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UPDATE: Court of Appeal Ruling will Continue Delays for CA Criminal Background Checks

As you likely know, courts across a number of California counties are now redacting date of birth from court cases reported via public indexes (online and public access terminals). Additionally—as we are now seeing in Los Angeles County—court clerks are facing restrictions against providing assistance to verify full dates of birth during criminal record checks. This negatively impacts a court researcher’s ability to quickly and accurately verify name/case matches—resulting in A-Check clients experiencing significant delays in county court searches throughout the state of California.

So, why the delay? In May, 2021, a case decision in All of Us or None vs. Hamrick provided direction for the removal of critical personal information—date of birth and/or driver license number—from public facing criminal court records. This case alleged that Riverside County allowed users of the Riverside Superior Court’s public website to search for criminal records by inputting a defendant’s date of birth, directly compromising the privacy of those involved in criminal proceedings. While this lawsuit was brought only against the Riverside Superior Court, it ultimately impacted most California state courts.

In September 2021, the California Supreme Court denied review in the matter, allowing—for now—the continuation of this information redaction. This denial by the California Supreme Court means that criminal record checks in California will continue to become more difficult, and in some cases impossible.

At A-Check Global, we know and understand this is extremely challenging for our valued clients. We will continue to work toward any and all potential opportunities for resolution—while also having full awareness that a solution may not be available in the near future. Furthermore, we anticipate that while this is limited to a select number of California counties, it is likely additional counties will adopt similar action.

We will continue to serve our clients by taking all possible steps to accurately match candidates to criminal records. For now, files with a possible match (as a combination of name and year or month/year of birth) will be noted with an extended turnaround time (TAT) and A-Check will continue to serve you to the best of our ability.

Additionally, there is activity within the background screening industry to find a viable solution to this situation. The Professional Background Screening Association (PBSA) Government Relations Date-of-Birth Redaction Task Force is currently executing two potential alternative paths to resolution:

  1. Work with the California Judicial Council to modify the rule.
  2. Create a legislative campaign to introduce statutory changes that requires the Judicial Council to modify the rule.

We’re here to help answer any questions you may have. Please don’t hesitate to contact us.

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Compliance Clips for September 2021

Checklist of FCRA Requirements
We’ve included this information before, but it’s worth a repeat visit. When an employer uses a third party (like A-Check) to conduct background checks, there are FCRA compliance requirements that must be followed. For your convenience, here’s a short checklist of key requirements:

  • Ensure there is a permissible purpose for performing a background check on an applicant/employee, based on their role and responsibilities.
  • Provide clear written notice in a stand-alone document to the applicant/employee that a background check will be conducted, and the resulting information will be used to make an employment decision.
  • Obtain the applicant/employee’s written consent to perform a background check and/or investigative report.
  • If the background check information results in an adverse action decision, a notice of pre-adverse action, along with a copy of the background check results and a copy of the Summary of Your Rights Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, must be presented to the individual.
  • Allow the individual at least five business days to dispute the information in the background check.
  • If adverse action is taken upon final decision, provide the individual with a final notice of adverse action.

We’re focused on helping you remain compliant, and always welcome your questions.

I-9 COMPLIANCE

Ongoing Extension: Form I-9 Requirements in response to COVID-19
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced an extension of the flexibility in complying with requirements related to Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification, due to COVID-19. The general rule is that an employer must undertake a physical inspection of the document(s) presented by the employee for section 2 purposes.

UPDATE: Because of ongoing COVID-19 precautions, remote I-9 document review has been extended; the expiration date for these accommodations is now December 31, 2021.

The government has suspended the in-person and physical inspection of the document(s) presented by the employee when completing the Form I-9. During this time, an employer can view the document(s) presented by the employee via Zoom or Skype, for example.
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SUBSTANCE ABUSE TESTING

Connecticut
The Connecticut Governor signed Senate Bill 1201—effective in 2022—making CT the 19th state to legalize recreational marijuana for adults 21 years and older, but will allow employers to continue implementing drug-free employment policies. This new law will require expungement of certain existing marijuana convictions, but also creates employment protections for recreational marijuana users. That said, employers are permitted to continue prohibiting employees from engaging in the recreational use of marijuana, subject to certain statutory requirements.
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California
A U.S. District Court in California held that an employer can condition an offer of employment on passing pre-employment drug screening, including a test for marijuana. In this case, a new employee was terminated for a positive marijuana test. The judge ruled that the employee failed to establish he suffered from a disability given the lack of detail or documentation submitted to the employer—and the employer had established a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for the employee’s termination.
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New Jersey
New Jersey’s Cannabis Regulatory Commission released regulations on August 19, governing recreational cannabis use. However, these rules do not yet include standards for employers prior to conducting marijuana drug testing. Marijuana was legalized for recreational purposes in New Jersey in February 2021, including certain protections with regard to off-duty use by employees. Legislation now imposes a new requirement that work-related marijuana testing include a physical examination conducted by an expert—a Workplace Impairment Recognition Expert (“WIRE”)—trained to recognize drug impairment. That said, the Commission did not indicate how long it will take to develop the certification standards or when employers can expect regulations addressing marijuana testing.
READ MORE

AS A REMINDER: At A-Check, we’re happy to help implement a drug screening program that meets your evolving needs—or make adjustments to the program you’re already running with us. Just give us a call at 877-345-2021 and ask to speak with someone on your Client Relations team.

CRIMINAL HISTORY REPORTING

Louisiana
Effective August 1, 2021, Act No. 406 impacts employers conducting background screening prior to a job offer by prohibiting the request or consideration of an arrest record or charge that did not result in a conviction when a background check reveals that information. This legislation also requires employers to individually assess a candidate’s criminal history and determine if the outcome is directly or adversely related to specific duties of potential employment.
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Maine
Taking effect October 18, 2021, Maine joins the growing number of states with new Ban the Box legislation to prohibit employers from requesting criminal history information on initial employment applications. While there are exceptions, new law prohibits employers from requesting criminal history information on applications or stating that a person with a criminal history may not apply or will not be considered for a position. Employers are also prohibited from stating—prior to determining a person’s qualifications—that candidates with criminal history will not be considered.
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Questions? We’re here to help!

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Compliance Clip March 2020

CREDIT CHECKS

House Passes Bill Restricting Employer Credit Checks

The House of Representatives passed the Comprehensive CREDIT Act of 2020, which would change federal laws pertaining to consumer reporting agencies and credit checks in a number of ways. Significantly for employers, the Act includes an amendment to the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), which would restrict the use of credit information for most employment decisions. PLEASE NOTE: The Act now heads to the Senate where it is unlikely to pass in its current form . . . we’ll monitor and keep you updated.
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SUBSTANCE ABUSE TESTING

NEW YORK City Employers Must Say Bye-Bye to Pre-Employment Marijuana Testing
A common onboarding practice is about to become illegal in New York City. Effective May 10, 2020, most New York City employers will be prohibited from requiring job applicants to undergo testing for marijuana. The new law makes mandatory marijuana testing of prospective employees equivalent to an unlawful discriminatory practice, such as denying a job applicant employment because of his or her race, gender, or any other protected characteristic.
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Department of Transportation Cautions Employers About CBD Use by Regulated Workers
If a CBD product has a concentration of more than 0.3% of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), an amount generally viewed to be sufficient to produce a psychoactive effect, then it is an unlawful Schedule I controlled substance under federal law. Problems arise when employees test positive for THC but then claim to be using a “THC-free” or “pure CBD” product.
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AS A REMINDER: At A-Check, we’re happy to help implement a drug screening program that meets your evolving needs—or make adjustments to the program you’re already running with us. Just give us a call at 877-345-2021 and ask to speak with someone on your Client Relations team.

BAN THE BOX LAW

NEW ENGLAND Ban the Box Trend: Navigating Criminal History Checks in the Hiring Process
Many states and localities have been adopting Ban the Box, prohibiting employers (including private employers) from asking applicants to disclose information concerning their criminal histories prior to an initial interview or a conditional offer of employment. Currently, all New England states except Maine and New Hampshire have a Ban the Box law that is applicable to private employers.  Bills that would have applied Ban the Box to private employers in both Maine and New Hampshire died in last year’s legislative sessions, but there is a good chance that similar legislation will resurface.
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DATA PRIVACY

WISCONSIN Proposes “Groundbreaking” Data Privacy Law Modeled After GDPR
A trio of consumer data privacy bills modeled after Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has been introduced in the Wisconsin State Assembly. The three bills, collectively dubbed the Wisconsin Data Privacy Act (WDPA), were sponsored by Republican State Representative Shannon Zimmerman, who is seeking to make Wisconsin “the most consumer-friendly state in our nation on data privacy.” If enacted, the WDPA would take effect July 31, 2022.
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State Consumer Privacy Law Round-Up
As the likelihood of the federal government passing a timely, workable national consumer privacy law before the November election decreases, states from coast to coast have been busy. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, over 150 new consumer privacy bills were introduced in 25 states and Puerto Rico in 2019. This link is a comprehensive summary of privacy bills introduced thus far in 2020:
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SALARY HISTORY

Ninth Circuit Reaffirms Only Job-Related Factors Will Excuse Pay Disparity Under Federal EPA, Prior Salary Not Job-Related
On February 27, 2020, the Ninth Circuit issued a long-anticipated decision.  The appellate court affirmed its prior holding and concluded that: (1) only job-related factors may excuse wage disparities between comparable employees within the context of a federal Equal Pay Act (EPA) claim, and (2) prior salary, alone or in consideration with other factors, is not job-related, and therefore cannot serve as an affirmative defense to an EPA claim.
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Questions? We’re here to help!

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Compliant Background Screening and your Employment Program

If it’s worth saying, it’s worth repeating . . .
and then backing that up with a link to a great article we found!

Performing compliant, accurate background screening helps minimize risk to your company and your employees by confirming candidates are who they say they are, while at the same time maximizing your ability to hire and retain strong, capable employees for the long run.

But keep in mind that above all, when you perform background screening through a company that is in the business of gathering and reporting background records and verification information (like A-Check Global), you as the employer must ALSO do your part to comply with the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).

Why such focus on the compliance of background screening?

We can’t make it any clearer than to say failure to comply with FCRA requirements will surely expose you to the risk of expensive and ongoing litigation. It’s important to regularly review your program for:

  • Adherence to FCRA requirements for Disclosure and Authorization forms
  • Compliance with permissible purpose and to what extent information can be used
  • Non-discriminatory consideration for all candidates
  • And confirmation that the Consumer Reporting Agency you use (like A-Check Global) also maintains compliance with applicable laws and regulations.

Got a minute? Here’s a great read:

We found an excellent article detailing compliance requirements and the utilization of background checks by employers.

READ MORE

We are here to help!
If you have questions about your current screening program, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us. Contact A-Check Global here to get started.

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Keeping a Close Eye on Compliance:

FCRA Disclosure and Authorization Forms

No doubt, you already know the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) has strict regulations in place to govern your pre-employment background screening process—and that failure to meet these regulations when screening your candidates can quickly get you into some pretty expensive legal trouble. It’s no secret that class action attorneys, year after year, continue to pursue employers and Consumer Reporting Agencies that are not in strict compliance with FCRA requirements.

Before we get too much further, let’s take a quick look at why these regulations are in place to begin with.

The FCRA was enacted to help ensure consumer protection

Short and simple. It’s about the privacy of consumer information—knowing what information is collected, and how that information can be used by lenders, credit issuers, and yes, even employers. During background screening, this protection also extends to information like criminal/arrest records.

In short, if you’re a U.S.-based business, of any size, public or private, your pre-employment background screening program is subject to FCRA regulation compliance.

Two important requirements: FCRA Disclosure and Authorization

Employers must begin all candidate background screening with two critical steps:

  • Disclosure: You must properly inform candidates that you will be performing a background screen
  • Authorization: And, you much obtain the candidate’s permission for this background screen

Let’s take a closer look at what is required for both.

Disclosure: Clearly notifying candidates that you intend to perform background screening as part of a wholly informed hiring decision. This disclosure must be clear (direct language, easy to understand), conspicuous (prominent, not deeply embedded in other forms or fine print), and presented as a stand-alone document.

Authorization: Also as a self-contained document, a clear candidate acknowledgement that background screening will be conducted as a pre-employment requirement. This can be presented jointly with the Disclosure, but must be on two separate and printable pages. As part of the authorization, the client will also acknowledge that the company is an equal-opportunity employer and follows all fair hiring practices.

That said, what can go wrong? Well . . . without close attention, a lot!

At most risk, improperly worded presented background check disclosure and authorization forms that do not follow FCRA requirements to the letter are magnets for class action litigation. Like we mentioned above, the FCRA requires clear, conspicuous disclosure as well as candidate written authorization prior to performing a background screen employment. Furthermore—and this is detail attorneys are embracing—FCRA requires the disclosure and authorization forms exist as stand-alone documents. (FCRA section 604(b)(2)).

It is the End User’s responsibility to manage the forms they provide to candidates. Disclosure and authorization forms can typically be signed physically or electronically. However, your company or organization should always consult with your legal team to confirm you are utilizing the appropriate forms, as FCRA regulations evolves over time, as does state-by-state legislation.

A-Check Global has consistently communicated the importance of disclosure and authorization form compliance to our clients. While U.S. employers are ultimately responsible for ensuring their hiring practices comply with federal and state requirements, we’re here to help.

Ask us about our FCRA Form Tool Kit

We offer a convenient Authorization for Background Investigation Form Kit which helps make it easier to comply with FCRA and applicable state-by-state requirements. Our document includes all the components necessary to customize your Forms.

For more information and access to this Tool Kit, please contact us at clientsupport@acheckglobal.com or 1-877-345-2021.