Sleuthing 101: Background Checks and the Law

By Adrian Barnie, CPP, CFE

Sleuthing 101: Background Checks and the Law.  by Barry J. Nadell; published by Barry J. Nadell; available from ASIS International, Item #1625; 703/519-6200 (phone), (Web); 162 pages; $20 (ASIS members), $22 (nonmembers).

With the 114 of the 162 pages in this book devoted to summaries of state laws and regulations on background checks, author Barry Nadell leaves himself little room for exposition. Somehow he packs a lot of material into these remaining pages, producing a small book that is loaded with valuable information.

The book cites a statistic—actually from the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, though it is not credited—that employee theft costs U.S. employers $400 billion a year, accounting for 6 percent of overall revenue. That’s one way to quantify the cost of hiring the wrong person.

Another is turnover. With turnover costing companies about $10,000 “per job opening,” according to a report by William Mercer & Company, writes Nadell, the financial benefits alone of hiring the right person the first time are obvious.

Databases have assumed a large role in background checks, but Nadell cautions readers about depending on databases when they conduct any criminal history searches. The larger the database, the more potential for inaccurate information. The state criminal repositories, if available, are frequently out of date, at times by months. Information obtained from a database should be verified through direct contact with the courts, Nadell advises.

In his discussion of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), Nadell summarizes the act in plain English. He defines key terms such as “consumer reporting agency” and “investigative consumer report” in a straightforward manner, then breaks down FCRA requirements into a list of easy-to-follow rules. Nadell also notes that the statute requires that employers provide applicants with disclosure forms, indicating that a background check may be conducted.

As mentioned, most of the book summarizes state laws relevant to background checks, and much of the information is valuable. Vermont, for instance, permits only employers who care for children, the elderly, and the disabled to obtain criminal records from the state criminal information center—and even then only after a candidate has received a conditional offer and has signed a release. Such specific information makes this book a solid reference.

The book is self-published, but it has a clean, professional appearance and has been edited well. It has the quality of a work put out by a major publisher.


Reviewer: Adrian Barnie, CPP, CFE (Certified Fraud Examiner), is director of operations for the Phoenix Group, in Cleveland, Ohio. He is a member of ASIS International.



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