Unless Your Name Is Zimbabwe Padukadu, Don't Ever Live In Virginia!
January 8, 2004
I know it's been a while since I've written an article for Common Voice. But, there's good reason for that.
First, the Christmas season has been so busy, I don't know how people get through it without having a nervous breakdown. But, alas, I did.
Second, I have been writing more and more for the SC GOPUSA website as well as national news stories for Talon News. I enjoy writing immensely and these websites serve as excellent outlets for my passionate desire for prose.
Finally, and most importantly, on December 11, 2003 after waiting over 2 1/2 years to find a full-time job, I finally landed one at a major corporation in Spartanburg. It's been a long time coming (as most Common Voice readers know all too well!) and I am excited to finally have health insurance and vacation days. I know it sounds lame to celebrate these perks to people who already have jobs. But when you have been without work for as long as I have, it's like a hot, thirsty man walking in the desert and finally comes upon a cool bucket of water. Ahhhhhhh!
But the story doesn't end there. You are not going to believe what I had to go through to get this job. And it had nothing to do with my experience or education.
When I applied for this job (as I had the hundreds upon hundreds of ones before this one), I had to fill out a criminal background check form clearing the company to do a search on me. Since I haven't ever been convicted of a crime in my life (except for the occasional speeding ticket!), I never "worried" about it.
I guess I should have been more concerned.
I was offered the job in early December by the company after beating out all others in the interview process. The Human Resource manager said the job was mine as long as I passed the criminal background check. I was too excited about the prospect of having a REAL job to even think about what was about to happen to me next.
One hour after telling me the job was mine, I sat in the office of the Human Resource manager who asked me point-blank this bombshell question, "Why did you miss a court date you had in 1999?" Yikes! What in the world?!?!?! My first reaction was, "Excuse me?!"
She went on to list a rap sheet so long it would make Michael Jackson blush through his plastic surgery!
Then she read the charges:
Failure to appear in court. Possession of marijuana. Another failure to appear in court. Trespassing. Gambling with cards and dice. Yet ANOTHER failure to appear in court. Another possession of marijuana conviction. Open container of alcohol. Still another failure to appear in court. Boating Violation (whatever the heck that is!).
When she got done reading off this list of criminal convictions, the Human Resource manager looked at me and asked the only question she could think of, "Did you do all these things?"
You know, I had to laugh to keep from crying. How could all this get on MY record? I'm a good Christian man who lives his life as clean as it possibly can be. I couldn't understand why I was being accused of these horrible acts that I did NOT commit!
After getting over the initial numbness of what had just transpired, I asked the Human Resource manager if these charges were found using my Social Security number. Surely there must have been some sort of mistake, I thought.
She looked back at me and said that because I lived in the state of Virginia in the mid to late 1990's, that state has a law on the books that forbids using the Social Security number for criminal background checks. And every one of these criminal acts took place by a man named James Moore who lived in Norfolk, VA the same time I did. Can you imagine how many people are in the telephone book under the name James Moore?! Hundreds, at least!
And guess what else? Virginia is the ONLY STATE IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA who does NOT use the Social Security number for criminal background checks. All 49 other states DO! Virginia chooses to look it up by the person's name only, including ANY variation on the name. They looked under Jimmy James Jim J. William W. Moore when searching for "hits" on my name. I'm REALLY glad my name wasn't John Smith!
Wanna hear something funny? Guess what the state of Virginia uses for their driver's license numbers? You got it...THE SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER!!! How whacked out is that?
Getting back to my story, the Human Resource manager said I had a week to get this cleared off my record or the company reserved the right to pull the job offer. THAT WOKE ME UP! I immediately called the company who ran the report on me to dispute EVERY one of the charges on "my" criminal history.
I called Infomart and spoke with a lady who asked me for my birth date only and said she would get have this cleared up within 3 days. Tick tock tick tock tick tock!
One day. Two days. Three days pass. I still haven't heard anything. I called Infomart to inquire about it and was put into voicemail. I received a call back after leaving SEVERAL messages over a two-day period explaining to them I needed to know something soon so I wouldn't lose the job I was being offered.
The lady at Infomart so graciously reminded me, "Sir, you do know that by law we have 30 days to clear any discrepancies on your record." That was NOT what I wanted to hear at all.
Thankfully, because of a previous association with the company that offered me the job, they decided to hire me on my own merit and integrity to begin the new job contingent upon the criminal background check coming back clean.
I started training in the new job beginning December 11th, but constantly felt this cloud hanging over my head as I waited for my record to be cleared. Regardless, I kept my head high and excelled in my new position. The only thing left was to clear this misunderstanding so I can move on with my career at this company.
The news that three of the convictions were removed from my record came about a week later. Tick tock tick tock. Then, NOTHING! Christmas came. NOTHING. New Year's came. NOTHING!
Then, on Tuesday this week, I came home for lunch after getting a haircut and the telephone rang. On the line was the Infomart representative who said, "Congratulations, Mr. Moore, we have cleared your record completely!" Words cannot tell you how relieved I am that this is finally all over!
But I can't help but ask some questions now that it turned out to be a happy ending.
What would have happened to me if the company didn't know me already? They would have surely pulled the job offer from the table and given it to someone else. And guess what? I would have sued the state of Virginia so fast you wouldn't have even seen me as I flew up I-85 to Richmond, VA to hand deliver the papers myself!
It's a stupid law on the books there to look up criminal background checks by a person's name only. How many innocent people have been denied jobs because of this poor law?
I will very likely sit down sometime soon and write Virginia Gov. Mark Warner as well as some of the state lawmakers in Virginia and share with them my story. It's a victim-making law with some rather startling consequences. Maybe it's time someone made them aware of it! I'm surprised I was not able to find any outcry about this elsewhere on the Internet.
The more I think about this problem with my criminal background check, I have concluded that this could be one of the reasons I have had trouble landing a job over the past few years. I'm not saying it is THE reason, but it possibly played a role.
I am grateful to my current employer for trusting me and knowing me well enough to hire me despite the lingering questions about my alleged criminal history.
Now that I am officially working in my new full-time job, I've only got one piece of advice for anyone who doesn't want to go through the enormous hassle that I did. Unless your name is Zimbabwe Padukadu, don't ever live in Virginia!
Update: I faxed a copy of my story to Virginia Gov. Mark Warner at 2:00pm on 1/8/03 and I sent the article to the Virginian-Pilot newspaper in Virginia Beach, VA asking them if I can write an op-ed piece or if they will do a news story on this. I'll let you know how this progresses!