employment background screening, data breach, OPM, identity theft

Former USIS Employees File Suit

In September 2014, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management terminated all of the contracts belonging to U.S. Investigative Services (USIS), a major background screening company for the government.  The contracts were ended due to a massive security breach of its Homeland Security Department personnel files, affecting some 21 million people, some of whom had top security clearance.

Now, about 2,000 employees who were laid off from USIS in the aftermath of the breach have filed a class action lawsuit against their former employer.  They claim that the company violated a federal law – the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act – requiring it to give employees and the state 60 days’ notice prior to a mass layoff.   According to Jack Raisner, an attorney representing the class, the employees were “put in a limbo status, cut off from computers, and had to wait and see what their status [was] going to be.”

The suit was actually started in late 2014, but it was cut short when Altegrity, Inc., USIS’ parent company, declared bankruptcy in February 2015.  Now, the class is lodging their complaint against the directors and officers of the liquidated company as a way to recover the funds they feel they are owed.

USIS has had a tough time of it in recent years: The Justice Department sued the company for $1 billion in 2014 for “dumping” as many as 665,000 incomplete background checks on OPM in order to meet deadlines.  USIS was also responsible for the background checks of Edward Snowden and Navy Yard shooter Aaron Alexis, and there were grumblings, too, when USIS awarded its executives large bonuses in the midst of its troubles.

When asked for comment, an OPM spokesperson said that there are no restrictions against hiring former USIS employees, except for those who were involved in the “dumping” of incomplete background checks.  In fact, KeyPoint Government Solutions in Loveland, Colorado hired 200 of the former USIS employees, and NT Concepts, a background screening support provider for the government, said it has hired 800 people and plans to hire up to 200 more.

These security breaches have far-reaching implications.  Identity theft causes more than just credit and financial damage; victims have also reported missed job opportunities, being denied loans, and even finding themselves placed under arrest for crimes they did not commit.  The government has acknowledged the consequences of the data breach by offering all of those affected three years’ worth of credit and identity monitoring services.  Still, it is important to remember that identity theft can have a devastating effect on the victim’s name, work history, and reputation.

We are The Cedalius Group, the employment background screening provider you can trust.  We understand the importance of data integrity in the background screening process, and we take great pains to ensure that our clients’ – and their candidates’ – information is safe and secure.  We feel a deep responsibility to protect our client’s information – and their reputation – as closely as we would protect our own.  For more information on employment background screening or information security, please call us today at 404.963.9862 or visit us online at www.thecedaliusgroup.com.

The Cedalius Group offers insight into the background screening industry for educational purposes.  We always recommend you consult with your legal counsel to determine practices that best suit your business needs.