Employers and Last Week’s Equifax Hack

Last week, the credit reporting giant Equifax disclosed that hackers gained access to the names, Social Security numbers, dates of birth, and addresses of the company’s 143 million U.S. customers. Even by today’s standards, this data breach was big.

While Equifax customers sign-up for identity theft protection and seek answers, employers are left asking what the incident means for them. Most likely, not very much. For starters, hiring for many positions doesn’t require access to credit information, unless that information relevant to the role being filled.

Furthermore, the latest breach isn’t going to stop a background check company, like EagleScreen, from accessing reliable consumer credit information when it needs to. Our measures and processes are designed to only retrieve accurate, verified information on subjects and check for quality assurance at every step along the way. Unless employers start receiving ghosted job applications that are submitted by the hackers (not likely to happen), a hack of this nature isn’t going to mean much.

Still, last week’s Equifax hack is a good reminder of the critical importance of data security. As an important partner in your hiring process, EagleScreen is proud to safeguard sensitive applicant information using the most robust, best-in-class data security measures, including secure archiving, constant internal vulnerability testing, and SAS 70 compliance on host systems.

Long story short: employers, you can breath easy. Hackers are not likely to use this information to apply for jobs on behalf of those whose sensitive information they have hacked.  Equifax customers, on the other hand, should check out these resources regarding what to do next.

The Promise -and Pitfalls- on the Horizon for Landlords

In May 2017, the nationwide average for monthly rent grew by about $4, marking the third straight month of rent growth in the U.S. That’s the good news, according to new survey data from Yardi Matrix. Residential landlords and property managers are less likely to smile over the fact that rent growth is decelerating, meaning year-over-year increases in rental prices are still underway, but at a more modest rate.

EagleScreen blog readers are encouraged to check out the reporting from our friends at MultiFamilyExecutive .com for their summary of the Yardi Matrix report, as well as their other insightful commentary on the latest market trends. The Yardi report’s authors credit a slowdown in rental price growth to the slight increase in apartment supply. Compared to last year’s 281,000 new rental units, 2017 is expected to come in nearly 80,000 units stronger at 360,000.

Other fast facts from the data:

Growth in upscale renters, those who could afford to own their own home but choose to rent, is a market subset that Yardi anticipates will stay flat this year. On the other end of the spectrum, the “Renter by Necessity” category of tenants is expected to rise by 2.6%.

Look west for rent growth, as three regions in the Golden State take the gold, silver, and bronze medals for top rent growth in the country with the Sacramento area clocking in at +7.3%, the Inland Empire at +4.2% and Los Angeles at +3.9%.

After years of robust rent growth, Yardi predicts a slowdown ahead in this area. In the southern and western regions of the U.S., new completions are expected to push total apartment stock about 3.0% higher in 2017.

Friendly reminder: EagleScreen is a proud provider of high-quality, FCRA-compliant screening solutions to property managers and landlords across the country.

‘Ban the Box’ Laws & What They Mean For You

When changes in the law and public policy intersect with HR management, the practical consequences for employers are compliance-related complexities -and the heightened chance of doing something wrong. Few other trends at the nexus of HR and public policy can prompt more head-scratching -and require closer attention- than the “Ban the Box” movement. Simply put, the “Ban the Box” movement is about eliminating the ability of employers to ask applicants about their criminal history in an initial job application. More broadly, efforts are underway to promote “fair chance” laws that restrict employers’ inquiries into the criminal histories of applicants.

In the United States, 70 millions adults – more people than every man, woman, and child in France- have an arrest or conviction on their record. This reality, coupled with greater scrutiny of the criminal justice system, has invigorated the campaign for “Ban the Box.” Advocates for “Ban the Box”-style reforms frame their arguments in terms of fairness, while opponents, particularly those in the business community, lament how the laws add to an already frustrating screening compliance checklist.

Like so many legal and regulatory issues, precisely how “Ban the Box” manifests itself varies from place to place. For example, an employer in Los Angeles must be clear and up-front about the fact that they consider an applicant’s criminal record, whereas employers in New York City must initially refrain from mentioning whether a criminal record search is part of the hiring process. Given that over 150 municipalities and 18 states have some version of Ban the Box, understanding what those laws and regulations mean for you is no simple task.

As more and more companies and organizations turn to pre-employment screening providers, it is essential for them to work with those who understand the complex and ever-evolving compliance landscape. In the case of EagleScreen, our top-notch compliance experts keep appraised of “Ban the Box” and other screening-related compliance questions. Moreover, our team educates clients about these issues to allow for greater end-to-end compliance in the hiring process.

EEOC Guidelines: What You Need To Know

Employers, in general, and HR professionals, in particular, have plenty on their plate. Who has the time to consider the latest Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) guidelines when managing and motivating a workforce, meeting payroll, and coordinating recruitment are just a few of your core responsibilities?

And yet, here’s the truth: if you want to stay on the right side of hiring regulations, EEOC guidelines are critical to know.

Established in the mid-1960s, the EEOC is tasked with making sure employers give equal treatment to their employees -and job applicants. Like the Federal Trade Commission, the EEOC is a federal agency charged with enforcing civil rights laws and pushing back on workplace discrimination, including discrimination that Americans could experience before they get hired.

Here are a few high-level recommendations for those who want to ensure compliance with the EEOC:

No brainers:

Don’t discriminate – the EEOC can take swift action against employers that screen or check applicants of only a certain race, national origin, color, gender, religion, disability, or age. Instead, it’s a good idea to stick to a uniform screening protocol for all of your applicants and use background checks across the board, not just for some. Plus, once you have access to information gained through a background check, be consistent in how you accept or disqualify applicants based on that data.

Safe from the start:

The EEOC cares big-time about preventing employers from taking actions that could have a “disparate impact” on specific groups of applicants based on factors such as race, national origin, gender, and age. For this reason, employers are advised to refrain from saying in the job posting that a clean criminal record and passing a criminal background check are required.

Hold off on the recycling:

EEOC guidelines require employers hold on to employment records (including applications forms and related records!) for one year after the records were created or the hiring decision was made, whichever comes later. Some employers, like educational institutions and government employers must preserve these records for even longer.

Type it up:

Employers of all kinds can work to insulate themselves from additional liability by typing up their hiring procedures and criteria for assessing job applicants, as well as their background check information. Keeping a paper trail can be useful for conveying to the EEOC that you have taken concrete actions to prevent discrimination in your hiring process.

Don’t freak out:

OK, so the EEOC is on your case, what do you do? First, don’t freak out. Get to the facts by interviewing the employees involved in your hiring process and reviewing any related documents. Doing your homework in this regard will go a long way to helping you decide whether you do or don’t want to go to court and litigate your case. Of course, it’s important to be forthcoming and make clear to EEOC investigators who was involved, what documents are relevant, how you are responding to each allegation, and the pro-active steps you took before the incident happened.

Of course, no one is going to mistake a blog post for sound legal advice. We hope this information helps bring you up-to-speed on what you need to know. Clients that engage with EagleScreen enjoy the peace of mind knowing that we conduct our background checks in compliance with EEOC guidelines and other relevant federal, state, and local laws. More than that, we pride ourselves on educating clients and working with them to build a compliant hiring process from end to end.

 

 

Not Your ‘Run of the Mill’ Risk: Beware of Diploma Mills

In the information age, educational credentials are more important than ever when it comes to evaluating candidates. Yet, just as counterfeiters and swindlers have churned out fake money, artwork, and artifacts, so too are diploma mills selling fake educational credentials to those desperate for a quick and easy boost to their resume.

What does all this mean for employers? Today, hiring managers are forced to navigate the murky waters of a hiring landscape that is muddied by the presence of diploma mills in the United States and around the world. Mistakes in doing so can result in employees that are patently unqualified for the work they were hired to do. As a result, employers become saddled with the costs of those employees’ mistakes and the subsequent pressure to rehire for their positions.

 

While the Federal Trade Commission has released a list of warning signs on the topic of diploma mills and has taken regulatory actions, as well, these (non) “institutions” attempt to slip by with names and, occasionally, Internet domain information that are similar to legitimate academic institutions. Furthermore, no level of the education system is immune to the presence of these diploma mills, as there are fake degrees peddled for everything from high school to college to graduate-level degrees. In fact, many of the most high-profile instances of diploma mill fraud involve job applicants who claimed to have a professional degree. In an era when its hard to be a job applicant without a high school degree, diploma mills swoop in with the false promise of an easy solution.

 

The downstream consequences of diploma mills, of course, are realized by employers who convert the wrong applicants into employees. Depending on the role being filled and the industry it is in, employees with fake degrees can expose employers to serious risks and liability concerns. Across the board, the negative consequences of bringing on an employee with fraudulent educational credentials can stem from the wasted time onboarding and training them, the money it takes to rehire, and the potential for the employee to make mistakes linked to the absence of a real educational credential. High-quality providers of pre-employment screening solutions, like EagleScreen, know how to identify cases of fraudulent educational credentials. Ultimately, these verification solutions save our clients time and money by keeping them safe from diploma mill scams.

The myth of the National Criminal Search.

If you’re like me you like a good spy thriller, doesn’t matter if it’s a book, a movie, or even a TV show.  One of the more entertaining ways to unwind after a long day is to watch the good guys chase the bad ones and hopefully a happy ending.

One of the constants in these types of stories is what I always call the command center.  It’s typically a room filled with computers, phones, and wall mounted flat screens where some shadowy government agency is tracking the moves of the hero, the villain, and everyone else in between.  Invariably there will come a moment in the story where the leader of this group needs information on someone, anyone.  They shout out a name and suddenly there they are on the big screen, their name, DOB, SSN, every known alias, their rap sheet, the name of their second grade teacher, it’s all there!  Sadly for us, this might be the least believable part of the entire plot.

The reality is that there is simply no one database that stores all of this information.  In fact there isn’t even a single database just to store criminal information.  No, the idea of a National Criminal Search is at worst a myth and at best a misnomer.

In order to have a true national criminal search every county in the United States, all three thousand plus would have to either connect to a single networked system or report every record that passes through their court to a centralized location.  Sadly most courts can’t even get the information to their own state repository with the level of accuracy or frequency required for a through search.  Unfortunately the level of technology used in the majority of our courts is often fifteen to twenty years behind the average American business and even if it were more up to date the fact remains that each state and sometimes even indidual counties use entirely different systems than their peers.

So what is that National Criminal you’ve been ordering and what does it do?  National Criminal searches, sometimes referred to as Multi-State or Multi-Jurisdictional searches, run your applicant’s name through a 3rd party database that collects criminal case information from a variety of sources.  These may include online criminal records, department of corrections records, administrative court offices, departments of public safety, and many more.  However, the records in some areas of the country are much better than others and there are areas with no coverage at all.

While these searches can be very useful they also require great diligence on the part of our records specialists to ensure any results returned truly belong to your applicant.  Any potential results are screened and strict reporting criteria is applied before additional steps are taken to verify the records.

The “National Criminal” might be a myth but the search is still a very valuable tool.  However, just like a hammer, it shouldn’t be the only tool in your box.  Contact us today to learn how this search can benefit you and how our team handles the information to be sure you are receiving an accurate, compliant report.

Reasonable Procedures – Maximum Accuracy

Like most legal documents the FCRA can be a minefield to navigate.  Pages and pages of statutes, codes, articles, sub chapters, who wants to read this stuff?  Perhaps because the language is so dry many companies have made the mistake of ignoring a very important section that is key to protecting your business.

This is section 1681, otherwise known as reasonable procedures to ensure maximum possible accuracy.  Verbatim the sections reads: “Whenever a consumer reporting agency prepares a consumer report it shall follow reasonable procedures to assure maximum possible accuracy of the information concerning the individual about whom the report relates.”  This does seem like a common sense protocol for most any background screening company, right?  When reporting information a screening company should make the effort to ensure the report is correct, that’s our job after all.  However, where this can and often does become an issue is with regard to the use of database records.

The most common database records are those found in searches like the National Criminal and the National Sex Offender Registry but these can also include Medical Sanctions, Global Watch Lists, and others.  Any service that searches a third party database as opposed to the “live” records at the source is considered a database search.  While these searches can offer excellent benefits with regard to speed and automation, some are closed within minutes of being ordered, they also pose the greatest challenge to ensuring maximum possible accuracy.

That’s because a database is just that a database.  Records complied and stored for years by third party companies do not always reflect the most current and up to date status of those records.  For instance, let’s say an individual is convicted of a DUI.  The record of that DUI conviction is obtained by the company that administers the database and moving forward will appear when the individuals name is run through their system.  However, a few years later lets say that individual is able to have their record expunged.  Once the expungement takes place the conviction is no longer part of the public record.  If you were to search for this individual in the county court of record there would be no trace of the DUI.  Yet, because the database record providers do not obtain expungement information from the courts the original conviction will likely remain in their database.  For a CRA to report this record from the database search would be a violation of the provision to ensure maximum possible accuracy.

It is for exactly this reason that Eagle Screen policy prohibits our reports from containing any potentially adverse information from a database source without first confirming the information reported with the official source.  That means any National Criminal search that results in a potential hit will be verified with a county or statewide criminal search to ensure the information is true and up to date.  It also means that potential hits in Sex Offender, Medical Sanctions, and other database services are always verified at the source.  Our team makes every effort to ensure these verifications are conducted in an efficient but more importantly accurate manner.  Where other firms may cut corners to return database information, Eagle Screen makes the extra effort to ensure the accuracy of our reports.

County versus State – the age old debate.

When it comes to searching for criminal records every CRA does things a little differently.  Some will tell you to search the entire state, some say each county, others may say both.  But when it comes down to it what is really the best method and what is a clever sales gimmick?  When it comes to county versus statewide the answer is: it depends.

As we’ve covered before every state and sometimes each county within a state can do things a little differently.  Multiple systems, court clerk restrictions, lack of IDs on the public index, etc.  With each court comes unique challenges and as such to recommend only county or only statewide is to ignore the more complicated truth.  Generally speaking the accepted best practice is to run county level searches because the county court is the official court of record.  State repositories are not mandated to maintain the official copy of the record, that is the county court’s responsibility.  However, there are several states across the country that do an excellent job of maintaining all records and all record types from every county.  Many of these are updated by the county in twenty four hours or less.  In these instances it is actually far more economical to run a statewide in place of a county.  You’ll receive far greater coverage at a reasonable cost and go beyond standard best practice.

Unfortunately, not every state is so technologically adept as to maintain a single accurate repository for their records.  However, Eagle Screen maintains a list of the states that can be searched as an accurate single state repository and with the proper settings to your account we can automatically search those areas for you when they appear in your applicant’s history.

Let our years of experience and industry knowledge guide you to the most background screening bang for your buck!