Census Censure: The Dangers of Partial Background Checks

By Michael Klazema on 4/28/2010

Earlier this year, workers for the 2010 census started visiting the homes of citizens who hadn’t filled out and returned their census forms. Since then, it has come to light that a few criminals have slipped through the background checks and on to the street in the employ of the census.

While the numbers aren’t large, especially considering the size of the workforce, the fact that it occurred still highlights two major problems with the census background checks: First, the only checks they performed were fingerprinting and an FBI background check; second they allowed census takers to start working before the full results of their checks came back.

While running both a fingerprint check and an FBI background check is a good start, it doesn’t cover the full spectrum of all crimes that could’ve been committed by a person. The FBI background check is a national criminal database. Though it may be a good national criminal database, you must carefully weigh whether or not the database will be sufficient on its own.

The second issue is actually something many employers practice and it’s not always a bad idea. However there are many positions for which this might be a problem. For instance, would you allow a nurse to begin work if his professional license verification hadn’t come back yet? To do so is to open your company up to liability.

Similarly, any positions that call for the employee to go to, or worse into, someone’s home should not be begun before the background check comes back with no issues. It was letting an employee start his duties before the check came back that allowed a sex offender to go door-to-door in New Jersey. While we can assume that the Census Bureau would have retracted his employment once his conviction had come to light, a New Jersey woman he was interviewing recognized him from the state’s Sex Offender Registry before it came to that.

In life, you have to learn from the mistakes of others. This man, as far as the public is aware, committed no crimes while he was a Census Bureau employee but had he the Census Bureau would be facing a large suit simply for want of a little patience and an extra search. Don’t let their mistakes become yours. Be careful of the duties you allow an employee before his background check has come back and don’t let a small savings stand in the way of the safety of your clients and employees.




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