Don’t let anyone tell you that during the COVID-19 crisis it’s ok to assume more risk with your criminal background checks.
If you are hiring right now, you are moving fast. Clearing obstacles. Whether you are trying to get healthcare workers to the front lines or hiring delivery drivers to help people stay home, if you are reading about court closures and background check delays, you are getting nervous. You may be wondering if you’re going to be forced to lower your standards. Perhaps you’ll run a laxer background check for now, or run a check in a few months, when things are (hopefully) more normal? You don’t need to do that. I am here to tell you: Anyone who says you have to trade safety for speed right now is wrong.
OK, I imagine that you likely already know this if you’re reading this article, but lowering your standards for the screening programs you’ve established is enormously risky. If you’re sending a worker to a customer’s home, you need to know who they are. This is fundamental to doing right by your customers. It is also critical in protecting your own team’s safety and financial wellbeing, staving off lawsuits, and ultimately preserving a viable brand and business.
National Criminal Database: A Myth
Some screening providers are recommending that clients lean more heavily during these uncertain times on an “instant check,” or national criminal database search, but that’s sort of like putting on a helmet before a bike ride but not buckling it. A national criminal database search is a logical starting point, and in fact can help expand the footprint of a search beyond just address history. However, there is no comprehensive “National Criminal Database” — a single database containing all the criminal records in the United States does not exist. It is a myth. No database covers every county, and some databases don’t even cover every state. The result is incomplete, sometimes outdated information, and the potential for false positives. Courts are the most authoritative source of criminal records.
Leveraging expertise and relationships to fulfill checks
Courts are closed, though, right? Yes, and this means that there are some screening providers that can’t fulfill checks at all in more than 400 courthouses across the country, including major cities like Chicago, or the entire state of New Jersey. But “closed” doesn’t mean the same thing to Sterling. Because of our relationships with the courts and the technology we’ve built with them, in most cases Sterling has electronic access to records. We can keep screening, whether courts are closed after hours or in more extreme circumstances like today. In fact, despite widespread court closures we are still fulfilling background checks in over 95% of US jurisdictions.
So you will not see us marketing a special criminal background check package that allows you to skip counties where courts are closed. Even with our expansive footprint, there are going to be times when the court record you need is simply not available to anyone. When that happens, what you will get from Sterling is a conversation about how to handle it for your company — not an excuse telling you why that’s ok. We will continue to offer the quality screening our clients have come to expect from us for 45 years. And our teams of experts — who know your vertical, your business — are here (virtually, of course) to help navigate the uncertainties of the current moment.
These are tough times. But if you’re hesitating about hiring because you don’t think you can screen safely, think again. And don’t feel pressure to trade fast hiring for safe hiring. It’s a tradeoff you simply don’t have to make.
This publication is for informational purposes only and nothing contained in it should be construed as legal advice. We expressly disclaim any warranty or responsibility for damages arising out this information. We encourage you to consult with legal counsel regarding your specific needs. We do not undertake any duty to update previously posted materials.