Background Checks Spring Roundup

News and Notes - March 31, 2019 9:27 pm

Here’s our spring update for background check news around the US!

New York – It was recently reported in the New York Post that over 6,000 city employees have not had background checks due to backlog. Department of Investigation (DOI) Commissioner Margaret Garnett testified at a City Council budget hearing, stating that the “DOI’s mandated mission to screen all sensitive and high-level city employees is not being met — nor can it be met with the current staffing.” She continued: “It also means that the majority of those job candidates have already begun employment with the city of New York and are awaiting the results of their background investigation — sometimes for years — a vulnerability that causes me great concern.” As of Garnett’s testimony, there were still 1,900 routine background investigations still open from 2016. Troublesome, however, is the article goes on to detail a senior advisor hired by Mayor de Blasio was later fired for allegedly sexually harassing two city staffers. Garnett insists the agency “did not miss anything” but added that “sometimes people lie.” How many others might have lied that the DOI did not catch?

North Carolina – Uber recently came under scrutiny when a ride in North Carolina went horribly wrong. In December 2018, a woman was mid-Uber ride when her driver was arrested mid-ride by police and charged with impersonating an officer. He had a gun in the car when he was arrested. The driver used an alias on the Uber app and, interestingly, had a near perfect rating. The driver/criminal had previously been arrested in connection with a shooting incident when he worked as a bail bondsman. Uber maintains their background checks were compliant with North Carolina law – only convictions go on a background check. The driver/criminal had pending charges that did not show up. A CNN investigation in April 2018 found at least 103 drivers working for Uber in the U.S. “have been accused of sexually assaulting or abusing their passengers in the past four years” and as many as “31 drivers have been convicted for crimes ranging from forcible touching and false imprisonment to rape.” Uber’s policy excludes drivers with convictions of serious crimes or major driving offenses. However, Uber and chief rival Lyft “have approved thousands of people who should have been disqualified because of criminal records,” according to a follow up investigation by CNN in June 2018.

California – A California district court has certified a class of approximately 5 million people who once applied to Walmart in a suit alleging background check violations (Pitre v. Walmart Stores, Inc., No. 17-cv-01281 (C.D. Cal. Jan. 17, 2019)). “The lawsuit alleges that Walmart willfully included extraneous information in disclosure forms and procured investigative reports without informing class members of their right to request a written summary of their rights under California and federal law.” The Fair Credit Reporting Act has specific rules employers must follow. When multi-state employers try to consolidate and standardize their efforts to satisfy multiple jurisdictions at once, the move can cause legal headaches later on as Walmart has discovered.