Most of you are like me—we have experienced the effects of closed businesses and the expansive unemployment rate during the pandemic. During this time, business owners and job applicants struggled with an obstacle of their own; the process for criminal background checks slowed down.
The pandemic isn’t the only reason for that. A decision made in a California court has also made it significantly more difficult for background check companies to get the information they need promptly.
All of Us or None of Us v. Hamrick (2021) resulted in the ruling that is notably responsible for slowing down the process for criminal background checks in California. Before this decision, consumer reporting agencies (think providers of background checks, credit reports, etc.) used public court indexes with date of birth filters to rapidly include/exclude searches that may need clerk assistance. Consequently, All of Us or None, a civil and human rights organization, testified against the executive officers and clerks of Riverside County Superior Court, alleging their display of a defendant's date of birth and/or driver’s license number on the electronic index was an invasion of privacy.
According to California Rules of Court, rule 2.507, dates of birth and driver's license numbers are among the personal identifying information deemed too private to be included in publicly accessible court files. It was determined that this information needed to be withdrawn from public access. Since then, many courts across California have decided to remove birthdates and driver’s license numbers from their public records, although consumer reporting agencies (CRAs) rely heavily on these public indexes to quickly include/exclude potential matches.
So, What’s the Problem?
This effort made to protect personal identifying information by the court has made it harder for consumer reporting agencies to comply with the Fair Credit Reporting Act thus, making the process for standard background checks less obtainable. The FCRA requires background checks to be confirmed with alternative information apart from just a name. Waiting in person for a court clerk to hand you thousands of folders to file through to find out if the consumer in question is actually the same person is significantly longer than filtering based on an already known date of birth.
- The drawn-out processing of background screenings has had an unfavorable effect on CRAs, business owners, and job applicants alike. Considering limited hours and complete closures of courthouses, one can presume how time-consuming it is to stand in line to go through miscellaneous files to match the records you see to the person you are looking for. The time it takes for background checks to go through harms business owners who are waiting to fill vacant jobs and job applicants anticipating money to be made.
- Mistaken identity
- If you’re examining background reports from a man named after his father, how would you know the difference between the two without being given secondary information? Doing background checks this way gives more room for unreliable information that can result in mistaken identity. Think about the common names Emily Martinez, Michael Thomas, and Anthony Smith. Imagine the number of people with those names, the potential for a single record to exist, and how they can be confused between one another without access to alternative identifying information. Comparably, the multitude of cultures in America presents an unfavorable situation for cultures with even more common names, creating an additional unfair hurdle for minorities looking to start a new job.
California Senate Bill 1262 proposes, “Publicly accessible electronic indexes of defendants in criminal cases shall permit searches and filtering of results based on a defendant’s driver’s license number, date of birth, or both.”
How Would This Help?
Even though the bill being passed would lead to information being online again, it will require the querier to already know the date of birth and/or driver’s license number they are looking for. You would enter a name and the corresponding personal information and get results accordingly. This is a viable solution to the invasion of privacy because people are using information they already know to trigger results. This can potentially resolve the prolonged background screening process and help CRAs, business owners, and job applicants get their jobs done quicker. Technology has proved to help us work more efficiently in many ways and this is no different.
- Bring Efficiency Back to Background Checks
- The ability to filter will reduce the number of searches requiring additional research thus limiting the impacts of courthouses being shortstaffed. As a result, they will be able to streamline background checks, businesses can hire faster, and people can start work sooner. Looks like a win-win!
- Ensure Accuracy
- By having access to the necessary information, agencies can guarantee the validity of their records, assuring people are being authentically assessed. Confirming accuracy advances the opportunity for fair and equitable hiring by prioritizing the impressions applicants make on their employers.
- Foster Diversity and Inclusion
- Particularly in Latin and Hispanic communities, common last names are often paired with popular first names, meaning they are disproportionately affected by the inability to access basic identifying information. If consumer reporting agencies are granted this access, they will be able to reduce delays related to common cultural names thus promoting diversity and inclusion in the workplace.
We Need Your Help--
Contact your elected officials to help this Senate Bill move through the legislator. Getting SB 1262 on the ballot is crucial for securing quick hiring for Californians and restoring identifiers to court records.
Click the link below to find the representative in your area.