Fingerprints vs. Name-Based Background Checks: And the Winner Is…
Posted Tuesday, May 10th, 2016 by
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Many legislators and employers view FBI and state fingerprint checks as the gold standard of background screening, but our new report reveals this to be a misconception.
The report, “Fingerprints vs. Name-Based Background Checks: And the Winner Is…,” details flaws with fingerprint background checks that negatively impact both employers and applicants. In fact, it says these well-documented flaws are so significant that fingerprint checks should not be an employer’s sole method for identifying whether job applicants have criminal records.
- The FBI database is missing as many as 50% of all criminal records.
- Fingerprint-based records are updated irregularly, so they are often weeks or even months out of date.
- Arrest records are often included—but Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) guidance says arrests that don’t result in a conviction should not be considered in hiring decisions due to disproportionate impact on minority communities.
- FBI reports (a.k.a. “rap sheets”) don’t allow subjects to challenge the results, unlike name-based checks from consumer reporting agencies (CRAs), which are regulated by federal and state laws that protect job applicants from unfair employment actions.
The negative impact is meaningful and widespread. For example, according to the National Employment Law Project, approximately 600,000 job applicants each year are hobbled by incomplete FBI data.
Despite these flaws, states and municipalities across the country have recently passed or are currently considering legislation that requires fingerprint background checks for employment in certain industries. These industries include health care, financial services, transportation and education.
Fingerprint background checks are popular because they are well known and legislators may not be aware of their limitations and shortcomings.
And while fingerprint checks have value, it’s important to remember that the source databases are designed for law enforcement, not employment screening. Employers that use fingerprint checks should do so in conjunction with comprehensive name-based background checks, which are specifically designed for employment screening, and are both faster and much more accurate for determining whether applicants have criminal convictions.
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.