We are really navigating through some uncharted waters. The court closures that are sweeping across the United States are necessary to protect people from the COVID19 pandemic. Background checks will be impacted by court closures. The challenge is that with the courts being closed for hearings, trials and filings this also means that background screening researchers cannot access the public terminals required to conduct searches and verify information in criminal cases.
This will inevitably cause the background screening process to slow down for those searches that go beyond a database check. The reason is that if a record is found in a database search needs to be verified there is no way to complete the verification. If the county being searched is not available for online searching, then a physical search must be completed just to see if records exist.
This means that for employers in compliant industries like HEALTHCARE and TRANSPORTATION that need to stay operational and need to hire new employees during the COVID19 pandemic there could be challenges in the background screening process.
There are some things that can be done to get around the issues that the court closures cause. First if you can conduct a statewide criminal search you should do it. These searches aren’t as current or updated as the county level searches, but they are an option. In states like California a statewide search doesn’t exist, but in states like Michigan and Washington they are an option.
If an employer elects to conduct a National Criminal database only or a statewide database search to avoid the issues caused by the court closures, they need to be aware that they could be missing out on records that should be reported. One suggestion would be to conduct your National Criminal database search and then conduct re-screens after 1-year, 2-years or 3-years of employment assuming you have this policy documented in your company handbook.
If you have any questions or suggestions please let us know.