Computer System Issues in California County Cause Serious Background Check Delays

By Michael Klazema on 9/8/2015
The Tehama County Superior Courthouse, located in Red Bluff, is having issues with its background check system. The courthouse dealt with a complete computer system crash back in July, but while the computer issue itself was resolved quickly, and while more than a month has passed since the incident, some employers in the area have still been unable to run county background checks on their applicants.

At least that's the situation according to a local ABC affiliate, which interviewed a number of Red Bluff residents who have been unable to find employment simply because companies can't run background checks at this time. One man interviewed for the story said that his family has had to turn to welfare because he's been out of work six weeks, unable to find a job because all of his prospective employers can't get background checks back from Tehama County. Another interviewee, a woman set to begin a nursing job at a local hospital, said that her official start date at the new job will likely be pushed back a month because background checks still can't go through.

Needless to say, this scenario is frustrating for applicants, because even those who have been offered jobs can't get started until the Tehama County Superior Courthouse can process background checks. Usually, background checks through the court don't take more than a week. So far, it's been about a month since the system went down, and the side effects are still being felt.

The question is, what can employers do in a situation like this? Is there a way that companies could circumnavigate the Tehama County Superior Courthouse to run a background check? Or to hire employees on a "trial" basis, with continuing employment contingent on the outcome of an eventual county criminal check?

The issue here is that county background checks are arguably the most important part of any pre-employment criminal history screening. While the employers involved in this story could run background checks through a state repository or multi-jurisdictional database instead, such checks could leave some blind spots on the local level.

Most criminal convictions are filed at the county level, and since most crimes are committed close to home, the majority of people looking for jobs in Tehama County would be more likely to have convictions in Tehama County than anywhere else. It's possible that these convictions could have been reported to state repositories, but not assured, meaning that skipping the county criminal check and opting for a state criminal check instead could potentially result in a conviction going overlooked. For jobs that involve as much responsibility as nursing, it's not surprising that employers haven't relaxed their background check requirement, even when Tehama County background checks are at a standstill.

Luckily, it looks like this story will get a happy ending: it sounds like Tehama County Superior Courthouse has sorted everything out and will be able to start processing background checks shortly.

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