INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) - A new state law that took effect Monday is changing what your employer can find out about your past. The measure is intended to give convicted criminals a better shot at getting a job, but it could also keep some information about criminal convictions hidden.
The changes follow an I-Team 8 report last week on a man who pleaded guilty to felony drug related charges. Russell Pryor, a member of the Outlaws Motorcycle Club, pleaded guilty last year to a federal charge connected to drug trafficking. Lowell Little League board members agreed to allow him as a coach after his background check came back clean.
Because of the new state policies and recent changes to federal EEOC laws, experts say if the person conducting background checks doesn't know where to look, they could miss critical information.
"There doesn't exist a single background check database. In Indiana you have limited criminal history. The FBI has its NCIC. But, none of these databases are complete. That's why you have to use multiple levels of checks and balances to ensure that you're doing it correctly," said Mike McCarty, CEO of Danville based Safe Hiring Solutions.
McCarty conducts thousands of background checks every year for clients across the country, including 230 school corporations across Indiana.
"You have to go to the source of the information. You can't just rely on these databases, which is the problem with volunteer organizations, because there's no regulations that say how these should be done. As a matter of fact, there's really no clear definition what a background check is," he said.
Missing or incomplete information on a background check is common, McCarty said, particularly among volunteer based organizations.
"What has happened is, especially with volunteer organizations, the background screening firms have offered these extremely low $5 to $9 national background checks that are completely fraught with missing information. They're very attractive to these large volunteer groups. But, they may only search one database, or one state. Indiana alone would only send information in if it was a felony record that resulted in prison, not just a felony conviction, or if they had to register as a sex offender. But, even some of those folks would continue to come back clear in these $5 and $6 databases," he said.
A complete background check should run at least $10, McCarty said.
"That type of check will include some checks and balances so that if one of those systems fails, you have backups in place. And, the difference between doing it cheaply and doing it correctly is just a handful of dollars," he added.
Little League uses a Georgia based company called First Advantage for its background searches, according to its website. First Advantage says it utilizes multiple databases nationwide to generate more than 400 million searchable records.
Administrators say that check is standard procedure.
"The league has to conduct a background check on them. We provide 125 free background checks to each league, and when they charter with us, they agree to conduct those background checks," said Little League Central Region Director Nina Johnson.
"If somebody has a misdemeanor, or what I call the less serious D Felonies, then their records will be completely expunged," Rep. Judson McMillin (R-Brookville), the bill's author, told I-Team 8 last week. "And, that means employers will not have the opportunity to find those anymore."
"That's why, if they're not doing a deeper than seven year search, and if they're not using federal courts and county courts to supplement that database, there's a much greater risk they're going to miss something than actually find something," McCarty said.
The most important thing for parents to do is ask questions, he added.
"Ask who did the background check and how far back do those records go," McCarty said. "Getting incomplete information is certainly not worth the risk from a liability standpoint. But, more importantly, if you're serving youth or vulnerable populations, it's certainly not worth the risk of a child being harmed."
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