7 On Your Side

Job seeker puzzled with mistaken background check

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

These days, employers often conduct criminal background checks on potential new hires. But what happens when the results of that background check are in error? A Vallejo man found the answer to that question the hard way.

Patrick Padilla is like a lot of people these days. He graduated from an automotive college in Sacramento, and has been struggling to find work. He came really close to getting hired, until his criminal background check came back.

"Since the economy is kind of bad, I'm looking for everything," he said.

He applied for a job to work in security at a Walmart in Sacramento. After his third interview, he says he was offered the position pending a background check.

"I felt good. I had a position, looking forward to a job working for them," Padilla said.

The background check was in his mailbox waiting for him after he returned from a funeral in Los Angeles.

"They had, like, a whole list of criminal charges for another Patrick Padilla," Padilla said.

Among the charges that turned up were criminal sexual contact, assault with intent to commit a violent felony, battery and false imprisonment. As it turns out, both Patrick Padillas share the same birth date, but their middle names are different. This Patrick's middle name is Chad and the one with the criminal record has the middle name of Saenz.

"I have my driver's license, my passport, copy of my birth certificate and even a print out from the social security department," Padilla said.

All the documents show him with the middle name of Chad. Despite that, Walmart sent him a letter denying him employment. The letter stated, "This decision is based on information provided to us in a consumer report."

"I felt like that I've been taken. Basically, they wasted a lot of my time and I'm just confused," Padilla said.

7 On Your Side has since learned that the other Patrick Padilla is currently serving time at a state prison in New Mexico and has been since 2009.

"The other Patrick Padilla. That's... wow, New Mexico Corrections Department and he even has a bald head like me too," Padilla said.

Mark Anderson is a consumer attorney and blames what happened to Padilla on a lack of enforcement.

"There's no federal or state agency that's making these companies actually clean up their records and make them accurate," he said.

We contacted both Walmart and the background check company, Acxiom. Walmart outlined Padilla's right to appeal, and said he did not do that. Acxiom stated, "The consumer can still dispute the report... but the employer is not obligated to extend a job offer." Walmart instead chose to offer Padilla an interview for a different position.

"I was still out of a job, but it was definitely good knowing that they knew I was not that person that was on that background check," he said.

Padilla declined the opportunity to interview with Walmart again, but applied for a job instead at Roseville Hyundai. But the same thing happened again and this time, he knew what to do. He immediately filed a formal appeal with the background check company Screening One.

Screening One ruled in Padilla's favor and confirmed what we already knew -- that Patrick Padilla of Vallejo has no criminal record.

"OK, maybe the big guy upstairs is telling me, 'Hey, don't get a job at Walmart, don't get a job at Hyundai, because I got something in store for you later on.' He gave me a job at Starbucks," he said.

Padilla has been working at Starbucks for several weeks now and says he loves it. Screening One tells us due to privacy laws, they are not allowed to use Social Security numbers when conducting background checks. Instead it's limited to matching first and last names along with birthdates. Roseville Hyundai says it just got the updated criminal resort and will offer Padilla a job.

(Copyright ©2014 KGO-TV. All Rights Reserved.)

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vallejo, walmart, starbucks, 7 on your side, michael finney
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