Investigations

2018 IN REVIEW

Lawsuits regarding employment screening continue to increase for a number of reasons. Let's start at the beginning. Before conducting a pre-employment background check, you must have a signed release. It must be a standalone document not buried in the application. What is permissible to ask in one state may not be in another. It can even vary city by city within the same state. “Ban the Box” statutes, overly broad questions or terms such as “maiden” name can lead to legal problems.

A pre-employment background check is considered a consumer report. It falls under the guidelines of the Fair Credit Report Act. If an applicant is denied employment, retention or a promotion based on that report there are specific steps to follow. Acquaint yourselves with the FCRA, follow those guidelines and it will further insulate you from employment litigation. Smaller companies without the advice of counsel or lacking a human resource professional are the most at risk. If in doubt on what is legal, ask. Tragically, workplace violence is making the news more than ever. Screening of applicants will reduce that risk. If the unthinkable still happens, the employer can at least document proper screening procedures were in place.

Subcontracting of cases, especially on surveillance, is picking up speed nationwide. We are members of multiple professional organizations and online groups. We have been approached numerous times to work as a subcontractor. What is no longer surprising is the fee proposed is less than what we pay our own employees. Someone is handling these cases based primarily on a willingness to work cheap.

There should not be a filter between the client and the person handling the case. Know who is handling your assignment. Don't be bashful about asking for the investigator's name and cell number so an immediate update can be obtained. After all, you are paying the bill. Make certain the investigation is being worked by an employee of the investigative agency you retained unless otherwise arranged. You would be very surprised at the amount of work which is sub-contracted. If the case is serious enough to warrant surveillance, it deserves an experienced professional not the lowest bidder.

Privacy concerns continue to eliminate, restrict or delay investigative options. Within the past two decades there have been changes in the law regarding video surveillance in Missouri and Illinois. In January 2010 Missouri changed the videotaping laws. Before, if a person was inside a residence and could be observed from a public area without special optics, videotaping was permissible. That changed when Missouri started licensing private investigators. Those statutes specifically prohibited videotaping under those circumstances and bar any such evidence from being used in the courtroom. Illinois has the same restrictions when went on the book years before Missouri.

The Missouri driver's license data card was a useful tool as the second page contained health questions. Ever have a plaintiff claim they were in a wheelchair yet their driver's license issued after the claim date showed no physical restrictions? We have. Now a court order is needed to obtain the data card.

2018 found changes in the availability, expungement or delays in obtaining Missouri records. On January 1 Senate Bill 588 went into effect. This substantially broadened the list of crimes now available for expungement. This is a plus for those trying to change for the better but has the potential of a big down side for employers, landlords and other members of society. Prior to this year, statewide marriage record searches were easily available for a nominal fee. Access to that record is now limited and doesn't include investigators without a notarized release. In late 2018 the Driver's License Bureau added restrictions on the release of a driver's license photograph. It is still available but requires more steps. Also late in 2018 the Department of Professional Regulation no longer included license verification for Doctors on their website. There are other changes under consideration which will be covered in updates to our website.

The trend in closing or restricting records is not limited to governmental bodies. Until recently, on Facebook you could sometimes find a camouflaged account by inputting a telephone number or an email address. Those options are now gone. These closed or narrowed information doors are not fatal just that it now takes more steps in handling a case. Investigators need to keep learning and always have a plan B.


Established 1981

Missouri Agency License Number: 2010008269
Illinois Agency License Number: 117.000675