DOB Redaction on Background Checks Hurts Everyone

Running Background Checks in California Just Got Harder

Several states, including Michigan and California, recently changed their laws affecting the criminal background checks done by employers to the detriment of not only employers, but just about everyone. criminal background checks on the public access terminals (PAT) can no longer include a full date of birth or social security number in order to confirm the identity of the subject of a criminal background check.

How Pre-Employment Background Checks in California Used to Work

Imagine you are a Consumer Reporting Agency (CRA) like Background Runner, Inc., running pre-employment background checks for local businesses. Let’s say “John Smith” is a candidate for employment with your client, ABC Widgets, and fills out all of ABC’s properly designed and fully compliant background check forms, including authorization for a background check to be run on John Smith.

Now imagine that the reports for credit checks, employment verifications, and even the DMV all come back clean. But the criminal background check comes back with a felony assault conviction. In the past, it would have been easy to ensure that the John Smith on the criminal background check is the same John Smith that is applying for the job. This is done by verifying that his address, address history, and date of birth are the same ones showing up on the criminal background check.

This simple, minutes-long verification ensures that the background checks are accurate, and that the employer has all of the information it needs in order to make a good hire/no-hire decision.

How Pre-Employment Background Checks in California Work Now

Under the new rules, the complete DOB information is not available on the PAT for CRA’s to use to verify that the results of the Criminal Background Check are for the correct person. Imagine the same scenario once again, but this time, multiple people — all with the same first and last name, all living in the same general area, and all with the same month and year of birth — show up in the results. One has a Felony assault in his recent past, and the CRA has no way to verify the results are for the applicant.

What’s the CRA to do?

The CRA is bound by the FCRA (Federal Credit Reporting Agency) to ensure that all background checks are accurate. The CRA is further bound to send a 613a letter to the candidate notifying them if anything derogatory is revealed on the candidate’s background check. Without the DOB on the PAT, the CRA is unable to verify the correctness of the results of the criminal background check easily.

How to Work Around DOB Redaction

In situations like these, where the CRA can no longer rely on the computerized criminal background check data because of the DOB redaction problem, many CRAs are calling or visiting the county clerk to ask them to manually look up the criminal records to match the candidate’s DOB to those on the paper copies of the criminal records.

Many counties in California, including Los Angeles County, are attempting to prohibit the clerks from providing this information, making accurate verification of criminal background check data nearly impossible. What used to take minutes/hours now takes days/weeks if there is a potential crime and can cost a lot more money if files need to be pulled and copied for verification.

Why DOB Redaction on Background Checks Hurts Everyone

So, what happens when candidates with criminal records cannot be identified through criminal background checks? It turns out that DOB redaction on criminal background checks hurts everyone, including the candidate. Here’s how:

  • Good people don’t get hired. If the background check for the candidate applying for the job comes back with several hits and the CRA informs the employer of the unverified results, the employer may delay a hiring decision, waiting to get a definitive answer.
  • Further burden on the courts. In counties that have not restricted manual criminal records searches to confirm DOB information, DOB Redaction places undue stress on an already overburdened court system.
  • Increases Costs for Background Checks. CRAs are accustomed to relying on computer systems, as well as court reporting and quality assurance reviews, to produce their background checks. DOB redaction causes increases in the manual work required to produce each background check which in turn will increase employer’s costs.

The Fight Against DOB Redaction

The Professional Background Screening Association (PBSA) has been fighting against DOB Redaction. The California Supreme Court chose not to review the decision of a lower court brought by the PBSA and the Consumer Data Industry Association (CDIA) and other organizations. DOB Redaction on Background Checks Hurts Everyone, and must be repealed.