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Written by the legal staff   

Dallas Fort-Worth Hospital Council / GroupOne Services Blacklist

The Dallas Fort-Worth Hospital Council was started as a non profit local hospital association. In 1988 they set up a for profit affiliate, GroupOne Services, to be a background check service for their members. As part of this, GroupOne became a credit reporting agency (CRA) under the auspices of the Federal Credit Reporting Credit Act (FCRA). This allowed them to share termination information between members via a credit report without fear of lawsuits filed in state court. Any lawsuit would have to be filed in federal court and to date, there have not been any. Utilizing a third party under the FCRA relieves employers from much of the legal liability they would have for sharing false or disparaging information directly with another employer.

GroupOne members may report termination information anytime an employee leaves employment for any reason. This information can be whatever the facility chooses to share. GroupOne claims that some 60 percent of termination information is positive, however any negative information supplied is unverifiable. The FCRA allows “consumers” to challenge information, but GroupOne does not bear any responsibility for the accuracy of the information. GroupOne just serves as a data repository. If a consumer challenges information they supply, GroupOne is required by law to ask the originating employer to verify the information. The employer response must consist of a "yes, it is accurate", or "no" and then amending their statement. No supporting documentation of statements are required.

Information supplied can be completely subjective, such as remarks about personality. One anecdote found online showed a healthcare worker fired for being "rushed" behavior on the phone with a patient family. This was considered a “negative” reason for termination and this worker was unable to be considered for employment with some other GroupOne facilities. The hiring decision is by the facility, not by GroupOne or the Dallas Fort-Worth Hospital Council policy, but it is noteworthy that many facilities appear to exclude employment based on appearance in this list without further review.

The FCRA does allow the “consumer” to place a rebuttal into the credit report. Of course, a rebuttal is unlikely to make you look better to a potential employer. One other FCRA rule of note is that information (both positive and negative) is wiped after 7 years. GroupOne states that they follow this rule. Hiring dates and employers names are still retained after 7 years though.

GroupOne has had an oversized presence in the Dallas Fort-Worth area. Enough so that their name is used as a verb, e.g. “I’ve been GroupOne’d!” Managers use GroupOne as an explicit threat to employees. It is widely reported in online forums of healthcare workers that are unable to find employment at any hospitals in the area once placed on this blacklist.

GroupOne also maintains salary history on healthcare workers as reported by its members. It is thought by some that GroupOne is responsible for the depressed wages of healthcare workers in the Dallas Fort-Worth area.

While GroupOne’s presence is most strongly felt in the Dallas Fort-Worth area, its impact has spread across Texas, and they are expanding nationwide. Currently they have members in 28 states and include temp agencies among their members. In late 2009 GroupOne is negotiating with the Ohio Hospital Association so all their members will have access to GroupOne’s services and information. HCA hospitals also use their services, though on an individual hospital basis, not chain wide.

GroupOne no longer shares their member names publicly, however when they last did so in 2007, they had 350 members. Their business plan does represent a threat to workers rights, not only to permanent employees, but also to travelers.

The legal basis for their blacklist is now being copied by a group of healthcare traveler agencies (update, the Association was able to help stop implementation of this plan via negotiations). Because of the dangers of using credit checks for employment screening, two states have banned their use for this purpose, and a bill to amend the FCRA has been introduced in Congress. To read more about these issues, we have a full article here.

Consumers, which includes those in employment scenarios, do have certain rights under the FCRA currently. Just as when credit is denied on the basis of your credit report mandates disclosure and giving you a copy of your credit report, so does a denial of employment based on your credit report. The company denying you employment on this basis is required to tell you. The individual agency may not be aware of it, however GroupOne does inform their clients of their responsibiities under the FCRA and posts it on their website as well.

If you for any reason become aware of information in your credit report that you believe to be incorrect, you can request a copy of your credit report and file a formal dispute. As mentioned above, GroupOne would be required to ask the originator of the disputed information to verify its accuracy. If the disputed information is not corrected to your satisfaction (there is no requirement to do so), you may have a rebuttal placed in your credit report. Bear in mind that a rebuttal, no matter how worded, is not likely to enhance your professional reputation to future employees.

As a last resort, you can also take the matter to court. Federal court. To date, we don't know of anyone doing this for an item in a GroupOne report. This is probably due to the tortuous and costly legal fight this would entail. In fact, GroupOne boasts of the legal cover they provide to employers on their website and also stated in a phone call that there has never been a legal challenge to the information they provide.

  • From GroupOne's website:

    Because our service operates in accordance with the Fair Credit Reporting Act, we are able to provide our members with factual employment references without the fear of litigation."

    "GroupOne Services is a "consumer reporting agency" operating under the legal authority of the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). This is very important because it provides employers the ability to share information on former employees through a third party reporting agency such as GroupOne.
    Under the FCRA, employers who furnish such information are immune from "any action or proceeding in the nature of defamation, invasion of privacy, or negligence . . . except as to false information furnished with malice or willful intent to injure" the former employee.
    GroupOne accepts full responsibility for ensuring that all of our practices and policies are fully compliant with the requirements of the Fair Credit Reporting Act, thereby maintaining our clients’ protection. We back this responsibility with professional Liability, and Errors and Omissions Insurance.
    Additionally, GroupOne has an attorney on retainer whose specialty is the Fair Credit Reporting Act. He is available to complement and support our clients’ employment law counsel. There is a real difference between state employment law and provisions of the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

If you are wondering if your name appears in the GroupOne database with employee data, the FCRA allows you to find out. In the absence of a triggering event such as the ones above that would allow you to obtain a free copy, you can just pay the federally mandated fee of $10.50 to GroupOne for a copy. Unless you have been employed in Texas, especially in the DFW area, you will be unlikely to appear in their database and all you will see is your credit history. However, if there is a chance, and you wish to apply to a known GroupOne client, it is probably a good idea to see if you have a record and what appear in it. This step is more critical when applying to a staff position than as a traveler, unless you really require a specific hospital for a travel assignment.

As a final note, the credit reporting industry is not a monolith, there are four major credit reporting agencies and they do not share information with each other. GroupOne is not even one of those four major agencies, so you do not need to fear that information on a GroupOne credit report will appear elsewhere, other than their own client hospitals.

 

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