Tennessee’s Backlog of Expunged Records a Warning

Thousands of Tennesseans are finding out their expunged records were never sealed and are showing up on employment background checks. Here’s what do if this happens to you. 

Imagine applying for a job, consenting to a background check, and then being shocked to discover a crime you never committed showed up in your results. You probably wouldn’t get the job and your reputation would suffer serious consequences. That’s the unfortunate scenario at least 23,000 people in Tennessee could find themselves in because of a massive backlog in the orders for expunged records.

The Chattanooga Times Free Press is reporting that the city’s police department is working its way through the requests, but defense attorneys are claiming that leaves too much time for irreparable damage to be done to job candidates. That’s because in most cases the employer automatically disqualifies the applicant before she/he has gone through the process to have her/his background check results corrected and re-verified. The Fair Credit Reporting Act requires the employer to provide a summary of rights to the applicant and the screening company is generally given 30 days to reinvestigate any disputes.

What is an Expunged Record?

An expunged criminal record is a file of an arrest or a criminal conviction that has been sealed and erased. Laws governing this process vary by state, but in Tennessee where is the issue is grabbing headlines, people with dismissed cases are eligible to have their record expunged. The Chattanooga Times Free Press reports the court deletes the record from its system after a judge signs the expungement order and then sends that order to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and the arresting agency to have those expunged records deleted.

Why is there a backlog?

Backlogs can exist for a variety of reasons. In Chattanooga’s case, a police department spokesperson reportedly told the newspaper that the backlog began with a previous administration and has continued due to staff shortages.

HG.org, a renowned law information site, offers this reasoning as well:

“In many states, it is the individual’s responsibility to submit a copy of the expungement order to these entities along with a request that they update their records accordingly. Individuals or their attorneys may need to disseminate proof of the expungement to other courts, prosecuting attorney offices, the department of motor vehicles, family services agencies, and so forth.

Convincing an agency to honor an expungement order can raise issues of jurisdiction and comity. For example, the record of a state felony conviction may appear in the FBI database, to be found by employers or others conducting a background check. After expunging such a conviction, a copy of the court order instructing that all records must be destroyed should therefore be sent to the FBI. However, because the FBI is a federal agency, it is not bound to follow an order issued by a state court. To resolve issues like this, it is wise to hire an attorney not only to obtain the expungement order, but also to make sure the order is distributed to, and recognized by, the appropriate agencies.”

How does it affect job prospects?

Obviously, a background check that’s returned with a red flag for a criminal conviction could drastically reduce a candidate’s chance of landing a job. The issue could be compounded further if the candidate was asked about any previous convictions on an application (many state are adopting Ban the Box laws to address this issue) or during an interview and is now seen as a liar. Ex-cons already have a tough enough time finding work. People with records who are supposed to be expunged but show up in a background check will find themselves in the same boat.

Is this a recurring problem?

Just a year ago we told you about a Wall Street Journal investigation that uncovered the real reason why people with records that were supposedly expunged were scrambling to clear their names. It’s laziness on the part of Consumer Reporting Agencies (CRAs) who weren’t performing due diligence verifying background check results.

Here’s the deal. CRAs get their information from a variety of sources like courts, creditors, law enforcement, driving records, corrections. It’s then up to the screening agencies to spend the time, money and manpower verifying these results. The bigger the company, the less likely they are to have boots-on-the-ground talent going into courts, double-checking driving records, or calling creditors and references back to make sure the initial information is correct. The problem with expunged records comes into play when this re-verification process gets ignored. That’s because most states don’t provide a notice that a record has been expunged. If a big name CRA fails to have a qualified researcher double-check these results, errors, and eventually, lawsuits occur.

Some CRAs will claim that the bulk of the responsibility for correct information lies with the courthouse and the state, but at Active Screening we think it’s just as critical that the CRA takes a vested interest in verifying results before reporting them.

Why Active Screening is different

That simply doesn’t happen at Active Screening. We NEVER hesitate to send our expert team of researchers into the field – be it a courthouse or state agency – to verify results. We perform 80% of our background check research in-house – that means we have a dedicated and trained staff who collaborate together to gather information about candidates. We DO NOT outsource our duties and risk erroneous information creeping into our results. Our Active Screening team understands that the most up-to-date information is gathered in the field, and that’s why we head straight to the source where the info originated. There is no laziness among Active Screening researchers and our customer testimonials prove it.

It’s one of the many benefits you get with working with an independent, boutique agency run by some of the sharpest minds in the industry. Our leaders are on the cutting edge of screening trends and have developed a corporate culture and operating procedure that demands excellence while maintaining the highest standards of compliance, including the re-verification of criminal records so accidents with expunged information do not happen.

If someone you know has a record that’s supposed to be expunged, please send them this important blog post so they can double-check that it really has been sealed. There are steps a person can take to ensure his/her record is sealed. Email one of our team members here to get started.

Spread the word, too. This problem doesn’t just affect people in Tennessee. Tweet this post!

This entry was posted in Background Screening, Criminal Records, Driver’s Records, General, Identity & Credit, News and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , by Patricia Carlson. Bookmark the permalink.

Patricia Carlson is a content writer who specializes in B2C and B2B inbound marketing. She blogs regularly for clients about the background screening and finance industries, and generates newsletters, white papers and email campaigns for a variety of businesses. Patricia also produces a heavy rotation of editorial material for home design, law enforcement, and family magazines. She’s been writing professionally for more than a dozen years, and for Active Screening for more than two of those. Check out LinkedIn for a roster of Patricia's clients and links to published works. When she’s not interviewing sources or researching trends, she’s living a fast-paced Florida life questioning the antics of her two young children, partner and mischievous cat. Patricia loves to talk tennis and TV on Twitter - give her a shout @pattycfreelance.
Active ScreeningBarbara S.
Healthcare Industry

"Here at Holland Hospital, we have been extremely pleased with Active Screening. The report results come back quickly, usually within 24 hours or less.  The staff at Active Screening is easy accessible, knowledgeable and responds to our questions promptly."

Active ScreeningLynn C. Staffing Industry

"Benton Mobley has been and remains my Main point of contact at Active Screening from the beginning; so aside from the comfort of dealing with the same person all these years, there is the most important fact of all;  customer satisfaction. Benton knows the business like the back of his hand; and that is what we need in our fast paced industry of staffing. He is the all-time BEST!  MY employer, Leslie, believes in the notion that great service deserves to be rewarded, so we are here for the duration.We get immediate and personalized attention for any and all concerns we need addressed, and in the staffing industry, this is vital."

Active ScreeningCayce R. Education Industry

"My experience working with Active Screening for our background check process has been very positive.  The reports are almost always completed in a very timely fashion. The information reported appears to be very thorough and accurate.  On the rare occasions that we have questions or problems, the customer service team is always very quick to respond and resolve the issue.  Overall, I am very pleased with the service I receive from Active Screening."

Active ScreeningCraig H. Staffing Industry

"Your customer service is excellent.  The turn around time on background checks is quite fast.  Excellent work.  I haven't had a single problem."

Active ScreeningJackie C. Education Industry

"I wanted to thank you and your staff for being so patient and working so diligently with the Human Resources staff during our recent endeavor to process all of our work study students through background screenings.  We have never had to process so many requests within such a short period of time before, but thanks to you and your staff we made it. Again thank you, we made a good choice in selecting Active Screening."

Active ScreeningLindsey W.  Financial Industry

"I wanted to share my appreciation for your wonderful service...switching background screening companies could have been a stressful task, but your company made the transition seamless. Your website was extremely easy to navigate and the turn around time has been great. I appreciate when information is missing or entered incorrectly during ordering, your company notifies me right away to ensure that my error does not hold the reports results, causing us a delay in hiring an individual...Active Screening has been great to us and I would definitely refer them to others."

Active ScreeningTerry S. Property Management

"Working with Active Screening over the last year and half has been a wonderful experience. They deliver fast and informative results at the best price. Their level of professionalism and the speed they respond to our issues is a benefit that any company can value from. I would highly recommend using Active Screening and their amazing team."

Active ScreeningYulesis D.  Staffing Industry

“Interactive Response Technologies (IRT) has more than 2,000 employees at multiple locations across the United States. IRT has been using Active Screening to conduct criminal background checks since 2006. During this time, Active Screening has consistently returned accurate reports, usually with less than 48 hours turnaround. If there are any problems or inconsistencies with the reports, their staff has called to notify us so that we can attempt to rectify the situation. The staff at Active Screening is always courteous and congenial over the phone. In our opinion, Active Screening is outstanding.”

Active ScreeningAndy N. Software Provider

 "Active Screening has helped us screen our applicants in record time for more than two years.... we are very impressed with the professionalism and speed with which their service team responds to our questions. They understand our needs and are a pleasure to work with. I highly recommend them."

Active ScreeningCassie J. Staffing Industry

"The Active Screening team is very informative; they provided a complete consultation on all the services, so I understood what I needed, and saved me hours and hours of my time learning the various services. Their reputation, as being on the cutting edge of employment screening best practices, certainly held true in this instance. The expertise they brought to the table was invaluable to our understanding of our applicants backgrounds. I highly recommend Active Screening to anyone with the task of screening large numbers of applicants and needing reliable customer support."

Active Screening

With over 20 years of law enforcement experience I can attest to the fact that the strongest predictor of future criminal behavior is a person’s criminal history. As the manager of campus safety at my church, I depend on Active Screening to provide a thorough assessment of every criminal history background check we request. For more than 3 years, Active Screening has been faithful to this task with timely, accurate and reliable service.

Active Screening

We have benefited from knowing that we are not exposing the communities we work with or ourselves to unnecessary risk. We continue to have a perfect record in that we have never had a serious incident with a trip participant causing harm or acting inappropriately with any community member or fellow team member- thank goodness!

Active Screening

I would highly recommend any association or organization who conducts background checks to use Active Screening. In addition to my involvement with WAHA, I am an officer in a corporation with over 500 employees who provide treatment, mental health, and correctional services for children and adolescents. Our company is mandated by law to do comprehensive background searches and I can say with the utmost sincerity that Active Screening product rivals that of any government or other private sector process.

Active Screening

We have used Active Screening and their solution VERITY to screen all our coaches and volunteers working with youth. The online system gives us an easy and cost-effective solution to collecting forms and payments from our applicants...and we simply login to view the results of who passed or failed. It's so easy....thank you Active Screening.