An estimated 1.8 million workers a year are subjected to Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) background checks that contain “faulty or incomplete information” and as many as 600,000 of those workers “may be prejudiced in their job search” because of inaccurate FBI records, according to a report from the National Employment Law Project (NELP) titled ‘Wanted: Accurate FBI Background Checks for Employment.’
“People cannot get jobs, or they’re losing their jobs, because of these defects in the FBI’s records,” Madeline Neighly, staff attorney with NELP and the report’s lead author, stated in a press release. “Employers assume FBI background checks are the gold standard, but the records are unreliable. Around half of the FBI’s records are missing information on the final outcome of arrests—information that in many cases would significantly benefit workers who have turned their lives around.”
The 51-page report from NELP – a national advocacy organization for the employment rights of lower-wage and unemployed workers – spotlights the failure of the FBI “to ensure that its records are accurate and complete.” While arrests are recorded, final disposition of cases often is not, a critical defect since NELP estimates that “one-third of felony arrests are ultimately dismissed and charges are frequently reduced.”
The use of FBI background checks for employment is rapidly increasing. The report found that 16.9 million FBI criminal background checks were conducted for employment and licensing purposes in 2012, which is six times the number conducted a decade ago.
Despite clear federal mandates requiring background check reports to be complete and accurate, a 2006 Attorney General’s Report on Criminal History Background Checks estimated approximately 50 percent of the arrest records in FBI criminal databases did not include information on the final disposition of the case.
The report also found that African Americans were especially disadvantaged by the faulty records “because people of color are consistently arrested at rates greater than their representation in the general population, and large numbers of those arrests never lead to conviction.”
The complete report from NELP is available at http://nelp.3cdn.net/bd23dee1b42cff073c_8im6va8d2.pdf.