Broken records: criminal history errors cost jobs and housing
Ariel Nelson of the National Consumer Law Center has authored an important new report, Broken Records Redux, which describes how errors by criminal background check companies harm consumers seeking jobs and housing. In particular, the report shows how background screeners continue to include sealed and expunged records in criminal background check reports, omit disposition information, misclassify offenses, mismatch the subjects of records, and include other misleading information. The report also examines problems arising from the use of automated processes to evaluate prospective employees and tenants.
This report, a sequel to a 2012 NCLC report on criminal background errors, observes that since 2012 advocates and federal agencies have litigated many actions for violations of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), leading to settlements and judgments requiring background screeners to reform their processes and pay millions in penalties and relief to consumers. Despite these lawsuits, “companies continue to generate inaccurate reports that have grave consequences for consumers seeking jobs and housing.” Based on these issues, the report recommends a broad array of legislative and regulatory changes at the federal and state level. Accompanying the report is an article: Fertile Ground for FCRA Claims, which describes FCRA violations that can result from “inaccurate, incomplete, or outdated” background checks.
This new report also provides support for policy recommendations in our recently released Model Law on Non-Conviction Records, including restrictions on the dissemination of expunged records and records indicating no disposition by commercial providers of criminal records.
“For expungement and clean slate laws to succeed in removing barriers to employment and housing, they must take into account issues like background check reporting, data aggregation, and the use of stale data,” says Nelson, the author of the NCLC report. “I’m happy to see that CCRC’s Model Law on Non-Conviction Records provides guidance for addressing those issues.”