The Expungement Clearinghouse is designed as the central mechanism for sharing validated expungement orders by collecting the information from individuals, their attorneys, courts and other sources. Once expungements are validated, each member of the Expungement Clearinghouse will receive expedited notification to remove these expunged records from their private criminal records databases. This service provides a faster and more coordinated approach to removing the records that are no longer publicly available.
Operate as a CRA or own a criminal database?
Expungements are a problem for every company that holds a database of criminal history records. We know that courts are removing expunged records from their databases. We know that some courts tell us when they do. But we also know that the majority of courts don’t. That means we know there are records that we would like to remove, but we don’t know which ones they are.
One of the many complaints that regulators, legislators, and community organizations level at the background screening industry is that our information is regularly inaccurate and not up-to-date. Unfortunately, for much of the industry, that is true. There are, however, many good consumer reporting agencies who work diligently to ensure the accuracy and timeliness of the information they report, thereby protecting consumers (job seekers) and employers. Imperative is a co-founder of Concerned CRAs, a group of such firms.
Most of the accuracy problems come from the irresponsible sale of databased criminal records information. As soon as a company buys the criminal records of a county or state in bulk electronic format, the information is out of date. If the case information in the court’s records changes, the information may be updated eventually in the database. Often, the information is not updated – a new entry is simply entered into the private database, making a single case look like two cases in the database. These changes may be a change of disposition (a deferred adjudication may be revoked and a conviction entered, for instance) or even an expungement or order of nondisclosure (meaning the case does not legally exist or is not available to the public). When these records are sold to employers without first verifying that they match the current state of the original record, incorrect information is delivered to the employer.
Any good background screening company will verify the records from private databases before they report it to an employer. (Imperative even goes so far as to verify the records from state-maintained databases because we find so many errors in those records.) However, many of the largest databrokers fail to do this, citing the expense. Rather, they wait for the consumer (the applicant) to contact them about any discrepancies after the information has been provided to the employer. This is a legally-questionable practice but whenever a class action suit arises over this issue, it gets settled by the screening firm so we haven’t seen a court decision on this – yet.
Enter the grandly-named Expungement Clearinghouse, a system set up by several database companies that allows former-defendants whose records have been expunged to proactively notify participating database companies of their expungements.
This process simply puts lipstick on a pig. But it is pretty genius. It gives databases who regularly report unverified court records to employers the illusion that they conducted due diligence when they misreport records. “Hey, sorry that report was wrong – we checked the Expungement Clearinghouse and the expungement wasn’t listed!”
Here’s an idea: If you are really concerned about reporting expunged records (which is really only a tiny part of the databases’ accuracy problem), then verify the record.
Much like their flawed implementation of FCRA section 613(a)(1), this puts the responsibility for making sure that the CRA-provided information is accurate and up to date on the consumer and ignores section 607(b)’s requirement the screening firms “follow reasonable procedures to assure maximum possible accuracy of the information concerning the individual about whom the report relates.”
I can’t figure out how they are making money on this but I hope that they are because as an actual solution to the problem of inaccurate databases, this is a loser.