Incomplete FBI Records Keep Qualified Citizens Unemployed

More and more companies are running background checks on applicants and longtime employees. This keeps a lot of people from getting jobs that they aren’t qualified for legally or otherwise. However, it can also keep someone who is qualified from getting a well-deserved job. Incomplete FBI records are reportedly keeping some 600,000 unemployed.

The problem with the FBI records is they often fail to include the end result of an arrest. Only one-third of arrests actually result in a conviction and even more are reduced from felony to misdemeanor offenses, but because some records are incomplete all an employee sees is that they were arrested for such and such offense—whether or not they were actually convicted. It is estimated by the Justice Department that approximately 50% of FBI records are complete.

Individuals who are affected by these incomplete records often miss out on jobs and many remain unemployed until they get their records corrected. Though it can be possible to correct a record, it is not easy and take years.

For example, a qualified nurse’s aide, Raquel Vanderpool, was fired when an FBI background check misreported a conviction from her youth that had actually been dismissed and sealed. It took Vanderpool four years to get her record corrected. And in the meantime she remained unemployed and sunk into financial ruin. Now that her record is corrected, Vanderpool is once again employed, but will likely spend many years getting out of debt.

Fortunately, several representatives are pushing legislation to change the way the FBI collects data. Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Virginia, has introduced a bill to clean up incomplete FBI background checks for employment. And Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minnesota, introduced the Accurate Background Check bill, which focuses on federal employment.

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