National Employment Law Project Reports that Millions of FBI Background Checks Are Inaccurate

If a company conducts a background check on you, how often will the information dug up be accurate? While employers and employees take these screening procedures seriously and base entire hiring decisions on them, a recent report from the National Employment Law Project, released on July 30, states that far more inaccuracies than you realize are present.

Specifically, as a piece in the Los Angeles Times points out, for the 17 million criminal background checks the FBI does yearly, roughly 10 percent (1.8 million) may have inaccurate or outdated information included.

A common flaw, it appears, is including outdated criminal records. Initial arrest records, specifically, list no final outcomes, even if the charges were dropped. This particular flaw, the LA Times indicated, greatly affects the chances of black and Latino applicants seeking employment.

Yet, this report recycles notions we have heard time and time again since September 11, which is when usage of background checks in hiring took off. Businessweek did a lengthy piece about the same issue back in 2008, focusing on retail and trucking industries in particular.

However, what Businessweek showed, and what the National Employment Law Project didn’t mention, is employers are often lax in updating industry databases or don’t remove erroneous information.

In one case in Philadelphia, the 2008 article illustrates, an employee who reached managerial status at a Rite Aid was falsely accused of stealing thousands of dollars worth of merchandise, and while the charges were later expunged from his criminal record, Rite Aid submitted the information to a database frequently used by retail industry employers to hire candidates and never removed it.

On the other hand, simply doing away with employee screenings of any kind is not practical, and in many cases, a national search in which the FBI’s databases, rather than local court records, offers greater accuracy in regards to a job candidate’s criminal history.