What is Adjudication and How Can You Optimize Your Processes?

April 13, 2021
Checkr Editor

The process of adjudication comes from Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), and similar laws, which prohibit employers from automatically disqualifying candidates based on their criminal records. Rather, employers should make hiring decisions based on an individualized assessment that takes into account the nature and gravity of the offense, the time elapsed since the offense, and the nature of the job for which the candidate is applying.

We became interested in adjudication because it’s a part of the hiring process where bias has the potential to have an outsized impact on vulnerable populations. After hosting numerous listening sessions with candidates who have been rejected from jobs due to criminal records, we began implementing features within the Checkr platform to help companies make this process more fair and more consistent. 

Remember, it’s hard enough to secure employment with a criminal record. This challenge can be exacerbated if a company has adjudication practices that dismiss candidates because of bias, rather than role-critical criteria. That’s why it’s so important to review and optimize your adjudication process.

Overall, adjudication is a delicate operation, but completely doable. You just need a firm understanding of the process and influencing factors. While this seems obvious, this fundamental knowledge is not always a given as ‘adjudication’ is not a role in itself but one of the many tasks for which recruiters, HR coordinators, or hiring managers are responsible.

This article will outline background check adjudication guidelines including the impact of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) on this process and suggest a few best practices for adjudication. To get started, let’s define our central term: 

What does adjudication mean?

As we outlined briefly above, adjudication is a process in which a company reviews background checks against the company’s hiring policies to make an assessment on whether to hire a candidate.

For example, Leila applies for a stockroom role at a clothing store. She has a marijuana possession charge, which triggers the adjudication process. The recruiter reviews the charge and sees that it is over three years old, which according to company policy, makes Leila’s application eligible and the hiring process continues.

This seems pretty straightforward, but each adjudication action can delay the hiring process by up to four hours, and Talent Acquisition teams who depend entirely on manual adjudication run a greater risk of not aligning with company protocols as they would have to seek out the guidelines for each case. Systems that surface a company’s adjudication rules within the platform generally help keep adjudication more consistent.

How can Checkr help streamline your adjudication process?

Checkr can help your team identify which reports need to be reviewed by an adjudicator based on the information surfaced in a background check. Using the Assess feature, Checkr customers can create their own pre-adjudication rulesets from 235 subcategories of criminal charges, three levels of charge severity, age at the time of the offense, and frequency to flag reports as ‘eligible’, ‘review’, or ‘escalated’ based on their criteria and rules.

What are some best practices for adjudication? 

To create a fair adjudication process you may want to consider the following practices.

  1. Create or review company adjudication policies: It can be helpful to have adjudication rules that align with state and local laws, as well as your industry best practices. Be aware that there may be state and local laws, such as ‘ban the box laws’, which regulate when in the hiring process an employer can ask candidates about criminal records.

    Rules should consider the nature/severity of the offense, the time elapsed since it was committed or time was served, and the nature of the role. The last point of role relevance is often overlooked; really challenge your team to consider this question with every policy to minimize bias.

    Using the Assess feature, customers can set up state-specific rules and follow prompts within the system to create thoughtful and fair adjudication policies.
  2. Filter irrelevant information: Consider whether you want to filter irrelevant information for your adjudicators so they aren’t considering irrelevant information that could possibly bias their view of a candidate, even unconsciously. Checkr customers have the option to filter certain information based on the rules they choose to set.

    For example, using the same example as before, if Lila’s company decided to filter out marijuana possession charges, the adjudicator would see Lila’s background check as not needing further action as her charge was made irrelevant by the company policy. This saves recruiters time and prevents hiring delays. Checkr’s Adjudication Matrix allows customers to select the charges which will be flagged in the background screening process to align with their own company policies. This helps teams adjudicate more efficiently and consistently. 
  3. Educate your adjudicators: Make sure your adjudicators understand the language and terms used in criminal background checks so they don’t have to rely on vague notions or incomplete information. It’s also important to talk about your company policies so everyone is on the same page about why you do or do not disqualify candidates for certain records.
  4. Consider EEOC Guidelines: The EEOC asks hiring teams to consider the nature of the offense, the time elapsed, and the nature of the job when we evaluate a candidate’s background check. Consider if you want to  give candidates the opportunity to provide context for records including documentation of rehabilitation, including educational courses or volunteer work. Checkr customers can do this within the Checkr platform.
  5. Don’t forget the Federal Credit Reporting Act (FCRA): The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) enforce the FCRA, a law aimed to promote accuracy, fairness, and privacy of consumers’ information. The FCRA affords rights to the consumer and places responsibilities on the ‘end user’ (i.e., the entity requesting the background check) of consumer reports.

End-user responsibilities include:

  • Disclosure and Authorization: Notifying candidates that you will be obtaining a background check and obtaining their authorization to proceed.
  • Adverse Action Process: Notifying the consumer when an adverse action is taken on the basis of a background check and allowing the consumer an opportunity to dispute any incorrect or outdated information.

What is adverse action?

Adverse action in terms of adjudication is the disqualification of a candidate based on a background check, which can include credit reports and drug screenings. If your team chooses to take adverse action against a candidate based on a background check, then you are required by federal law to give the candidate written notice and an opportunity to dispute any incorrect or outdated information. 

Post adjudication steps like adverse action are a potential risk area in manual adjudication, if busy adjudicators forget to trigger adverse action processes. The Checkr platform can help you trigger adverse action processes to boost compliance and efficiency.

Optimized Adjudication will Boost Your Entire Recruiting Process

Adjudication is a key part of the hiring process, but don’t think of it as a burden. This is an area where, when executed properly, can actually improve the recruitment process for both your Talent Acquisition team and candidates.

Adjudication best practices boost your hiring process through…

  • Efficiency: A faster, easier recruiting workflow for your recruiters and less lag time for candidates.
  • Compliance: Pre-defined adjudication policies that are role relevant and take relevant laws into account can help protect your company.
  • Fairness: Consistent and relevant policies make hiring decisions more equitable.
  • Budget: Faster time to hire and an expanded candidate pool means improved ROI on the hiring budget.

Adjudication is a nuanced subject that you should discuss with your legal team. Please note that this article is in no way legal advice or guidance, rather an informational jumping-off point. 

If you are interested in optimizing your adjudication, including automating your pre-adjudication and documenting and creating your policies, we’d love to talk. Please click here to start a conversation with our Sales Team today.

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