At some point during our work careers, we all look for a new job. Given the recent, ongoing economic downturn, many people are looking for work. When applying for a new job, potential employers usually perform a background check of applicants. What happens when the background check includes wrong information? The following story explains what happens.
Channel 7 News, the ABC News affiliate in San Francisco, reported the story of Patrick Chad Padilla, who applied for a security job position at a Walmart store in Sacramento, California. After the third interview, Padilla was offered the job pending a background check. Walmart withdrew the job offer when the background check turned up problematic information.
After looking at the the background check Walmart, Padilla noticed that the report contained information about Patrick Saenz Padilla, who Channel 7 News would later discover is a criminal serving time in a New Mexico prison. Despite the middle name differences, Walmart insisted on using the faulty background check and refused to offer Padilla the job.
Hello? Does anybody at Walmart use their brains?
Obviously not. Brain-dead bureaucracies operate in the private sector, and not just in government agencies.
This story is important for several reasons. First, multiple companies made errors in this story. Walmart's errors are clear. Second, Padilla applied for a job at Roseville Hyundai later and the same thing happened again. The faulty background check stopped another job offer.
Third, there are some sensible guidelines governing the proper use of background checks by companies. In at least one instance, an employer started a new policy demanded Facebook passwords from both job applicants and current employees without any suspicion of wrongdoing. (That policy has since been suspended for a 45-day review.)
Fourth Acxiom, the provider of the background check service definitely shares some of the blame for Padilla's job-search difficulties. Acxiom clearly made mistakes by combining information about two different people into a single report. From the news story, it isn't clear that Acxiom has corrected Padilla's profile information. The middle name difference should have been easy to spot, but Acxiom either missed it, or ignored it. And Padilla suffered the consequences.
This is not the first incident with an erroneous background check. In this incident in Kansas last year, the local sheriff's office helped the affected job applicant clear his name.
Background checks are necessary, as employers can't hire convicted criminals for certain jobs. A wide variety of companies use Acxiom products and services, including Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications, Urban Mapping, Blackboard, USA Swimming, Senior Checked, Windstream, and General Motors. At its mid-year 2010 conference, the National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS®) Background Screening Credentialing Council (BSCC) announced that Acxiom and several other companies had achieved compliance with its Background Screening Agency Accreditation Program (BSAAP).
Although this class-action against Acxiom was ultimately unsuccessful in the courts, it did reveal that Acxiom buys a lot of its information about consumers from various states' motor vehicle agencies.
A recent survey by The Black Book of Outsourcing rated Acxiom number one in customer satisfaction for IT outsourcing. Well, Acxiom may help its IT department customers save money, but I wonder how reliable that customer satisfaction rating is. Would consumers rate Acxiom highly? My guess is Padilla wouldn't rate Acxiom highly.
Fifth, background-check concerns are not only about Acxiom, but also apply to other companies that provide similar services. CNN Money listed some of the companies, including Rapleaf, that provide background checks based on the collection of consumer data from public records. The Wall Street Journal published a similar list of what it called "scrapers." LewRockwell.com published a similar list of companies consumers should consider removing their profile data from.
Sixth, when private companies offer products and services based on their collections of sensitive consumer information, there has to be a method to discover and correct mistakes and erroneous entries. This process exists with the major credit reporting agencies, but not with companies like Acxiom. As Channel 7 News reported:
"There's no federal or state agency that's making these companies actually clean up their records and make them accurate..."
Getting pack to Padilla's story: later, Walmart reversed itself and encourage Padilla to apply for a different job. What? Is Walmart serious? After all of the obvious mistakes and blunders, Walmart couldn't do the right thing, apologize, and simply offer the job to Padilla?
Meanwhile, Padilla had moved on to work for another company. I wouldn't work at Walmart either after this poor treatment. It signals that Walmart probably treats vendors, suppliers, and its employees just as poorly.
If this story upsets you (and I truly hope that it did upset you), I encourage you to write to your elected officials and tell them:
- Potential employers must give job applicants copies of the background check report used for the hire decision
- Consumers should not suffer the consequences for corporate mistakes and errors, especially about background checks
- Federal and state laws must require companies to correct errors in their databases containing consumer information
- Database marketing services (e.g., companies that collect data and offer products based on those databases) must provide consumers with a fast, easy-to-use, and prompt process for reviewing and correcting errors in their profile
- Corporate violators should be prohibited from the data collection and from any services/products based on that data collection
Have you been denied a new job due to an error-filled background check? Have you lost a job offer to an erroneous background check? We'd like to hear your experiences, and if you were able to correct the problem.