national criminal database

“Ban the box” legislation gains momentum

Across the country, municipalities and states are enacting legislation called “ban the box” which generally prohibits employers from asking job candidates about their criminal histories on applications. The legislation also makes it unlawful for a covered employer to take any adverse action against an individual on the basis of an arrest or criminal accusation that did not result in a conviction. The states of California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Minnesota, and New Mexico have enacted some form of the legislation along with more than 26 cities and counties in Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Wisconsin and Washington. (A complete list of municipalities that have “banned the box” is posted at

However, except for Hawaii and Massachusetts, the legislation has been limited to public employers, or public employers and vendors and contractors serving public entities. The city of Philadelphia, which is the most recent addition to this growing list, is the first municipality to pass a law that covers private employers with 10 or more employees. Below are some jurisdictional highlights of the enacted legislation:

  • Hawaii and Massachusetts private and public employers cannot consider felony convictions that are more than 10 years old. And in Massachusetts, employers are not permitted to consider misdemeanor convictions that are more than five years old.
  • Hawaii and the cities of Chicago, Hartford, and Cincinnati allow an employer to ask about an applicant’s criminal record only after a conditional offer of employment has been extended.
  • Chicago, San Francisco, and Boston require a public employer denying employment on the basis of a conviction to justify its decision based on EEOC’s guidelines which include the nature and gravity of the crime, the time that has passed since the conviction, and the relativity of the crime to the position.

Proponents of “ban the box” are confident that the legislation will be a significant factor in lowering recidivism rates, as it will allow applicants to demonstrate their skills and qualifications prior to disclosing criminal histories. And many experts say that such laws will expand beyond the borders of the United States in the very near future.

October 17th, 2011|Employment Decisions, Legislation|

The Fallacy of a National Criminal Database

Scherzer International is occasionally asked about the availability of a non-law enforcement “national criminal database” as some of our competition offers this service. The fact is that no such database exists.

    The FBI maintains the only comprehensive national criminal database and access to it is restricted to law enforcement agency use. The information offered by private vendors as a “national criminal database” is incomplete, unverified and unreliable for any purpose other than as a supplemental tool.  The reason that these databases are of such little value lies in the fact that there is no central criminal record database for the United States other than the FBI. Even the FBI records are not totally accurate as they are based on fingerprint data which is not always submitted in a consistent or usable manner.

    There are also wide variations in the reporting standards and requirements of individual states as well as local jurisdictions within the states. Thus, although a “hit” may appear in this type of database, it should only be used as an indicator that there may be a criminal record. Further research must be conducted to verify this information. Similarly, if there is no “hit” in a national criminal database, this does not mean that the subject has a clean criminal record as the FBI estimates that less than half of all state criminal records make it into any national database. Based on the variation in record accuracy and reporting it is clear that a “nohit” result in a “national criminal database” is of virtually no value. As a reminder, the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires that Pre-employment investigators always follow all “reasonable procedures to assure maximum possible accuracy” of information we present to the client. (FCRA 607b) FCRA Section 613 (a) (2) also requires “that the information is complete and up to date.” Pre-employment investigators should keep these requirements in mind whenever a Consumer Report is prepared. The requirements of the FCRA do not apply to the Business Background or

    Prospective Client Investigations. The Fallacy of a National Criminal Database

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