Senator Royce West

Texas Senator Royce West introduced Senate Bill 990 in response to constituent complaints that they were being denied employment and housing based upon erroneous criminal history information. In particular, expunged records often continue to be reported by private database companies long after the record has been removed from the court’s record.

This problem is the reason that I joined with Larry Lambeth and Les Rosen to create Concerned CRAs several years ago. (We now have 185 participating screening firms.) While many background screening firms do follow best practices to ensure that the information received by employers is accurate, some big databrokers sell instant criminal searches to employers without regard to the accuracy of their data. (Click on the “databases” tag below or just Google “criminal background check errors” for details – most if not all of the reports you find are related to sloppy database use.)

I have worked closely with Senator West’s office to revise this bill so that it (1) protects individuals against incorrect information while (2) not creating any new responsibilities for the majority of consumer reporting agencies (CRAs) who already provide reports that are accurate and up to date. I believe we have succeeded.

I have summarized each section of the bill (pdf file) to make it clear who the section impacts and what the requirements would be.

The only background investigation-related entities with new responsibilities under this bill are database companies and those few CRAs who sell criminal history data to end users without first ensuring that it is accurate and up to date.

The bill also seeks to create a listing of database companies so that notices of expungements can be directed to those who might have outdated information.

The only new obligation on end-users who use the information for employment, housing, or licensing is that they must identify to the individual where they received any criminal history information upon which an adverse action is based if they received it directly from a court or government agency. This will point the individual to the source of any incorrect information. Similar disclosure is already a requirement under federal law when the information was received from a background screening company.

Concerned CRAs does not endorse legislation, even when it makes worlds of sense. There are many who agree with the intent of this legislation but believe that educating our industry peers is the way to proceed. I suggest to them that legislation is coming, whether we like it or not (you should have seen the first draft of SB 990!). The good guys in our profession are better served by working with legislators than circling the wagons in defense of the bad guys.

So this is from me to you: This bill should be supported by all CRA’s and investigators concerned about the negative impact on our profession from sloppy database use from a few large databrokers.

Mike Coffey, SPHR is president of Imperative Information Group and a co-founder of Concerned CRAs. The opinions expressed are his alone and not necessarily those of other screening firms participating in Concerned CRAs.