Every year, hundreds of laws are passed that affect the background screening industry, which in turn, affect all of the employers across the country who use those searches. The National Association of Background Screeners (NAPBS) works hard to keep up with every piece of legislations. It takes a small army to do so, and every year, that army heads to Capitol Hill to make a difference.
Every spring, as the cherry blossoms bloom, representatives from the National Association of Professional Background Screeners head to Capitol Hill to talk with lawmakers about how laws directly affect the safety of workplaces across the country. Over the years the number of participants has grown from just 40 to more than 100.
“It is an important opportunity to educate lawmakers on what we do, the services we perform, the benefits it provides employers,” says Curt Schwall of Employment Background Investigations.
This gathering is special because this is a group of COMPETITORS who come together. They put rivalries aside for a few hours to help lawmakers understand how their decisions affect all business owners who use professional background checks to keep their workplaces safe.
“When we go to the Hill, we are not just lobbying for things that are good for us,” says Dawn Standerwick of Employment Screening Resources. “We also lobby for things that are good for the end-user. There are a lot of incorrect assumptions being made out there and there are a lot of issues that we take up that are of direct benefit to the end user”
This year’s efforts touched on three big issues: requiring the use of fingerprints for background checks, the government removing key identifiers from criminal records, and introducing caps on FCRA class action lawsuits.
The fingerprint issue is discussed year after year and will continue to be a concern until Congress stops considering the FBI Database as the gold standard for criminal history checks. The NAPBS teams showed lawmakers how specifying the use of “a fingerprint background check” in the language of a law actually ties employers’ hands by not allowing more thorough professional screens instead.
Catherine Leung with Hireright tells us, “We want to be able to provide the tools to the employers to make sure they are able to protect the public, to protect their employees and to create a safer workplace, but also to make it possible for people to get into the right jobs.”
In this day and age of information security, lawmakers are constantly looking for ways to protect sensitive information like Social Security Numbers, birthdates and even middle names. Unfortunately, removing these key identifiers from federal records might hurt consumers more than they help.
“Access to information is critically important for us,” says Schwall. “We have the duty to perform our work in the most accurate fashion possible. That is our duty, it is our statutory obligation, and we need the right pieces of information available in the public record in order to do that. So when we are dealing with, let’s say, a common name, John Smith, it is critical that we have identifiers available so that we can ensure that we are reporting on the right John Smith.”
Another talking point that benefits our customers is the request to put caps on FCRA Class Action lawsuit awards. There has been a huge wave of these suits that find a technical violation that does not cause plaintiffs any economic harm, yet the companies are forced to pay 6 or 7 figures in damages.
The gravity of visiting the Congressional offices is real, and there is a lot of excitement because you never know who you might see!
And as we say goodbye to the nation’s capital, you can be sure the work for next year has already begun. In Washington DC, I’m Jennifer Gladstone for the Screening News Network.