FAQ'S

Background Checks
1. Why pre-screen?
2. Why would a business outsource this service?
3. What laws govern background checks?

4. What is the FCRA?

5. What does the Fair Credit Reporting Act have to do with a criminal search?

6. What happens if I get a candidate for a job who has an excellent resume and has other job offers and I can't wait for a background check?

7. Why must I have the applicant's permission to do a background check?

8. If I do not intend to hire an applicant, do I have an obligation to that individual?

9. What do I do if an applicant says the report is not accurate or not them at all?

10. Why do I need your service? Isn't most of this information online?


Drug Screen
11. Do a lot of companies do drug screening?

12. Are drug tests always accurate?

13. What about false positives?

14. Must I have a drug policy in place before I start drug testing?

15. An applicant tests positive for drugs and claims there must be a mistake. Should I allow him to have a second drug screen?

16. How long do drugs stay in an individual's system?

17. What happens to the specimen when someone tests positive?

18. Should I fire an individual for testing positive?

19. We do pre-employment screening. Is it important for my company to do other drug testing?

20. What is a chain of custody and why is it important?

21. What exactly is 'low creatinine' in a drug test?

22. What is an adulterated specimen and do you screen for that?

23. What is the difference between a "diluted" specimen, a "substituted" specimen and an "adulterated" specimen?

24. Where do I find the special requirement and laws for each state, concerning drug screening?
















1. Why pre-screen?

Employers have become painfully aware of the tremendous consequences of bad hiring decisions. Pre-screening promotes a safe and profitable workplace. Pre-employment screening is an effective risk management tool that has been proven to significantly reduce the risk of a bad hire. Employers typically engage in pre-employment screening for four reasons:

To discourage applicants with something to hide--just having a pre-screening program discourages job applicants with a criminal background or falsified credentials.
To eliminate uncertainty in the hiring process--many employers have discovered the hard way that relying on instinct alone is not enough. Hard information is also an important part of the hiring process.
To demonstrate Due Diligence--all employers have a reasonable duty of care in the hiring process. That means an employer must take reasonable steps to determine whether an employee is fit for a particular job. For example, an employer who hires a bus driver and does not take reasonable efforts to determine if the bus driver has a criminal record, could be found liable if that driver assaults a passenger, and a reasonable background check would have discovered the prior assaults.
To encourage honesty in the application and interview process--Employers find that just having a background program will encourage applicants to be more forthcoming about their history.

Performing background screenings is certainly not a guarantee that every bad applicant will be discovered. For the prices charged by pre-screening firms, employers cannot expect an in-depth and exhaustive FBI type investigation. However, just engaging in screening program demonstrates due diligence and provides an employer with a great deal of legal protection.

It is also important to understand that a pre-screening program is aimed at how a person has performed in the public aspect of their lives. Items such as a criminal records or previous job performance reflects how a person behaved towards others, or discharged their obligations or responsibilities.  Screening is NOT an invasion of privacy, a sign of mistrust or an act of "Big Brother."

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2. Why would a business outsource this service?
Pre-employment screening is a time consuming and detailed task that requires highly specialized knowledge and resources. It is also subject to numerous legal regulations. Many firms have found that it is an inefficient use of their time and resources to attempt to perform a service that a specialist can do efficiently and cost-effectively.

Even firms with fully staffed Human Resources or Security departments have found that outsourcing this service is more efficient and allows them to focus on tasks that can only be performed inside the company. Many HR and Security professionals also prefer that a new employee's first contact with their department not be a background check. Also, outsourcing this service does not leave a new employee feeling that confidential information about them is being obtained by others in the firm.

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3. What laws govern backgrond checks?
The FCRA (Fair Credit Reporting Act) is the law that allows the applicant to have a copy of our reports and to challenge it's accuracy. The EEOC regulations allow you to pre-screen applicants, but prohibits you from hiring decisions based on sex, age, race, etc.

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4. What is the FCRA?
The FCRA is the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act, which is the governing act applicable to background searches. The federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) stipulates that certain forms and procedures be followed in order to preserve the rights and privacy of applicants. Violations of this act may create substantial legal ramifications.

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5. What does the Fair Credit Reporting Act have to do with a criminal search?
The FCRA governs all background searches, not just credit reports. The Act defines permissible purposes, how the information is handled, what procedures and documentation must be followed, and even defines the procedures for when an applicant is denied a job based on the results. There is a great deal more to know about the FCRA, and we recommend all personnel responsible for hiring employees be aware of the impact this act has on your employment decisions. The full text is available at: www.ftc.gov/os/statutes/fcrajump.htm

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6. What happens if I get a candidate for a job who has an excellent resume and has other job offers and I can't wait for a background check?
Hire that person contingent upon a successful background check. If you find that the person made misstatements on their application or resume, that is grounds for dismissal. Remember that our Applicant Consent Form is your first line of defense. If they know that you are going to verify information they are much less likely to misrepresent themselves.

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7. Why must I have the applicant's permission to do a background search?
Simply stated, it's the law. The federal Fair Credit Reporting Act governs background searches, and violations of this act can have serious legal ramifications. In this situation, the FCRA was designed to protect the individual consumer and his/her privacy.

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8. If I do not intend to hire an applicant, do I have an obligation to that individual?
It all depends on why you are not hiring them. If the background search revealed information that caused this adverse action, then you are required by the FCRA to notify them of your intent not to hire them, issue a copy of their Summary Of Rights, and supply a copy of all the background reports gathered. After allowing them time to dispute the results, you must then notify them that their application has been terminated.

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9. What do I do if an applicant says the report is not accurate or not them at all?
First, let us know what they are disputing. We will run the search again and either correct the information found or confirm the original information. We cannot guarantee the information is accurate; we can only guarantee it is in the public records and matches the major identifiers of your candidate at the time the information was gathered. As the end-user, you are the only one who can confirm the identity of the individual. Only through fingerprints can a true identity be made.

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10. Why do I need your service? Isn't most of this information online?
Contrary to popular opinion, criminal and other searches are not 'available online.' Very few county court records are accessible online, and then only with special access procedures and fees. Most of the advertised sources of online criminal history do not come directly from the courts, but is retrieved from databases that are not always accurate or current. Always ask if their searches are direct from the originating source or are they simply pulled from a purchased database.

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11. Do a lot of companies do drug screening?
In 1983, only 3% of the Fortune 200 companies were testing one or more classes of job applicants or employers. By 1991, 98% had implemented some form of drug testing.

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12. Are drug test always accurate?
Yes, but the odds are long and getting longer all the time. The science of drug testing has progressed significantly in recent years. Some of the procedures that have been instituted to determine intentional attempts at 'beating' a drug screen are:
Chain of Custody procedures and specific protocols that track the specimen from the moment of collection through the processing and storage procedure;
Temperature strips, which assure the sample temperature matches body temperature at the time the collection is made;
Integrity testing, to determine Creatinine and specific gravity levels, which detect attempts to dilute the specimen;
Adulterant testing, developed to identify attempts to use nitrites and other adulterants as a means to disguise drugs in the collected sample.

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13. What about false positives?
Most of the popular stories about what triggers a 'false positive' - such as what you eat or drink, what cosmetics you use, or what over-the-counter medicines you take - are based on misconceptions. They either:
Don't show up at all
Are not detected at sufficient levels
Are easily distinguishable in the laboratory

Some employees have claimed that passive inhalation of marijuana smoke caused their 'positive' test results. However, studies have shown that the exposure would have had to be so constant and prolonged, and in such a confined space, as to represent an absurd scenario. Yes, you will test 'positive' if you are in a sealed phone booth with four marijuana smokers who smoke non-stop for eight hours. Otherwise, the claim of passive inhalation triggering a 'positive' test result is easily rejected.

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14. Must I have a drug policy in place before I start drug testing?
Yes! You must also notify all current employees of the new policy and allow sufficient time for this new policy to be recognized throughout your company. Although you may start pre-employment testing as soon as a drug screening policy is in place, it is strongly recommended that there be a waiting period before asking current employees to submit to testing.

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15. An applicant tests positive for drugs and claims there must be a mistake. Should I allow him to have a second drug screen?
Under no circumstances should an applicant / employee be allowed to have a 'new' specimen collected when they claim 'the lab made a mistake'. If the Chain of Custody is intact, there is virtually no room for error. Keep this in mind: these tests are highly structured, federally regulated, sophisticated procedures. A mistake is not likely. There are other options available at this point: re-confirming the original specimen; transporting the specimen to a lab for testing; or the services of a Medical Review Officer.

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16. How long do drugs stay in an individual's system?
Drugs do not typically remain in the body for very long. Often no more than 24 - 72 hours, depending on the frequency of use and the individual's body functions. Marijuana is the exception, staying sometimes from several days to several weeks, again depending on the circumstances. However, through hair analysis, drugs are detectable up to 90 days after drug use.

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17. What happens to the specimen when someone tests positive?

When a specimen tests positive, it is automatically scheduled to be processed at a certified laboratory to confirm the presence of the drug in question.

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18. Should I fire an individual for having a positive result?

Every company has different policies. Some find termination as the only answer for a positive drug screen, as drug use is an immediate breach of company policy. On the other hand, many companies now offer Employee Assistance Programs (EAP), which include drug and alcohol counseling and treatment.

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19. We do pre-employment screening. Is it important for my company to do other drug testing?
Pre-employment screening is only effective in discovering hard-core abusers; those who cannot abstain for a short period of time while they look for work. The only effective way to truly make your place of employment drug-free is to include in your drug policy the stipulation that you reserve the right to test for a variety of recognized specific situations. See Types of Drug Screening elsewhere on this site. Be aware that some states limit or forbid the use of certain types of drug screening.

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20. What is a chain of custody and why is it important?
This is the detailed documentation of the drug screening process, which accounts for the integrity of each step of the procedure, by tracking the handling and storage of the specimen from collection to disposal. This multi-part medical document, with assigned barcode numbers, facilitates the process and documents by whom, when and for what purpose the specimen was handled. Clinical labs will not proceed with a drug screen if they recognize the chain of custody has been broken. With a fully executed Chain of Custody, the drug screen result is completely and legally defensible.

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21. What exactly is 'low creatinine' in a drug test?
Low Creatinine indicates a specimen is below minimum concentrate levels, and therefore the results are not conclusive. Also known as a 'dilute' specimen, it has a creatinine reading less than 20 mg/dL, but greater than 5 mg/dL, and a specific gravity less than 1.003, but greater than 1.001.

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22. What is an adulterated specimen and do you screen for that?
Adulteration screening is standard in our drug screens. It screens for the presences of nitrites, a chemical purchased for the distinct purpose of adulterating the specimen to obscure the presence of drugs. Although it might be successful in obscuring drugs, the nitrites themselves are detectable and can be considered a 'positive' drug screen; and therefore employment decisions can be made based on that 'confirmed positive.' Nitrites are not a personality-altering substance, nor addictive.

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23. What is the difference between a "diluted" specimen, a "substituted" specimen and an "adulterated" specimen?
A 'diluted' specimen is when an individual has either intentionally ingested high levels of liquid or added a liquid to the collected specimen in order to decrease the concentration of the specimen. If a specimen is sufficiently diluted, it makes it difficult for the lab to identify any drugs that might be present. Specifically, a diluted specimen has a creatinine reading less than 20 mg/dL, but greater than 5 mg/dL, and a specific gravity less than 1.003, but greater than 1.001.

A 'substituted' specimen is when something other than human urine has been submitted as the candidate's collected sample. Simply stated, such specimens do not exhibit the clinical signs or characteristics associated with normal urine. Specifically, a substituted specimen has a creatinine of less than or equal to 5mg/dL and a specific gravity less than or equal to 1.001 or greater than or equal to 1.020.

An 'adulterated' specimen is when an individual has introduced a foreign substance into the collected sample to intentionally disguise drugs in the urine. There are numerous products on the market, such as Klear, that are very easily bought on the Internet and have been designed for just this purpose. Specifically, an adulterated specimen is when the nitrite concentration is equal to or great than 500 cg/mL.

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24. Where do I find the special requirement and laws for each state, concerning drug screening?
Obviously, your state bar association can lead you to many publications and sources that will answer this need. You might also want to contact the Institute for a Drug-Free Workplace, which offers many publications dealing with state and federal drug testing laws, as well as many other drug testing topics. Their website address is www.drugfreeworkplace.org