at the conference that the authorization that the applicant signs allowing for the employer to perform a background check on them could be combined with the disclosure as long as it does not include nature and scope. But in all honesty it’s probably safer to keep them separate.

Another hot topic was Ban the Box. It’s gaining a lot of steam in state governments and is even getting federal attention. The movement aims to get rid of the question “have you ever been convicted of a crime” from job applications. The idea is that it’s too broad of a question. Some employers argue that it helps gauge the character of an applicant. If someone checks “no” but a background check proves that they were convicted of a crime then they’ve been caught in a lie and can be deemed untrustworthy. Proponents of Ban the Box argue that the answer to that question doesn’t always indicate if an applicant should be disqualified. Should someone be unable to find work today because they were convicted of petty theft 15 years ago? (There’s a great PBS Report based on that question.) Some also believe it discriminates against minority applicants, as African Americans and Hispanics are statistically more likely to have criminal records.

We’ll have more to come on the conference. Hope everyone is enjoying their fall so far.