Feb 16 2016 What’s Wrong with Ohio’s Criminal Background Checks?
Do you know who you’re hiring?
The state of Ohio has been struggling with background checks for a number of years, but someone is finally doing something about it. The state’s attorney general, Mike DeWine, is working to overhaul the state’s background check system, and it will be a pricey proposition. But why did it get to this state, and why should employers be concerned.
Currently, Ohio uses the Retained Applicant Fingerprint Database Information Exchange, better known as the “Rapback” system, administered by the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation, or BCI. The Rapback database is an interconnected network of Ohio criminal databases. Certain employers in the state can enroll and have their employees listed in the system. If an employee is arrested, the BCI will, in theory, automatically find the employee on the list either once the arrest has been entered into the system or during a regularly scheduled check, and let the employer know so they can take necessary job-related action if it’s needed.
In practice, however, the Rapback system has had a string of high-profile failures. Most recently, one error in the system meant that hundreds of employees in Ohio who work with children didn’t have their arrests reported to their employers. This particular incident has devolved into an ugly scandal, with even DeWine being accused of being fully aware of the Rapback system’s failures. If that weren’t enough, Ohio state agencies pay millions to use the system.
The fundamental issue is that the system relies heavily on correct and accurate reporting. One miskeyed entry and the Rapback system won’t trigger, and even something as simple as a typo can make an entry functionally invisible in the system. Furthermore, the automated nature makes it difficult to correct while giving it the illusion of reliability; people trust computers more than they trust human beings to search databases.
Ohio will be dealing with the fallout of the Rapback failures for a long time to come. But a more important question for Ohio employers, and employers around the country, is how reliable background checks are, and when they should be used.
You may not know who you’re hiring until it’s too late.
The most fundamental lesson for employers, both inside and outside Ohio, is not to use a background check system you don’t control. One of the issues with the Rapback system was that it was designed more for political realities than hiring ones. While protecting the children of Ohio is a noble goal, the system used to do it wasn’t really built with that in mind. Employers couldn’t really query it, and had no way of quantifying the results.
That said, it’s reasonable for employers to both check the backgrounds of applicants and make sure they don’t run the risk of a negligent hiring suit. But they should have a robust system that does more than check within just one state, and that should do more than just passively scan databases. Employers need a system that focuses on what they need to know and addresses their concerns. Instead of a system built to please voters, in short, businesses should rely on a system built for their needs. If you’re looking for the high quality background check, request a free background check trial from us.