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NAPBS Responds to Recent “Broken Records” NCLC Report


Robert O. Patterson, JD 888-686-2727


Background Screening Industry Denounces NCLC Study as Inaccurate and Inflammatory

SCHAUMBURG, IL, June 13, 2012 – The National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS) announces information from a recent study of background screening companies affirming the accuracy of background checks, refuting a report recently issued by the National Consumer Law Center (NCLC). The study, scheduled to be released later this summer, was validated by veteran market research agency Mathew Greenwald & Associates in Washington, D.C. It found that 98 percent of background screening providers surveyed encounter consumer disputes less than 5 percent of the time out of millions of applicants screened annually.

Of the small number of reports that are disputed by a consumer, more than 95 percent are ultimately found to be accurate. The NAPBS study responds to the recent report released by NCLC regarding the accuracy of background checks, which accuses background screening providers of “routinely making mistakes”. NAPBS refutes the report, Broken Records: How Errors by Criminal Background Checking Companies Harm Workers and Businesses (April 2012), as inaccurate and inflammatory and points to the fact that the NCLC fails to offer any empirical data to back up its findings.

Private and public employers, residential managers, and nonprofit and volunteer groups rely upon criminal background checks to protect their staffs, clients, property and the public-at-large. They realize that better decisions come from more, not less, information involving a job candidate. People want and need to know who is coming into their home to do repairs, who is coaching their children in the after-school sports league, and who is responsible for client funds. The Supreme Court affirmed the need for background checks in Nasa v. Nelson, and in the past several years, lawmakers around the country have recognized the utility of criminal background checks by enacting countless laws mandating checks to protect vulnerable populations such as the young and the elderly.

In an unsupported and grossly inflammatory statement, the NCLC report claims that 65 million Americans with criminal records are forever tarnished and unemployable as a result of background checks. In fact, according to a student conducted by the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM), only five percent of employers regard arrest records as “influential”. The EEOC has stepped up enforcement against employers who discriminate based on criminal history, and over 100 cases are pending on this issue. The NCLC allegations that the use of criminal background checks make it more difficult for workers to obtain employment is simply not supported by the facts.

Further, the report portrays the background screening industry as being indifferent to the accuracy of data and states, “evidence indicates that professional background screening companies routinely make mistakes with grave consequences for job seekers”, but the report later notes that “actual accuracy rates are not possible to obtain”. The only evidence to support this statement by NCLC is a self-conducted survey of Listserv Members, which can, at best be said to be a collection of anecdotal comments lacking credibility given its unscientific nature. Furthermore, this statement is incorrect and flies in the face of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), which mandates that when a consumer reporting agency prepares a consumer report – one which may contain criminal history information – that they follow reasonable procedures to assure maximum possible accuracy of the information in the report.

The NCLC report also contends that the primary law that protects consumers, the FCRA, “as currently interpreted and enforced, fails to adequately protect consumers when it comes to employment screening”, claiming that even when applicants successfully dispute reports and errors are removed, they are still routinely denied employment. This claim ignores existing law that requires background screening organizations to provide the consumer with a free copy of their consumer report and which also mandates that reports of inaccuracy or incompleteness by a consumer must be re-investigated within 30 days. Employers who use a background screening company must follow specific adverse action procedures spelled out in the FCRA, which give job applicants a fair chance to dispute the finding in the report. The adverse action and consumer dispute requirements are core tenets of the FCRA and are intended to protect applicants from being denied employment based on inaccurate or incomplete background screening information. These core tenants are aggressively enforced by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) as well as by individual states. The NCLC’s dismissive statement that the FCRA is ineffective is not based in reality given the FTC’s enforcement ability.

In 2010 NAPBS launched the Background Screening Agency Accreditation Program (BSAAP) to enforce a singular cohesive industry standard. The accreditation program advances professionalism in the employment screening industry through the promotion of best practices, awareness of legal compliance, and the development of standards that protect consumers. The NAPBS Background Screening Credentialing Council (BSCC) is the governing body that oversees the application process and ensures that the background screening organizations seeking accreditation meet and/or exceed a measurable standard of competence. To become accredited, consumer reporting agencies must pass a rigorous onsite audit conducted by an independent auditing firm. The audit examines policies and procedures as they relate to six critical areas: consumer protection, legal compliance, client education, product standards, service standards, and general business practices. When NAPBS officially rolled its accreditation program out in late 2010 the leadership projected that it would take up to 3 years for all consumer reporting agency members to complete the full accreditation process. Many are in the process and more are preparing the written documentation needed for the audits required for accreditation.

The member companies of NAPBS help put millions of people to work, including ex-offenders. They also help consumers correct misinformation that may be contained on them at the actual courts or law enforcement agencies, as well as any incorrect criminal history information that may have been contained in a consumer report.

The NCLC report is inaccurate in stating that less than one percent of background screening agencies are certified by NAPBS because they used faulty data to arrive at their number. Those seeking NAPBS accreditation are the consumer reporting agencies, and not all members listed in the online directory sited in the report.

Providing accurate and complete information is the primary tenet and mission of NAPBS members. To operate otherwise would be detrimental to any business looking to grow in a highly competitive and regulated industry. NAPBS member companies are committed to providing accurate and complete information while demonstrating professionalism, accountability, and a commitment to best practices.

About NAPBS:

The National Association of Professional Background Screeners exists to promote ethical business practices, promote compliance with the Fair Credit Reporting Act and equal employment opportunity laws, and foster awareness of issues related to consumer protection and privacy rights within the background screening industry. Founded in 2003, NAPBS was established to represent the interests of companies offering employment and tenant background screening services.

Advanced Reporting General Manager Elaine Rosenberg is extremely proud to have served on both the NAPBS Best Practices and Education Committees and Advanced Reporting is committed to producing complete and accurate consumer reports across the industry.