No Second Chances article

No Second Chances

Tasha Dyson, CFE Background Investigation, News


No Second Chances: It’s time for Google to stop condemning former inmates to life sentences.No Second Chances article criminal history

One of our clients sent us this article by Brian Hamilton of Sageworks published in US News. The main question is “Is it fair for someone to be labeled so long after a crime has been committed?…The issue is when people – whether they are a college admissions worker or a screener in a human resources department – routinely block people’s ability to have a second chance simply because a past crime or criminal history shows up in a Google search.”

In concept, this question is similar to “Ban the Box” laws now being passed across the country. These laws prevent some employers from asking about criminal history until after making a conditional offer of employment. (Read more about Ban the Box here.)

Based on our experience conducting background investigations, a number of websites provide “mugshots” and “criminal history data” allegedly obtained from public record sources. These websites often have old, out-of-date information, including expunged data that is no longer part of the public record. They often show both charges (arrests) and convictions. This means that an individual’s criminal history might appear twice as long as it actually as. As a result, they frequently don’t provide enough information to make a conclusive match to the applicant.

Because of these limitations, most of these websites have a warning in fine print that states that employers should not use the information to make a hiring decision. An employer who uses this information to make a hiring decision is probably in violation of the Fair Credit Reporting Act, not to mention a variety of state laws.

As an employer, you should have accurate data. That means a search of the original source information. As an employer, you should know all of the details of a criminal history to which you are entitled. This includes:

  • Whether this is a charge or a conviction
  • The nature of the crime
  • The severity of the crime (felony, misdemeanor, or less serious)
  • The original charge (if available)
  • The dates of offense and conviction

In short, it makes good business sense to apply reason to the evaluation of a candidate. This includes their criminal history. If an applicant age 40 committed a crime at age 20, is there any evidence of a continuation of similar behavior? Is it reasonable to hold “young and dumb” against someone indefinitely?


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