5 Reasons Why Fingerprinting is Not a Complete Background Check Solution

August 21, 2018 by Verified First
When working with new or potential clients, we are often asked about fingerprinting. Usually, the question is, “we already fingerprint, so why do we need to background check?” We have found some hiring managers believe that fingerprinting is the ultimate solution for background screening. While fingerprinting can provide valuable information on a candidate, there are five reasons why it is not a complete screening solution.

  1. Fingerprinting data is out of date
    The burden falls upon the local jurisdictions to update the FBI with their arrest and fingerprint records. Reporting is very irregular and doesn’t always happen frequently. According to a 2015 study by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) on Criminal History Records, 12 states audited between 2011 and 2013 were found to be noncompliant with reporting timelines. Some states were reporting arrest dispositions as little as twice a year. Because the data collection by the FBI is not happening in real time, it easily becomes out of sync with the data from the source: the local jurisdiction.
  2. Fingerprinting reports are often missing disposition
    In most cases, fingerprinting does not identify the disposition—the court's final determination of a case—it reveals only that an arrest occurred, and not if the case was brought to a guilty or innocent verdict or sealed or expunged. According to the 2015 GAO study, only 20 states provide 75% or more of their arrest records with final disposition to the FBI. 10 States reported 50% or less of their arrests with final dispositions. In 2015, The National Employment Law Project estimated that 1.8 million workers a year are were subject to FBI fingerprint checks with faulty or incomplete information, and one third of those workers may have benefitted in their job search from up-to-date and accurate data.
  3. Fingerprinting is not EEOC compliant
    Because Per EEOC guidelines, an arrest alone cannot be used to make a hiring decision. As stated above, since many fingerprint records do not include the current or final disposition, this makes those records ineligible for use in hiring decisions. The EEOC guidance notes that people are innocent until proven guilty and an arrest does not indicate guilt. Another factor is that minorities are also arrested at a higher rate and relying on only arrest data can lead to disparate impact on protected classes.
  4. The fingerprint database wasn’t built for background screening
    According to former Attorney General Eric Holder, the purpose of the FBI database is to aid law enforcement during investigations and “was not designed to be used to determine whether or not someone is eligible for a work opportunity. Relying on it for that purpose is both unwise and unfair.” A 2006 Department of Justice Report on background screening stated that “It is generally acknowledged that the state repository criminal history records are more complete than the records held at the FBI” and users “may also want to check other record sources, such as commercial databases and local courthouses to obtain more complete and up-to-date information.”
  5. Not all arrests and crimes have fingerprints
    Law enforcement officials frequently ‘cite and release’ individuals without formally arresting and fingerprinting them. This practice results in dispositions in a state’s records repository without a matching set of prints or arrest record. A state official cited in the 2015 GAO study noted their cite-and-release practices “contributed to approximately 1.6 million dispositions that are not linked to an arrest, which the state keeps in an independent data system.” Accessing these records can only occur by ordering reports from the local jurisdiction, and not through the FBI fingerprint database.

Professional Background Screening is the Complete Solution

Fingerprint background checks are about risk management and protection. If you’re taking some steps to protect your company by screening your applicants, then consider finishing the journey by adding professional background screening. A thorough background search will utilize a variety of resources such as private nationwide criminal databases, a Social Security address trace, and county or state jurisdictional records. 

Working with a professional background screening provider means your company is protected by the FCRA, the Fair Credit Reporting Act. Under the FCRA, background screening companies are held to tight standards, including making sure all reported records have been verified as belonging to the candidate and validated at the source as being the most up-to-date information available. In addition to those protections, Verified First only reports data that you are allowed to use when make hiring decisions, protecting you from seeing information you can’t use. 

Learn more about Verified First, and how we can help you mitigate risk to your brand. Ready to start screening? Contact us today and one of our background screening consultants will help you create a screening account.

About Verified First
Verified First is known for delivering streamlined background screening backed by the best client support, and for developing the easiest, fastest HR system integrations, for free. Our client support team is U.S.-based, answers calls in seconds, resulting in hundreds of positive testimonials and a 96% customer satisfaction. Verified First's patent-pending, award-winning integrations include over 100 applicant tracking systems, and provide clients a turn-key experience.

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