Continuous Background Screening for Independent Contractor Background Check Programs: FAQs
Background Screening |July 13, 2021
Continuous criminal record monitoring is gaining popularity with many service networks because it fills the information gap between periodic background checks in their independent contractor background check program.
This form of ongoing background screening is the process of using an individual’s name and date of birth, to continually access data from the majority of U.S. County jails and Department of Corrections facilities within 24 hours of an incarceration or booking event. Any data that is returned is considered an alert. These alerts can provide proactive and more timely information over a wider geographic area and add a layer of due diligence for customers who want to identify potential behavior that may pose a risk to their business, consumers, or brand reputation.
Below is a question-and-answer format to address some of the most common questions that arise when discussing our Continuous Criminal Record Monitoring service as part of an independent contractor background check program.
How is the PlusOne Solutions continuous criminal monitoring offering different from a monthly recheck?
The continuous criminal monitoring programs available today are much evolved from predecessors, specifically as it relates to the recency, depth, and access of information. In the past, lists of individuals, often called a “population,” were created and an initial search was done to create a starting point or baseline. This information was then compared, which was called a “ping” or “bounce,” against a database on a scheduled basis – weekly or monthly for example – and any changes to the baseline were noted. If there was any change, positive or negative, to information, it would create an alert.
With this model, the periods between bounces were effectively black holes where no information was obtained or shared on any individual in the population provided. The database in this case often mirrored the content found in the National Criminal database and was rarely complete, accurate, or up-to-date.
In comparison, the current process uses a population of individuals and is constantly updated as county criminal record data is obtained from various jails, courts, and Department of Corrections facilities across the US. Whenever a record arises, an alert is created. This search no longer uses a baseline to compare against but reports any new activity and updates that may occur – booking, arrest, charge, release, bond out – so that it may be reviewed for relevance.
With the ongoing access to data, the previous weekly or monthly schedule of updates has been replaced by near real-time results and therefore is much more current and helpful to Customers. It is also important to note that continuous monitoring is not historical and will only capture information from the time the individual is originally submitted forward.
How do we get the baseline for monitoring?
A “baseline” is the action of completing an initial search on an individual and then comparing subsequent information received about that individual against that initial search result to determine if there has been any change. The current monitoring options available no longer rely on a historical baseline and instead constantly monitor the record sources in near real-time for new information.
What do we do about consents, specifically in California?
In most cases, our customers will rely on something called “evergreen consent” when enrolling a population of individuals in a monitoring program. Evergreen consent is when the individual, who is the subject of the background check reporting, has consented to run background checks for the duration of their employment or engagement as a contractor. When running a background check, the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires organizations to gain consent and authorization from the individual. Normally this is only for a single background check. With evergreen language, the consent will be valid throughout the nature of the relationship.
It should be noted some states, specifically California and its Investigative Consumer Reporting Agencies Act (ICRAA), may not be as supportive of the concept of evergreen consent. In these cases, it may be advisable to request consent with each background check run on an individual. It is important to recognize that even a single county search can create a consumer report and is therefore regulated under the FCRA.
Can we use arrest records when making decisions on our contractor and vendor network eligibility?
Under the FCRA, arrest records that occurred within the last seven years and have not been dismissed or otherwise disposed of, can be reported when a background check is done. The use of arrest information in making decisions, however, may be restricted by some state and county laws though it is important to review the behavior which led to the arrest to determine if it may bring risk to your organization, reputation, or consumers.
Even though arrest information can be reported, an arrest, or booking event, which may be identified in the monitoring process is not sufficient to determine if the individual engaged in criminal activity so using that information alone can be risky. The conduct the arrest demonstrates, however, may demand further investigation. For this reason, PlusOne Solutions conducts a county-level criminal record check for each arrest that appears relevant to the role being held. It is once we have confirmation of an actual charge that the monitoring process will be reported to the customer and any action taken.
How do we manage the population to be enrolled in the program?
Populations can be updated at any time with most continuing criminal record monitoring products. With the offering PlusOne Solutions has, we manage all the population updates for our customers and update populations monthly. The population is composed of individuals within our system who have eligible, active relationships with the Customer who is monitoring as part of their independent contractor background check. We also ensure any individual included in the population has completed a background screening through our system so that appropriate consent and authorization are on file. It is important to only include individuals in a population with whom there is an active relationship otherwise there is no permissible purpose, under the FCRA, for obtaining information about them. Once the individual is included in the population, the information available will be from that point forward. There is no access to historical information available.
Is an ongoing background check service FCRA compliant?
While each vendor may handle this service differently, the PlusOne Solutions continuous criminal monitoring program is FCRA compliant. There are several things we do to ensure this is the case:
First, anyone that is included in the population to be monitored must have a consent on file which contains evergreen (or ongoing screening) language which satisfies the disclosure and authorization requirements
Next, when an alert is identified we review the information provided to ensure it matches our individual and is not a false positive. This supports the accuracy requirements under the FCRA and protects us against reporting information that is not complete, or accurate.
When we are satisfied that the alert belongs to the individual, we confirm they are still actively working with our Customer’s network. This ensures that permissible purpose exists under the FCRA to provide the information to our Customer if required. If the individual is no longer in the network, the alert can be dismissed.
Assuming the individual is still engaged in the network before any action is taken on the alert or our customer is notified, we conduct a county criminal record search in the jurisdiction identified. This verifies information directly with the source of the data and ensures information that is used to make decisions is complete, accurate, and up-to-date. If a record comes back, it will be reviewed per the Customer’s risk relevancy matrix and consider the nature and gravity of the offense. At this stage, we may only have a criminal charge but not a conviction so the record needs to be considered in that context. It is only after this stage that we will share information with the Customer because it will now have been verified and provided by the source of the data directly.
If it is determined that the record is of impact to the individual, the FCRA prescribed Adverse Action process will be initiated. This includes the pre-adverse letter, sufficient time for the individual to dispute the findings or provide individualized information, and then an adverse letter.
For more information about the FCRA, read our blog postWhat is the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA)? Everything You Should Know.
Can I do continuous criminal monitoring instead of the rescreen?
While there is value in the continuous criminal monitoring program as part of an independent contractor background check, it only covers one type of criminal search – county criminal records – and is not nearly as robust or comprehensive as a full rescreening. A strong background screening program should also include searches like a federal, sex offender, national criminal database and possibly driving records search, as well as the county criminal search that monitoring provides. Further, the rescreening process ensures that updated consent is obtained from the individual that may be retained on file. The coverage for the criminal record monitoring, while addressing over 90 percent of the US population, is not complete and may not cover the jurisdictions where an individual has resided or had criminal activity.
For more information, read our blog postHow Often Should You Run Continuous Background Checks On Your Contractor And Vendor Network?
What sources does the continuous criminal monitoring cover?
Current continuous criminal monitoring programs are only providing information from county-level courts and Department of Corrections systems. This means they do not include federal criminal or sex offender information and other records which may be of impact. Most criminal records occur at the county level and coverage for the criminal record monitoring program is over 90% of the current US population. There may be jurisdictions where information is not available but the coverage very closely mirrors the distribution of the population so most areas that contain service networks should be included.
What happens when an alert is identified?
When an alert is identified, our team follows several important steps which include:
Review the information provided to ensure it matches our individual and is not a false positive.
Confirm they are still actively working with our Customer’s network.
If the individual is no longer in the network, the alert can be dismissed.
If the individual is still engaged in the network, we conduct a county criminal record search in the jurisdiction identified.
If a record comes back, it will be reviewed per the Customer’s risk relevancy matrix and consider the nature and gravity of the offense.
If it is determined that the record is of impact to the individual, the FCRA prescribed Adverse Action process will be initiated and the Customer notified.
How do we evaluate the independent contractor background check screening results and determine if we need to take action?
Just because an alert is obtained does not mean a contractor should be removed from the network. First off, an arrest or booking event is not the same as a criminal conviction and should be treated accordingly. As with any criminal related result, it needs to be reviewed for relevance to the role, the nature and gravity of the overall offense, and whether it even results in a charge or conviction. Some states limit the use of arrest information and many arrest and booking events may never result in a formal charge being filed. In those cases, there may be no action taken because of the alert. However, when a charge is filed and an arrest or booking does progress, we encourage customers to utilize a comprehensive risk relevance matrix, and any record which may cause an adverse impact, should comply with FCRA, and other state and local requirements. The value of a monitoring program as part of an independent contractor background check program is having access to information so that informed, risk-based decisions can be made after the background check process, or between rescreen cycles.
Contents are provided for information purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Users are reminded to seek legal counsel concerning their obligations and use of PlusOne Solutions services.
About PlusOne Solutions
PlusOne Solutions has been an industry leader in the risk management field by specializing in compliance programs that meet the complex challenges of geographically dispersed contractors, vendors, and employee networks. PlusOne Solutions protects companies from possible financial, legal, and reputational risks associated with contractor and vendor relationships while creating safer work environments. For more information about our services, fill out our online contact form today.
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