Pre-Employ Blog

Are FBI Fingerprints Criminal Background Checks Flawed?

Posted by Bob Mather on May 25, 2016

The Society of Human Resources (SHRM) explains that relying on FBI fingerprint background checks can be flawed and risky for employersFingerprinting ProcessSome shortcomings written about the FBI’s fingerprint database include:

  • Up to half of all final outcome criminal records are missing from the FBI database because some states are not required to submit them. In addition, a 2015 Government Accountability Office report highlighted missing information in state records, with 10 states reporting that their databases were 50 percent or less complete, 13 states reporting between 75 percent and 50 percent complete, and only 20 states reporting 76-100 percent complete. Seven states did not have any data available.
  • Records can be weeks or months out of date because of an irregular update schedule.
  • Arrest records are often included, even though the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) asserts that arrests not resulting in a conviction should not be considered in hiring decisions.
  • Records often lack a final court disposition, which can lead to confusion about an applicant’s criminal history and result in employer sanctions from the EEOC. “The missing information is frequently beneficial to job seekers,” said Nayantara Mehta, an Oakland, Calif.-based ‎senior staff attorney for NELP. For example, one-third of felony arrests do not result in conviction and many others are reduced to misdemeanors, she said. “That’s information that would make a huge difference to a candidate, where a certain conviction may be a bar to their getting a job. Obviously, someone should not be shut out of a job based on a conviction that never happened.” In addition, other cases are overturned on appeal, expunged or otherwise resolved in favor of the worker without these developments ever being reflected on the individual’s records with the FBI, she said.
  • FBI reports don’t allow applicants to challenge the results, unlike regulated consumer reports that protect job applicants from unfair employment actions.

We recommend reading the complete article on SHRM. If you have any questions, contact us 800.300.1821.

Interested in learning more about criminal background checks? Download the white paper to discover 5 myths of hiring an ex-felon, and learn to differentiate the facts from fiction.

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Topics: Criminal Searches, FBI

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