Background Investigations

Can a Security Clearance Investigator Work a 40-Hour Workweek?

A class action lawsuit has been filed in the state of California against a private company that contracts with the federal government to provide background investigations to OPM for secret and top secret security clearances, along with several of its supervisors. The plaintiff, a security clearance investigator, alleges violations of state labor laws were required in order to perform workplace duties.

The lawsuit alleges that California Labor code was violated by not keeping accurate time records or paying overtime hours for non-exempt employees. The lawsuit also alleges that workers were threatened with termination if they didn’t complete security clearance investigations within company-set timelines, which required working unpaid overtime hours in order to maintain employment.

The defendant in the suit argues that in order to complete the required paperwork and travel, investigators would need to work anywhere from 10-20 hours of overtime in order to finish the work to OPM standard. This included working at home and on weekends.

The lawsuit goes on to make a host of other complaints, from alleging that the plaintiff was fired for complaining about the unfair work standards to alleging that the company didn’t make proper accommodation for disabled/injured employees.

Regardless of what the merits or reality might be in the above-case, it brings to light a topic we see on this blog a lot – the demand for a quicker turn-around time in security clearance investigations, which likely doesn’t fit into the reality of a 40-hour work-week. Recent speculation on this board has been that OPM may bring more investigative and adjudicative roles in-house – the often unpopular ‘insourcing’ within the federal government. By moving more positions in-house OPM gains control, and workers fall under federal labor standards. Whether or not that leads to increased efficiency, I’ll leave to others to debate.

Any opinion on the California lawsuit? Is it common to see security clearance investigators working overtime without compensation, or being threatened with lay-offs if they complain?

Comment Archive

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    I’m scared to comment on this…

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    I would comment on this but I am in the middle of a 56 hour work week

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    No. It’s only possible until termination for not making ACD’s and CD’s. In interviews I find myself repeating questions because I am thinking about the next appt. and worrying if I’ll make it if traffic is bad or a Subj/source volunteer an issue. I have thought about this a lot. I need a certain number of units per day. I would need every source that day to agree to meet me at a certain time and allow enough spacing between them to account for traffic, people being late etc. Then you have to go home and type up the reports. It is not possible to do this in 8 hours even if everything is planned out and goes smoothly. Forgot about it if you get a Subj with issues.

    The only way to facilitate a 40-hour work week is to put a cap on units expected/allowed per day.

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    I am the one coordinating this case for the Attorney Mr. Lueck. As a 30 years veteran and LEO I understand the stress. You can confidentially call the office and give us your thoughts and information plus ask any questions you wish. (909) 484-1963

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    This happens on the Fed side too. About five years ago, there was a big uproar about balancing quality and work life.

    OPM answered by removing the sources per day as a hard metric, which lasted about a year. Now, you’re blasted in the monthly stats when you don’t make your numbers, quality be dammned.

    I’ve also had calls by my Sup when my weekly stats were low. I was shocked they even looked at weekly stats.

    I’ve been told that there are new performace metrics coming out this year on our side, I wonder if this case has anything to do with it and wether or not it will affect the contract side?

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    Now I know why we have gotten e-mails about accurately reporting our time worked and not to work off the clock. On a related note I found out the other day that our management team feels it should only take investigators 6 hours to prepare for, interview Subject, type the subject interview and send out all of the required case messages and leads. The average time it takes me to do all of this for an ESI is about 8 to 10 hours depending on issues on the case and how bad the subject filled out the case papers.

    It’s all about making money for them in my opinion.

    I will be interested in seeing how the outcome of this law suit.

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    Yes, it is very possible if he/she wants to get fired.

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    I haven’t been doing investigations many years but I often hear colleagues reminisce about the ‘good ‘ol days’ of picking and choosing cases out of a file cabinet whose ACDs were weeks out. Then things suddenly changed.

    For those of you who have been at this for many years, I’m wondering if those claims are remotely true? How much did the NID have an impact on the change?

    The outcome of this suit will be interesting.

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    There are so many sneaky things that happen in this business. I love how policies come down- you can only work 40 hours a week but you are required to complete this boatload of work all across town that you cannot possibly complete in 40 hours but you have to complete it in 40 hours… What’s a person to do?

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    And don’t think about donating your time because it’s illegal!

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    Are USIS Investigators actual employees or contractors to the company?

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    It is virtually impossible for any investigator to continually meet metrics in a 40 hour period. It happens some time, but do not believe folks that get metrics each week–these are the folks that work OT free and have skewed the metrics over the years.

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    When I started in 2004,almost all cases were about a year past CD already and there was not pressure on us like today. As the revenue grew, so did the pain of the field staff. Money is the root of all evil in business, but, hey that’s what business is.

    Truth is: There is not one investigator in this country who has completed their work in 40 hrs, continually. There is also not one that has NOT worked off the clock to finish. If you find one that says they can do it–they are not telling the truth.

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    Funny, we sure hear that alot and then after, we get a phone call stating: Hey, we have an initiative going (AKA we want more company money) can you close all 30 cases assigned by tomorrow? But, make sure you claim your time.

    Pay day: Your OT doesn’t match stats, we can’t pay you.

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    It won’t change in our favor. I participated in a work survey (OPM) years ago to show how long each item took, from scheduling, obtaining, interviewing to hard report. I did everything to a tee and it clearly showed how unrealistic our jobs are. It’s hard to believe, but this little experiment didn’t even get measured let alone put into the field so folks could see it.

    The fix is simple, give each inv a certain amount of reports for a 2 week period and ask them to finish in 21 days. I bet you not only see better work, but about a tenth of the re-files and folks would not be pressured to pump-out crap.

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    There are both FTEs and contractors who do investigations for USIS. FTEs get the work first and if any cases left over contractors can get some work. Atleast that is how it is in my area.

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    It’s funny, though, that only one company stands out in my mind where the work assigned can’t be completed in a normal work week. I think another company sets more realistic goals for its employees. You work what you can and you’ll move up or down their pay scales every quarter, depending on your output.

    USIS has both employes and contractors. But they walk a fine line with their contractors-they are treated very much like their employees. Waiting for THAT class action lawsuit to happen… Misclassification can cost companies lots and lots of money.

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    BW an Investigator wrote:

    When I started in 2004,almost all cases were about a year past CD already and there was not pressure on us like today. As the revenue grew, so did the pain of the field staff. Money is the root of all evil in business, but, hey that’s what business is.

    I think Gordon Gecko would be appalled at what “national security” investigations have become. What gets me is it is not good enough to make production expectations but we are told to complete work sooner to meet company initiatives or “so the company can get paid”.

    Why is it that much of my work deals with government contractors and they always seem to be working in a sane (almost laid back), 9 to 5 environment? Granted, we have the added benefit of not working in a dreaded office environment but they also have the benefit of not driving here, there, and everywhere to do this or that assignment. I find driving to each appointment– sweating and cursing in traffic and spending more time looking at the clock than on the road– to be exhausting. I often get home at 6pm and don’t have it in me to sit and write reports or the other required admin stuff we are required to do. This job couldn’t be done in 40 hours if all Subjects and sources and record providers came to your house for the interviews or to hand off records.

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    I can only imagine having all my people come to me! I could make cookies and we could have tea. It would be lovely! One can only dream.

    Between subjects not being able to follow instructions when filling out paperwork to OPM requiring us to interview everyone from every single work location (even if the office moved) and every single employer (result of an acquisition) to record providers who will not respond to calls or who require to furnish them a release before we can even speak with coworkers, it is a tough job.

    Unfortunately for us, we need to rely on other people in order to do our jobs. What is a priority for us may not even be on a sources list of things that need to be done. I can’t tell you how many residential sources will call me back weeks after I’ve been by their houses.

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    Thank you for you comments. We appear to be on the right track. Any information or leads are appreciate. 323.830.9045, [email protected]

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    Have worked for the two majors on the commercial side and found that Keypoint’s moving up and down the salary scale a big incentive to hide hours. Who wants to lose money for not making stats!

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    I do worry that if this plaintiff wins this suit, that the three contractors will respond by making all regular full-time investigators salaried rather than hourly as they are now. This would be made in response to cover their liabilities and place the expectation on us that we should be in a perpetual state of working overtime. I worry about the impact that could have on our personal lives which, in many situations, are already constricted enough as is because of the expectations put on us. Perhaps that would be a sign for all of us to re-consider how much longer we would like to remain in the business of OPM investigations. But many people do not have such a luxury.

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    I was salaried, non-exempt–OT eligible as are most folks. They just give you a wage break down. If they do it, they will have to increase pay by leaps and bounds and they can’t.

  24. Avatar

    Newbie here. I don’t see where to post general comments, or how to track the latest comments on recent articles and blogs. Any advice ?

    Wondering if serving on a jury is required to be self-disclosed ?

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    The kicker is that this job would be 100% better with changes that would not significantly affect the production or timeliness of investigations.

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    Agree. Fixing the problems we have would be easy. Folks sitting around coming-up with ideas need to open themselves to suggestions by us in the field. I cannot believe that nobody in this business is open to anything. This system is the poorest system I have ever been involved in. Half of this industry couldn’t investigate their way out of a room with doors on all sides.

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    The people making the decisions have never been in the field. That’s obvious by the policies that are issued. And common sense never seems to prevail.

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    Hello all – if you have a foreign contact (friend) it is advisable to NOT mention that they may be contacted during the investigation process ? Contact is in Canada.

    Thank you !

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    On the subject of workloads, is there really any monitoring of the number of employees that a company / division wants to have cleared ? What if the number of employees or the level cleared at seems excessive or unnecessary to the current job requirements ?

  30. Avatar

    There are a host of issues with this job. There is no way work can be completed in a 40 hour work week. We are required to return notes every two weeks and those are audited. We are required to check work in/out daily and that is audited. We are required to send case messages and that is audited. We are the investigators and administrative staff all in one. In corporate America, people have administrative assistants for some of the work we do. We spend a minimum of 2 hours in interviews, but that is the exception and not the rule. I can schedule my day to a tee and I guarantee some source will need to reschedule. Like someone mentioned earlier, you are on other people’s time. It is what is a priority to them.

    Yet, subjects of investigations can submit incorrect paperwork with no repercussions. This is my pet peeve. They don’t follow directions. Read the questions carefully before answering. I guess OPM thought they were helping out on the equip when they decided to pre-populate the answers. Well that is not helping, because the subjects are not going in an updating the information or filling in missing information. They just leave it as is and there are still errors and omissions. I am seeing this all the time.

    And traffic, getting to and from locations can be a nightmare if you live in a large metropolitan area like me. I am most likely late to interviews. But I don’t care anymore. I just tell them another interview took too long, traffic problems, weather issues, the dog ate my homework, etc, etc- who cares.

    I have spent more than a decade doing this job and I am done. I am actively seeking any other type of employment. There is no work life balance. Most investigators are unhappy. If they allowed us time to complete our cases the right way and actually conduct national security investigations it would be a different story.

    Just my two cents.

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    The will not be contacted.

    The only one who does it right is the Military. If you do not fill a billet that needs a clearance, you get no clearance.

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    In California the Investigator position will not qualify for Salary (i.e. exempt) status. The final day to object to the Ricaldai v. USIS settlement is today, 2/4/13. If you have any questions on the claim form or the amount you will receive (and how small it is) feel free to call. As always it will be confidential and no obligation.

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    To “Contractor” if USIS is maintaining that much control over when, where and how you do your job then your are not an Independent Contractor. Certainly in California we are very aware of that issue. Also travel time is work hours and counts toward your 8 hour per day, 40 hour per week limits before overtime is triggered. Working 7 days in a row is also not permitted.

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    I can assure you that travel time doesn’t count, nor does over 8 hours per day and weekends. There is not an investigator in the country (IMO) that has been able to do this job and not work 7 days a week at some point, especially in the midwest, where inv’s have to drive an hour each way just to do one thing and, if we can’t get right away, we have to make 3 attempts–which can amount to 6 hours with nothing to show for it. Unfortunately, not everyone has the protections that Cali provides.

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    I think a lot of states do have the protections CA workers have but companies like USIS benefit from the kind of people who take this job. A lot of people work this job for a little while, realize how unpleasant it is for not great pay, and just move on. Or they are retired LEO’s or military looking for a reason to get out of the house and work as PT contractors. And I think it is you who correctly said that these companies just look at the bottom line, don’t pay generously, and figure it is more profitable to simply keep hiring and training new workers and then start draining their blood. I’ve talked with former USIS investigators. From what they describe it is like working at the Foxconn factory in China (without the anti-suicide nets).

  36. Avatar

    I know I am treated like an employee (by the one company) and I know all of the implications of the misclassification. The problem is that I like what I do and there are a limited amount of companies that require services that I offer. To go up against the biggest one may create a blackball situation one way or another. Unless the payout could sustain me, it just isn’t worth the risk. Even if I was willing to take the risk, finding other contractors that would be willing to go on record (and possibly jeopardize their livelihood) would be difficult.

    It is interesting to hear that in California the eight hours per day is supposed to include travel time. In the DC area it could take two hours to drive 35 miles. Those two hours are NOT included in the eight hour day…

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    Problem is–many midwest areas are “At Will” states and you can be fired for absolutely no reason.

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    I find it interesting that these companies have to strictly comply with all OPM/Fed govt contractor requirements even down to the type of recycleable paper they use in their copiers, but there they are no labor standards and any regulation on this is left to the individual states.

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    What is Sherlock work?

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    The defendant in the suit argues that in order to complete the required paperwork and travel, investigators would need to work anywhere from 10-20 hours of overtime in order to finish the work to OPM standard. This included working at home and on weekends.

    Is really impossible to do the neighborhood canvassing (or reach a source at home) during business hours between Monday and Friday. To have a realistic chance of finding someone at home you need to wait for the people to get home from work (5-6pm at least). During the winter, when it gets dark early, you can either go canvassing with a flashlight or you can do it on a weekend morning. I do my canvassing on Saturday and/or Sunday. I almost always work more than 40 hours but I have never taken overtime. It’s a pride issue.

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    Hello, BW, Contractor and Darrow.

    The reason this firm is a Private Attorney General is we get to enforce the law that the Government cannot or will not do. The FLSA does provide some protection but we would need to know more before giving you advice. At will means little if you bring an issue the company’s protection. Then if they fire you the damages are high. We get a Court Protective Order for our Clients so the employer cannot retaliated against them in anyway. OPM would probably be unhappy if a background company violated the law and was in contempt of a Court Order.

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    Hello, BW, Contractor and Darrow.

    The reason this firm is a Private Attorney General is we get to enforce the law that the Government cannot or will not do. The FLSA does provide some protection but we would need to know more before giving you advice. You are no longer At Will if you bring an issue of illegal activities to the company’s attention. Then if they fire you the damages are high. We get a Court Protective Order for our Clients so the employer cannot retaliated against them in anyway. OPM would probably be unhappy if a background company violated the law and was in contempt of a Court Order. (typos in first one, sorry)

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    I have mixed feelings about going after a private contractor such as USIS. Yes, most investigators are kind of forced to exceed 40-hour work weeks but this is the nature of the job. While I don’t retract anything I’ve said, I think the major contractors operate they way they do largely because OPM operates the way it does. And I think it was Fed who said the OPM operates the way it does because DOD operates the way it does.

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    I’d have to disagree a bit. I do not think it is because of OPM. They have a basic contract and, the folks on the private side have to make their investors happy. This is what causes the problems–bottom line, profit. The DoD in no way pushes OPM and both OPM and the DoD follow federal laws on labor, always have.

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    OPM has these unrealistic metrics in place and, with competition from multiple companies, these companies push to perform the best. It’s a broken system.

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    With everything USIS is going through and has gone through in the past year, I wouldn’t be surprised if USIS is out of business in the next 5 to 10 years, at least its Investigations Division.

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    The metrics were created by the contract companies. If it were OPM, we would all have the same requirements and point system. All companies are different, so it’s obviously not an OPM requirement. If all these things were dictated, pay would have been also.

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    Hold on for the ride. OPM let us know today that they are getting ready for sequestration cuts, to include slashing travel, training, contractors and employee furloughs.


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    I’ve been waiting to hear what effect sequestration would have on OPM. Now I’m waiting to hear how it will trickle down to the three contracting companies. Makes me wonder if the push to complete initial case types before periodic re-investigations in the past two to three months had anything to do with it.

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    How will this affect us investigators?

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    No idea what the affect will be. We’ve been cutting back the last two years. Hiring has been minimal and I know a lot of areas that need people.

    Not sure which is worse, the DoD cuts or the discretionary spending side. Looks like OPM will be hit by both.

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    The warning od sequestration cuts is law–they have to tell you. The DoD will make cuts to mainly programs and will get rid of their dead-weight via attrition. I’m pretty sure the flow of clearances will continue and, in my estimation will pick-up more and more as the U.S. will leave one country and head to another, giving chase to a continued growth of terrorists around the African Continent. Just remember as long as the govt operates, their will be work for us to do.

    IMO there will be no sequestration–these political hacks, on all sides, just like to play fear politics. Here’s an idea for everyone in the country–QUIT voting the same idiots back into office and expect change. Man, I could go on for hours, but don’t want to bore all of you 🙂

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    I have gotten a sense that there appears to be a slow down– from off hand remarks from execs at large defense contractors and ex-military looking for contractor work. Then again, I sort of got that in 2010-2012 when it was the highest spending ever. But the defense spending projections show larger budgets out to 2018 than the budgets of 2006-2009 (I googled it). Military spending was the highest ever under President Obama. But I wonder if this isn’t simply more and more allocation to military benefits, obligations, and pensions which are skyrocketing.

    I guess the thing to do is be the best investigator in your area so you are the last they let go, or send on permanent TDY.

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    I guess if you work in an area that is mostly contractors things might slow down a bit. But I generally have to agree with BW that I don’t see sequestration causing much of a slow-down from an investigations standpoint.

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    The unrealistic metrics comment above is right on. It seems as though part of the business model is to make the metrics expendable so long as the work gets done UNTIL it is time for a yearly evaluation and the metrics are all of a sudden the basis of your merit. The last 3 new hires we had- who all quit before NIT all say the same thing- that we are being set up to fail. As far as working unpaid OT- I have never done it. I do OT almost every week and get paid for it- never an issue….hence the abominable ACD metric.

  56. Avatar

    The way this job is set up now– with antiquated 70’s technology, the ever-changing reqts, tons of paperwork, piecemeal work, largely at the mercy of others (sources, record providers)– it is like doing taxes on a busy and windy street corner of Chicago, with papers and receipts being grabbed or covered so they don’t fly away or be seen by others. One little example of the manufactured frustration of this job is the the fact we can no longer see the whole case at once in PIPS because OPM doesn’t want this capability for investigators. So we hit a half-dozen key strokes to see a RESI and then have to hit another half-dozen key strokes to see an EMPL, and then to see a foreign contact we must pull out our PIPS function key chart and see what combo of shift-F key we must hit to display this information.

    To quote BW, “Man, I could go on for hours, but don’t want to bore all of you.”

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    I really am starting to care less and less about metrics. I am at the highest level I can go as an Inv with my company. I will do the best I can but I will miss stuff because I am human and I have so much to do. Even when our raises come out I get maybe 2 or 3% which is not that much. We just got word today that we will not get to find out how much of a raise we are going to get when we have our performance evaluation discussions due to the fact we did not do as well as we thought we would for Q1. Raises are still set for April of this year which is much better than August which is what they have been in previous years. It still boggles my mind that my company uses money they made in the current FY to give us pay raises from the previous FY. I am not a business major though so maybe that is how it is done.

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    I really am starting to care less and less about metrics. I am at the highest level I can go as an Inv with my company. I will do the best I can but I will miss stuff because I am human and I have so much to do.

    80% of the stress of this job comes from the unnecessary deadlines. I understand the importance of getting the work done in a timely manner but I find constantly shifting around assignments to make sure I meet ACD’s– or sometimes CD’s– makes me really inefficient. I have good production numbers inspite of this but if I didn’t have these unnecessary deadlines I wouldn’t be hoping and praying every waking hour that I am doing something else a year from now. I think a focus on strictly production would largely take care of timeliness. Related to this, and it highlights why these unnecessary deadlines are counter-productive, is the fact that you pretty much get the same time for cases and items that are radically different in difficultly of obtaining and completing. I can tell in 30 seconds or less after perusing it on PIPS whether a case/item is going to be difficult or relatively easy. E.g., when I get cases and I see a YOB of 1955, one listed RESI, one EMPL, Subj and spouse married in 1980, no foreign anything, et al., I do a fist pump. As opposed to a young person with a dozen rental RESIs across different states (half of them at college… “I only have the landlord’s email address”), a dozen EMPLs (a few of them internships through or at his or her college), foreign contacts, etc., I know it’ll be headache. Throw in issues and I know it’s a nightmare even before the ESI is done.

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    Having worked for two of the three contracting companies I wonder why if they can turn a profit OPM can’t. Nothing really special going on that OPM couldn’t do. I think that the reasons that originally pushed this work to go to contracting companies should be examined. This was a money grab from the start and now OPM’s changes are squeezing contractors profits. It is my opinion that work will eventually suffer as the contractors try to stay alive and profitable for the investors.

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    Just read the new investigative standards to be implemented this year. What a joke. You wont have to worry about metrics anymore, cases will be much easier to complete. The investigation will be useless but many a case will be closed and fast. So much for a product worth a damn.

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    They will just double the metrics.

    Wow, just when I thought they nailed the perfect system, they are going to change. Just one example of perfection: Subject “How did you go to school and work at the same time.” No more poignant question in my book?????

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    Don’t get me wrong, the poignant questions are still in full swing.


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    Just read the new investigative standards to be implemented this year. What a joke. You wont have to worry about metrics anymore, cases will be much easier to complete. The investigation will be useless but many a case will be closed and fast. So much for a product worth a damn.

    This sounds promising. I’m intrigued by the assessment “much easier to complete.” I hope this doesn’t mean they will just step up the case assignments.

    What is desparately needed is a new inv. handbook– under 60 pages and bound with a cut-out laminated sheet of issue disclaimer questions. Of course, ideally this would all be electronic and on a tablet.

    And they need to get rid of the “poignant” questions. A lot of these poignant questions are issue disclaimers. For instance, what’s the sense in asking someone if they intend to do X in the future? Shouldn’t this be left to the Subj to express and if he or she does not it is apparent from its absence? Instead of simply asking every Subj and getting a negative answer 100% of the time. For issues it should be left to the Subj to explain. Not a series of disclaimer questions to essentially create the explanation (of no real value) for the Subj.

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    I wonder how long the new investigative standards will trickle down to my company. I knew about many changes well before they were announced at my company because of this blog. I would ask about them and was told no one knew what I was talking about and low and behold about a month after I asked the questions the changes come down.
    We will probably hear about them and have them go into effect Q1 of FY14 when everyone else has been doing them since Q3 of FY13.
    Any examples you can share publicly on here or have you been sworn to secrecy?

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    Not sure what I can discuss, so I won’t discuss any of it.

    Ill poke around the net and see if there is anything I can link to that’s public info.

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    I’m sure how much more of a joke it could be when a lot of the time-consuming work now is of no value.

    Inv (call to Subj): I need two people who can verify your residence at 4600 College Ave while you were in school.

    Subj: I listed Jason. And Katie was my other roommate.

    Inv: And I also need two individuals who can verify your residence at 4800 College Ave.

    Subj: I lived with Katie and Jason there too.

    Inv: Ok, but I need two new names of people to verify the 4800 College Ave address.

    Subj: Someone has already talked with my friend Samantha. I guess you can talk with my friend Jessica or my friend Karen.

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    The contracting companies still (after all these years) have different requirements regarding coverage. The most recent differences are relating to how to cover multiple employment locations when entire offices move. One company is allowing their contractors to use two sources to cover both locations, another is requiring four sources. Same circumstance, different coverage requirements. So silly. As a contractor I shouldn’t complain too loudly. Those extra sources add up.

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    On a side note, I think one of the companies is majorly ramping up hiring. I think they are anticipating a huge increase in work volume. Just an FYI.

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    Doesn’t surprise me.

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    Outside of a few remnants of manual and factory labor, OPM contractors are one of the few remaining companies that don’t give much weight to the quality of their new hires nor care about retaining quality people. Production über alles. And they aren’t particularly concerned about attrition rates that rival Civil War regiments at Gettysburg. They make it abundantly clear that if you don’t like the low pay for 60 hours a week of constant stress, well, don’t let the door hit you on the ass on the way out, they’ve got lots of people willing to take the job and their new hire training classes are full. Most companies would see this as a problem. I’m still trying to figure out if it says more about them or their client.

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    All my company cares about is making money. They say they want a quaility product for OPM but that is not because of national security it is because of the all mighty dollar. We have been told many, many times FY12 was a bad year for us. Hence them taking away our 401K matching and reorganizing out leave policy, basically screwing many investigators out of many hours of leave earned. There have also been lay offs of “Non reveune producing positions”. A friend of mine who started with the company back in 1998 and worked her way up to a director position was laid off at the beginning of the month. All because she was not in a revenue producing position.
    We are now being “urged” to interview at least one more source every day or obtain two more records every day. Not because of national security but because management wants to get cases closed quicker so my company can get paid quicker.
    My company screwed itself when they “realigned” early last year. They thought by keeping only the good TL’s, getting rid of many DM’s and converting the good DM’s into Regioinal Directors the company would do better financially. I think the last thing they thought would happen would be the mass Investigator resignations when this realignment happened. This mass resignation caused many cases to become late therefore not getting paid the full amount by OPM. Then my company had to give pretty significant raises to the Inv who stayed and get them to sign a non compete agreement to keep them from leaving.
    Now we are paying the price. With the class action lawsuit being filed more financial problems could arise. Yes the lawsuit may take a while but if everything is found in favor of the plaintiffs or even if my company settles the lawsuit out of court I don’t know how my company will survive financially.

  74. Avatar

    Investigator, I have the same thoughts as you and am trying to figure out why the latest video from the CEO has her disclaiming “we are not in trouble or financial seems odd when we all know what disclaimers are really used for

  75. Avatar

    There’s no earthly way of knowing
    Which direction we are going
    There’s no knowing where we’re rowing
    Or which way the river’s flowing

    Is it raining, is it snowing
    Is a hurricane a-blowing

    Not a speck of light is showing
    So the danger must be growing
    Are the fires of Hell a-glowing
    Is the grisly reaper mowing

    Yes, the danger must be growing
    For the rowers keep on rowing
    And they’re certainly not showing
    Any signs that they are slowing

  76. Avatar

    The Class Action wage lawsuit in California has been served on U.S. Investigations Services. (Wilson, v. USIS, Rancho Cucamonga Superior Court. See the posting on this blog. read it and add your thoughts. Thanks

  77. Avatar


    Is this commentary on the new investigative standards? Or is the mindless report writing causing a nervous breakdown? I sometimes feel the urge to write a 30-page ROI of “All Work and No Play Makes Jack a Dull Boy.” (hint: from the movie The Shining). 🙂

  78. Avatar

    All of the above, Darrow.

    I’ve been reflecting on my last few years and trying to figure out the future as it relates to this field and well, that’s what came to mind.

    Weird, huh.


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    The worst part about this job is just when you are acclimating to the last changes and inanity, they then heap another load of new requirements and they are almost always for the worse. This is probably worse for us on the private side where the companies are constantly requiring more and more to make things more efficient (LMAO!).

  80. Avatar

    Glad I stumbled across this forum. I work for the same company as Investigator and it is going thru some serious integrity problems with at least two OPM IG investigations.
    The major concern is losing more OPM work because of these investigations all the while the CEO syphons benefits from the employees to pay for these suits.

    I read on a business social networking site that the DOD & TSA contracts with OPM have expired. That post came from someone who ID’d himself as an OPM administrator.

    Fed Investigator – is there any truth to this?

  81. Avatar

    Daddy, I want an OOMPA LOOMPA

  82. Avatar

    No outsourcing ROIs to Oompa Loompas!

  83. Avatar

    A few months ago I interviewed a source at her office and an admin assistant who work in the office told me she use to type up the reports from the notes of OPM Investigators. She did not say how long ago it was but I wish that was the case these days!

  84. Avatar


    I hired an assistant to type my reports and to manifest notes. It has worked wonderfully 🙂

  85. Avatar

    I thought we all had assistants for the admin stuff. You know, printing case papers, scheduling appointments, transcribing notes, sending cases back for retention.

  86. Avatar

    BW, I’m going to need your name and address so I can call Integrity Assuran…um…so I can send you some donuts.

  87. Avatar


    Integrity an Altegrity Company, hiding under an assumed name to get more employees (THAT INTEGRITY?) No offense if you work there 🙂

    Mail to:

    BW an Investigator
    101 Bloughmi St.
    Boyers, PA

  88. Avatar

    My keen investigative senses are telling me that address may be made up.

    No BW, I don’t work for an Altegrity company.

    I am bought and paid for directly by OPM/FIS.

    Don’t hold it against me.

  89. Avatar

    This site published the Complaint I filed in the Rancho Cucamonga Superior Court on behalf of Tom Wilson, a former USIS employee. Find the link to the complaint above.

    After filing the case in State Court, I filed an Objection to a proposed settlement in another case in US District Court, Central District of California (Los Angeles) and an intervention motion. Ricaldai v USIS.

    The Ricaldai complaint purports only to claim damages for denial of duty free break periods. The settlement, however, as it seems to be drafted would wipe out all overtime claims. I have been told by a number of current and past USIS employees that 50 – 60 hour work weeks are routine, and OT, though occasionally granted is routinely denied, and that employees are threatened with termination if you complain. Some of you have anonymously confirmed this.

    There is a hearing set for March 25, 2013 on these issues. If you believe you have been forced to work for free, I would very much like to speak to you for the purpose of taking a statement to submit to the Federal court, to carve out the right for you to claim unpaid overtime for “off the clock” work you were forced to do, but for which you have not been paid.

    email proposed statements to: [email protected]

  90. Avatar


    When do you think we will hear about the new investigative standards and do you know when they will begin?

  91. Avatar


    I wouldn’t worry about it. The Fed side and all of us contractors will start the new standard approx 1 year apart from each other as normal.

  92. Avatar

    New standards are supposed to implemented this year.

    Calendar year or fiscal, I have no idea. All I know is that they have be signed off by the interested parties.

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    Is that true that Feds and contractors might do things differently for a year? Wow. I don’t have a new job on the immediate horizon so I am hoping these new standards might improve my life until I find something else.

    In your opinion Fed, will these new standards make life easier for us private contractors? Because, to paraphrase Andy Dufresne in The Shawshank Redemption), “Remember, Fed, hope is a good thing…” 🙂

  94. Avatar

    The new standards will make individual cases much easier to close. However, does that mena the number of cases required to be closed will increase? Probably. Will they need less people overall to close more work. Probably. I doubt the performance metrics will change so I believe both the fed and contract side will be asking investigators to be essentially doing more with less staff.

    That’s just my gut reaction and I could be way wrong.

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    Oh boy, as if having hundreds of names swirling around in head at any one time were not enough? I have a good memory and not among the top producers in my area and I find myself running here and there and having introduction to sources like:

    Inv: “Hi, Peter Wilson?”

    Source: “Fred Wilson.”

    Inv: “Oh, yes, sorry, Fred Wilson. Good to meet you. I’m here to interview regarding Robert Smith.”

    Source: “You mean William Smith?”

    Inv: “Yes, sorry, William Smith. The Privacy Act…”

  96. Avatar

    The good news with what you explained above is that if your source gets a reinterview letter they should not be able to forget they met with you since you made the mistake of calling the source by the wrong name and the SJ by the wrong name. At least you would hope they wouldn’t for get that.

  97. Avatar

    I just got back from TDY and had four cases at once, all with the last name Kim.

    Talk about not knowing who was referencing whom.


  98. Avatar


    I am running from interview to interview just to make my minimum production requirements. During interviews half of my attention is on the clock and thinking about casework. I can’t help but think these faux pas are a result of stress. I wish I knew how other investigators find the time to interview their sources and type up reports all within 8 hours per day. I can’t do it in 10.

  99. Avatar


    Good news is–it can’t be done in 8 hours. Bad news is–it can’t be done in 8 hours.

    Again, I submit that anyone who says it can be done all the time, may be stretching the truth.

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    The other thing is that when people claim OT, their testimony stats take a hit. Donating time amps up that portion of stats because of the way testimony stats are compiled (number of testimonies obtained divided by the number of hours worked). If people’s testimony stats decrease, their employers begin hounding them for more, more, more and penalize them for not getting more, more, more.

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    Dead-on. This is where the problem all started years ago. Our stats, at one time, were reasonable. When this process grew, more people started working for free to be the “Golden Boy/Girl” and that is when these metrics grew out of control. Many worked off the clock in hopes of a bonus–not sure what part of “Discretionary Bonus” the folks did not understand. Your individual achievement means little if the company does not experience a good profit to give bonuses. Sadly, the only way to correct it–would be to get a 100% compliance by all investigators, which will never happen. The unreasonable metrics are here to stay.

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    Hello, sorry for an off-topic question, but I don’t see a general thread anymore for questions (is there one ?). On rare occasion during Google searches for security clearance topics, I see mention of a scantron form being sent to employers and references, but I don’t believe I have seen that discussed on this website or in Mr. Henderson’s books (unless I missed it). Would someone please comment on if a scantron or other mailing is sent to your employers and references ?

    Thank you !

  103. Avatar

    For all of you who have called and asked about the Wilson v. USIS Class Action Wage Case, thanks. Confidentiality is our foundation for class members.

  104. Avatar

    Why stop at California? Why stop at USIS? Why stop at the private side?

  105. Avatar

    As I said before, I don’t think is the company but the nature of this business and the requirements and demands of OPM (“Why I have I not heard of this agency?”). Here’s what a few investigators from Keypoint have to say. And Keypoint is reputed to be the best OPM contractor compared to the rest (but that’s like the leper with the most fingers).

    Here some of the most recent comments on Glassdoor

    “Not feeling this at all! It is time for a change.”
    Current Special Investigator in Washington, DC – Reviewed Jan 19, 2013

    Pros – Make your own schedule and Numerous opportunities for TDY travel.

    Cons – The work load is crazy! A person would have to work around the clock every day in order to keep up with the work load that is given. I am only a Level One and have NO DESIRE of moving up because I know that I will be expected to do more work. The deadlines are not realistic at all and management in Loveland does not seem to care. All they care about is the work being done. They don’t care that you have so many other cases that you work with as well. Many of the field managers and workload managers do not even consider the fact of how they are assigning work. It is overwhelming and stressful. I am currently actively seeking other job opportunities right now. I just made it over a year and I have had it with this company. The work balance life sucks and all they care about is their stupid quotas versus what you had to go through to get the work completed. I am noticing that a lot of the management that was there when I started has now left and we got all these USIS people who transferred over. I don’t know if that is a factor but in the direction that Keypoint is going no one will be staying there for too long.
    Advice to Senior Management – You better find a way to retain your employees because at this rate you will not keep good workers bottom line.

    “Wake up and hate going to work, Would Strongly Not Recommend to Anyone!”
    Current Background Investigator – Reviewed Jan 23, 2013

    Pros – Work from home
    Somewhat Flexible Schedule
    TDY Opportunities
    Cons – Keypoint makes investigators meet a “QUOTA” based on a 40 hour work week. They do not take into account travel time, or the details regarding the cases you have assigned. The QUOTA is nearly impossible to meet during a 40 hour week, however, you can face termination if you dont meet the quota and certainly wont receive a raise if you dont exceed the quota. Every field investigator I have met has said that if you dont work 50/60 hours per week and cut corners, you will never meet your point quota. Keypoint knows this, but instead of changing the QUOTA, they only issue statements saying that overtime is not authorized and lying about hours worked will result in termination.

    Keypoint lies about bonuses, raises, and anything else that will make them more profitable. Bonuses are unheard of, as well as raises. Keypoint initiated a company car program, they portray it as a huge benefit to the employees. However, they withdrawl money from your paycheck to pay for the car. The amount is more than it would cost you if you were to go to a dealership and get a car yourself. They brag about offering benefits and paid time off, but if you research you’ll find that buying your own insurance is cheaper than the company’s. Any other reputable company will offer better benefits, but Keypoint acts as if they are doing their employees a favor.

    Again, horrible company, horrible industry in general. My recommendation is save your time and energy and get a job anywhere else. Any other professional position such as this should make twice the starting salary. Keypoint is far below the curve and will never change because of greed.
    Advice to Senior Management – I have yet to meet one investigator that enjoys their job. I dont know how things are in Loveland, but judging by the extremely high turnover in 2012, Im guessing things arent so good there either. If it werent for a bad economy and poor job market, you would have no employees. You treat employees as if they are ignorant and naive. Treat you employees better, with more respect, and pay them what they’re worth.

  106. Avatar

    I have been thinking about going consultant and KGS told me to talk to all three before jumping ship because USIS may require a 6 week break. Any experience with this or advice with doing consultant work? I can’t wait to have more control of my workload and take away some of the stress. It will be nice to work down the cases then ask for more? The stress of getting loaded up is what drives me crazy!

    On a side note did any of our Survivor fans see our very own Special Agent Phil is back again. He is proof this job will make you crazy. He’s in full force – pink underwear and all!

    I gotta get out of here before I turn into him!

  107. Avatar


    I’ve been doing this work for just about 9 years and have been full-time and sub (Consultant). Being a sub-contractor is way better if you do not need benefits. You will have way more control over your life. Some companies do require a break.

    Also, Phil was a Fed guy because all the contract companies turned him down 🙂 (What up Fed—OOOOH)

  108. Avatar


    I don’t need bennies but do need steady $. As a sub have you ever experienced zero work and for how long? Is there a typical slow time? I am thinking October-Janurary may be a slow period and a good time to grab a TDY.

    I’m hoping if I align with all three (USIS, CACI, KGS) I should at least be able to average 15-20 source units a week being in a major market area. Any other subs have any thoughts?

    This website should try to get an interview with Phil – could really drive some traffic. I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall during some of his interviews. 🙂

  109. Avatar

    FI- the key is to have contracts with more than one company or agency. Multiple contracts helps for when one of the companies is experiencing a lull. Very surprisingly and in the first time in four years one of my companies has no work to give me. The only time that happened before was with another company right after Obama got elected in 11/08. From 11/08 through about 02/09 work was really hard to come by. And now, no work. My workload leader said she’d check in with me “in a week or two”. No idea what’s going on and am heading back over to another contract for work,

    As long as you diversify you should be fine. I take off most of August (because everyone in the dc area takes off and it’s very hard to get sources), Thanksgiving week and Christmas week, for the same reasons.

    Glinda, some types of investigations use mailed survey forms instead of in-person interviews for coverage. It just depends on the type of investigation.

  110. Avatar

    I’m not saying this guy’s criticisms are all wrong, but I really hate it when people like this are assholes to the investigator just because they think the process is flawed.

  111. Avatar

    Phil was a Fed? Oh lord, help us all, that dude is crazy. I remember him from last time but haven’t watched any of the current stuff.

    As far as the Washington Post guy, what an asshole. How many times have we all dealt with that person who complains about going over the SF-86, only to find out it is filled out incorrectly. It’s worth them complaining just to stick it to them when they’re form is all f*cked up.

    And what the hell does he think he’s going to get with a hundred dollar background check? Like there is some database of spies that will flag and the gubmint will be like, welp that’s a spy, no clearance for you, easy peasy.

    Cry me a river.

  112. Avatar

    As awful (and quite frankly unnecessarily arrogant) as I think that Op-Ed piece in the Washington Post was, this response from a reader in the comments section is spectacular:

    “You’re too good and too busy to take the time. Fine. No clearance. I guess the Staff Sergeant’s getting shot at and blown up should have plenty of time for their clearance so we don’t interfere with your next polo match. Do the rules apply to the rich? Naaahhh. You’re WAY too important to bother with those things for the little people.”

  113. Avatar

    Hamre is a well-know guy in the military and intelligence field.

    I thought we were required to read back and verify every phone number, passport number, dates of birth of relatives, dates of various employments, etc. What information can a Subj be expected to recall from memory other than their own DOB/POB/SSN/address/phone # and their spouse’s basic info.

    I think he has a point. Instead of one secretarial contractor special investigator simply asking questions off a form with her head down, why not get two seasoned investigators with good backgrounds (not 20-something former asst. mgrs at retail stores like they’re hiring now) and have them come in and ask a dozen open-ended questions? I know this elicits real secrets because when I started I was able to pull out some good ones based on a little acting and the fact that people are afraid you know more than you know. But I work for a company. And my company wants production. So now I go into ESI’s, put my head down, and robotically go through the SF-86 and robotically ask every question. I ask the Subj to give me needed sources/verifiers. And I’m my way. My company is happy, I’m happy.

  114. Avatar

    Hey, I’m a 20-something who’s first job out of school was unrelated to this field and I don’t consider myself to be terrible.

    Also, I have a buddy who is a fraud investigator at Freddie Mac. They just paid for him to go to one of the Reid Technique seminars for 3 days. I’d love it if my contractor would spring for this and think it would actually be very helpful for all investigators. Alas, I know they won’t because it doesn’t really matter if us stupid 20-somethings really know any thing about interviewing and/or interrogation.

  115. Avatar

    Btw, I deal with these types of guys like Hamre all the time. From my last job I know that a lot of how something comes across has less to do with what you are working with and more to do with presentation and confidence. If OPM cared about how they are viewed, or how National Security BI’s are viewed, they would have seasoned people working in the contract investigator job– retired LEO’s, agents, military investigators, et al. The people the OPM contractors are constantly shuffling through because of the awful pay, treatment, and nature of the job is absolutely destroying the image of national security background investigations. National security investigations are becoming like airport checkpoint screenings by TSA.

    I hope Hamre’s op-ed gets some attention.

  116. Avatar

    No, Very Special Investigator, clearly you’re not the type of investigator I’m talking about. And I’m only talking about a fraction of the investigators but they’re the ones I focus on. Fed Inv. talked about the new young special agent with the nose piercing he had to train, so it is not just the contractor side either.

  117. Avatar

    The guy’s got a point but, man, do I feel bad for his investigator. I had one like him many years ago. He was one of the very few I’ve come across that, in my opinion, absolutely in no way, shape or form, should have held a security clearance. You opened his closet and the skeletons buried you… But he was SO important to himself (and I had more protected sources on that case than any other- so no one would go on record) I’m sure he kept his clearance.

  118. Avatar


    The guy’s got a point but, man, do I feel bad for his investigator. I had one like him many years ago. He was one of the very few I’ve come across that, in my opinion, absolutely in no way, shape or form, should have held a security clearance. You opened his closet and the skeletons buried you… But he was SO important to himself (and I had more protected sources on that case than any other- so no one would go on record) I’m sure he kept his clearance.

    I had a treacherous sociopath Subj who clearly could not be trusted. His REFE’s wanted to be protected and said he cannot be trusted. His security manager, who wanted to be a protected source, said the Subj was extremely dangerous and is the last person in the world he would trust. All the people who went on the record said he was a great guy. Protected sources are not used in adjudication so I’m sure this guy got his TS/SCI renewal.

  119. Avatar

    It sounds like the contract companies have done a great dis-service to it’s employees. We’re trained to verify all information but to also do it in a conversational way. You can speed through a checklist or you can have actual conversations with subjects that begin with verifying information and ending with open ended questions. The best thing to remember is that in every interview, you are in control. Don’t let testy subject’s throw you off your game.

    Also, if anyone wants a great read on interviewing, I highly recommend ‘Spy the Lie.’

  120. Avatar

    I realize that I’m not under the same pressures as the contract Investigators but let may say this, it takes a good two or three years to get comfortable interviewing subjects. If you’ve been on the job for only a year or two, it will get better.

    This is obviously only based on my experience as well as talking to other investigators.

  121. Avatar

    I have walked away from more than one subj acting an ass. I will not sit and listen to the complaining and I will definitely take no grief from anyone in this business. We are providing a service, if they don’t want it–then they can quit. Once I terminated and walked, the ass-kissing commenced by the subj’s for me to please do it.

    I started my investigative career in 1984 and have completed more investigative/interrogation courses than I can remember and, not a single one applies to this work. I think most folks care about what they do, but we need to get real and see this is not an investigative job. In fact, this job dulls the senses. I can tell when a subj is lying and, I’ve had dozens do it. As a crim inv, this would have been dealt with in many ways. This is when investigative skills and authority to get at the truth come in and we should be allowed to pursue.

    Hell, not long ago had a subj use MJ 45 times in less than a year and simply say I was experimenting. Good answer, here’s your clearance. Now, promise you won’t do it again. By the way, subj never bought any??????

  122. Avatar

    If I came a across a SJ like this when I first started this job I would have been flustered and stumbled through the rest of it with his attitude. Yet after doing this job for 10 years and he said that he just wanted to go to the end and swear everything is true. I would have said okay and just confirmed with him that he is refusing to answer any of the questions on his SF-86. I would have then wrote that in my notes asked him if he would be willing to provide me leads for his various residences, employments etc… If he did I would write them down. If he came back with a cocky answer like “Isn’t that your job?” I would I have indicated he refused to provide leads for his various activities in my notes and then wished him a good day. Probably would have been the short ESI I have ever done.

    On a side note we got word yesterday they are bring back our 401K matching in July. We will see if that really happens. We still have not been given an exact date on our raises, at least I haven’t. I have been told April but that all depends on how the business does. Again this is what I have been told. If others know different please share.

    Happy Friday all. Last day of my detail!!!

  123. Avatar

    BW, you mean you didn’t believe your subject? Hahaha

    I agree, the verifying of every name does take away from the investigative nature of the job, as with anything though, it can be used as a tool.

    We are investigators, not criminal investigators but fact finders nonetheless. I believe in the job and in what we do, I get burned out from time to time but I do think what we do is important.

  124. Avatar


    I agree the job is important, just PO’d that only field folks seem to realize this.

  125. Avatar

    Me too man, me too.

  126. Avatar

    I agree with Hamre in that I don’t understand why the investigator asks me questions that are on the Sf86. Except for the few questions asked that fall outside the scope of the sf86, most of the subject interview seems like a waste of time. As for Hamre, why didn’t he change the process when he had the chance? He used to be the deputy SecDef. And why are we bothering to investigate him at all? At his level of power and influence, he could probably smoke a joint in the middle of his subject interview and still keep his clearance.

  127. Avatar

    This retired police detective does a good job summarizing this job:

    I was told by my Sr Investigator / trainer “What we do doesn’t really matter. This is all about asking the same stupid questions over and over.” There is absolutely no room for creative thinking and actual investigation. OPM dictates what you ask and don’t ask a person you are intervieweing.

    Make no mistake this IS NOT AN INVESTIGATOR JOB. You do no actual investigating. This is a tele-marketer type job with canned questions and a rediculous reporting format that is user unfriendly and sucks.

    As my investigator-trainer told me when I started, “If you think you are doing worthwhile investigative work, you are a ‘special’ investigator in the short yellow bus sense of that word.”

  128. Avatar

    Here’s what another experienced retired federal investigator says about this job:

    Volume & complexity of work assigned impossible to be completed within deadlines set by company within 40 hours per week ….. anybody who says they do is flat-out lying IMO. This is a report factory … you interview people & ask the same questions over & over again like a parrot – many of the questions are quite ridiculous & off-putting to the subject of your interview – I have to apologize to the subject for some questions I am required to ask they are so ridiculous – then you get about 25% your reports picked apart by reviewers & sent back to you for re-work for stupid reasons, but none of this re-work is factored into the amount of work you are assigned – you are expected to just suck-it-up on your own time I suppose. Pay is low. Increases few & far in-between so I hear… (btw – I have 25+ years experience as a Federal 1811 Criminal Investigator with high performance appraisals & many awards throughout my career … if you think this job is going to be a stepping stone to that you are wrong, go back to college or get a job with the State police if you want to work your way up to becoming a real Federal investigator) I’ll be resigning as soon as I take my scheduled vacation days since they changed the policy & won’t pay me for them. (Oh, btw …. if you want to take any vacation days off you have to apply 60+ days

  129. Avatar

    I always wonder which TL or RD posts ones like this to make it look like the company is a great place to work:

    “From the moment I started with USIS, it has embodied me with the entrepreneurial spirit to help make a difference!”
    Current Employee – Reviewed Jan 25, 2013

    Pros – You’ll work with industry leaders in a stimulating and energy-driven environment. You’ll be inspired and supported to achieve your best, expand your horizons and unleash your creativity on a daily basis.

    Cons – There are no cons that I can think of.

    Advice to Senior Management – Just keep listening to employee feedback.

  130. Avatar

    As usual, I’m too slow for you guys, but I’ve posted about the Hamre op-ed – I think it will be interesting to see if any reforms happen linked to budget cuts/cost savings, or if we’ll just see a big push to cut the number of cleared personnel overall:

  131. Avatar


    Nothing will change–it can’t, the folks at the top will lose their power-base. I do foresee the DoD cutting back on clearances as it draws-down in some areas. If the decimation of contractors continues, we will see a very dramatic cut in backgrounds.

    The only way to do this right, is to take the administrators and lawyers out of the program creation cycle. They really have no idea what they are doing.

    Even better, if folks cannot show even the slightest bit of responsibility, DO NOT clear them. Many of the folks I check should be sent packing IMHO. If something simple, like paying your damn bills, is too challenging–then find someone who will. Just one small example, but we inv’s have thousands of other stories we could tell. Also, best thing would be to quit recycling cleared dead-weight and let younger and smarter minds have a chance.

  132. Avatar

    Very interesting comments. I thought I was the only person…

  133. Avatar


    Don’t be shy.

  134. Avatar

    Steven Davis,

    I think your law firm ought to work with one of the high-powered D.C. firms (e.g., Patton Boggs) and sue OPM. They have been complicit in this egregious interstate violation of labor laws. They know damn well that they have set up a system that forces it’s contract workers to violate labor laws. And they have taken no steps to rectify this situation. My company schedules out work at 125% of expectations. Developed items are then added to this. And if a sick day is taken you do not have case work reduced or even push back, just more work in less time. During winter months residence canvassing must be done on weekends. OPM coverage requirements (attempts in person) adds hours to work day but no reduction is source production. OPM could have taken steps to rectify this but has not. E.g., not allowing companies to have complete control of the amount of work they schedule out to employees. Full-time employees should have as much control over the amount of work scheduled to them as contractors for these companies. If they are not producing adequately than they can be let go.

  135. Avatar

    Sorry for the typo (autocorrect)… “its contract workers”.

    This forum needs a edit option to correct our posts.

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    Btw, allowing FT employees control over the amount of work that is assigned to them largely eliminates the problem of forcing workers to continuously violate labor laws. Also, OPM needs to ban things such as “company initiatives” and pushes for the purpose of “the company gets paid [faster]”.

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    Going out on a limb–but–I’m thinking you had a bad week 🙂

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    Darrow- I agree with your assessment that OPM is compliant. Another example of their manipulation is the DOL Wage Determination under the SCA. The only WD that is not regionally adjusted is the WD for background investigators. The wage for a background investigator level II is less that for a cleaning person in New York City because the custodial worker WD is adjusted for cost of living but not the background investigator. This forces contractors to bid on a contract that requires them to get more work out of every investigator nationwide to offset the higher salaries of the NY/DC/CA investigators.
    The DOL told me that the WD for BI is set by OPM and not DOL.
    Why is it that OPM investigators get salary adjustments for regions but OPM does not provide for contract investigators to get the same.

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    I know I am jumping into this thread late, but I always viewed the job as a give and take. Some weeks I got ahead and some weeks I fell behind.
    I found that if I honestly got up and went to work every day, I had no problem with 5 WT per day. Some days I can pull down 12 or 14 sources and others I only end up with 2 or 3. Zoning and being tenacious with sources and subjects usually allowed me to stay ahead. The data entry was the hardest part. I usually worked very hard Monday through Wednesday in the feild and saved the last 2 days for typing, emergencies, and reopens.

    I always broke even and felt like the flexibility made it all worth it.

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    I agree sometimes it was cake. Alot of the time, we inv’s in the Midwest have to drive 50 or more miles just to get a record and to do resi’s x 3 attempts. I could literally, on many days, complete 3 records and it took 8 hours, yet we are held to the same metrics as someone in D.C and Northern VA where it’s like shooting fish in a barrel. Do this day after day, week after week and you can see why it just is not feasible and I had to get just under 7 SU’s a day.

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    I don’t think any of us here have a problem producing 130% of expectations every month. Sem months I have done 170%. Still 12 to 14 sources seems questionable unless all of it is on a military base. Unless up you have more than one source at a location you need to schedule an hour between sources to factor integer time of the interview and delays, traffic, etc. I live in an area where people will fit you in at their convenience so while zoning sounds good, it is often logistically undoable. No to mention I get stuff dumped on my with 2 days to complete. Which appointments do I cancel to get these. If I set up a 9am appointment in my area, I’d better leave the house at 7:30am to make it. And if I set up a 3:30 to 6pm, I can plan to get home 6-8pm. I type up reports at night? When do I schedule the 14 sources as I sit with a appointment book at my desk? I need to schedule on the fly. I wish I had the luxury to blow off two days doing nothing but report writing. Never could happen. I get last minute stuff all the time and ai am often forced to work till midnight typing reports.

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    It’s truly remarkable to me that investigators in rural areas are held to the same standards as someone like me who is zoned in a busy, highly-centralized area. How the three contractors and OPM have not caught the drift that such practice is not feasible is stupefying to say the least. I can easily clear 4 sources a day. But that’s because the farthest I have to drive is 15 miles from my home. I realize I’m spoiled but I completely empathize with my colleagues out there in other parts of the country who drive as far as 50 miles from their homes. Something is wrong here and it’s amazing that the people in charge have not figured this out yet.

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    The system is flawed. Everyone knows the difference. When I said 50 miles, that was the short distance. We can drive 2-3 hours for a record or source, which is very common. I did a thorough study for OPM years ago on my area. I kept track of each item, start to finish and I remember a day I reported a Law Check and it took 7.5 hours to complete–drive time. This test was never published or even addressed.

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    In metro areas you have the added stress of traffic, jaywalkers, cyclists, and parking. I’ll take 4 hours of long distance, open road driving than 1.5-2 hours if congested metro traffic driving. I definitely could use the long-distance driving time to make phone calls/appointments (or listening to Mad Dog Sports radio).

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    I’m wondering – will they (USIS) really fire people from this job for performance? (so long as that persons quality & integrity are good) – or is that just an empty threat they use on people who really need this job? I find it hard to believe since I can’t seem to get fired. I have started looking at ACD’s as “Suggested Completion Dates.” If they get done on time, fine … if they don’t, well nobody asked me when I was assigned the case if I could complete in that amount of time, so I don’t feel a lot of responsibility for that ACD. (I actually told my last TL that) All I ever hear about past ACD cases is some nagging e-mails from my Team Leader. I give them an honest 40 hours a week of effort and don’t ask for nor desire overtime. The work gets done when it gets done. I ignore all the e-mails & teleconference discussions about metrics. (told my TL I didn’t care about metrics either and that metrics are management’s problem, not mine – my job is to interview people & write reports) I’d be fine if they’d fire me for poor performance, then I could go down & file for unemployment. I am fortunate in that unlike others I have a Federal retirement income(previous Federal 1811 Special Agent) I’m thinking they won’t fire me since I already telegraphed to my Team Leader I am resigning in a few months. Guess they’ll figure as long as I’m producing something at least better to keep me on.

    Thoughts anyone? Do they actually fire producing investigators in your location for poor performance metrics?

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    I am so glad I found this site. It reminds me of the JobVent site from a few years ago.

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    Only difference is–we just tell the truth and have open, friendly discussions without yelling through the keyboard. Welcome aboard.

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    Where to start with this… USIS is a horrible company.

    1. Fake performance metrics so they can fire you whenever they want without fear of a lawsuit and manipulate you to constantly feel like you are not performing hard enough.

    2. Waste profits in business “consultants” and firms as well as products that provide no value to the company: SAP, BIIC, Baine (sp?) Capital, AIM, IBM’s MOSAIC, the stupid companywide Twitter (Zlitter) they shut down that cost $2 mil to build, the Sharepoint websites, the training “tools,” … The list is ****ing endless. Yet they still give no raises to anyone!

    3. They treat all employees like scum, and most employees hate their jobs. Review hates the field. The field hates review. All investigators are ranked against each other, so if you help someone out, you are hurting your own statistics. And it is encouraged by management as “competition.”

    4. Many employees are scum, lie on reports, and mislead subjects and sources. I’ve seen TLs encourage falsification openly if it speeds things up. Again, metric measurements are set up to encourage this behavior, which encourages fewer kickbacks from OPM, making USIS more money. You will be rewarded if you falsify testimonies and are never caught. If you are caught, it has to be a big deal or they keep it internal and try to remove you later for other reasons.

    5. Promote idiots and yes-men to the highest ranks. Many higher-than-TLs hold multiple positions because the management structure is nonsensical, and they can’t keep anyone competent for long.

    6. Morale is horrible. My boss started a meeting with the pitch of “at least you all still have your jobs.” You will see that most people who say anything positive about the company are just happy to have employment. That is called wage slavery.

    7. Raises are maybe 2% of your $34K salary if you are lucky and keep your mouth shut, nose to grind stone, and don’t insinuate you are looking for other work. They come out of cycle, typically two to three years after you’ve worked yourself to death. And then you only get the raise if the company is making a profit (which it hasn’t for a year) and if you haven’t received one in the last two years, no matter your performance.

    8. Everything bad you read about them is true. I mean everything. I’ve been here for 6+ years because I can’t find other work, which leads me to #9…

    9. Since the company is a joke, it looks horrible on your resume. You will be laughed out of job interviews for other positions if the companies/agencies interviewing you know anything about USIS.

    10. The job sucks! People stand you up for interviews. Driving 50% of the time. 40% is typing, phone calls, and answering emails. 10% is actual interviews. Archaic report writing demanded by OPM. No recompense should you be injured on the job. You will get no respect except from people who mistake you for the FBI or who are afraid of law enforcement. Those investigators who think they are “respected” as OPM FIS wannabes are living an illusion.

    11. Promotions to TL position are higher pay (slightly) but stress is horrible. They will fire you if your team numbers drop. Good news is that there are always TL positions open if you are willing to move. Movement into other lateral/support positions isn’t wise due to the company constantly changing “strategy” and sacking people in the unproductive (non-investigator) roles.

    12. Removed PPO from health plan for 2014, so anyone with prescrip meds will be paying out the nose. Queue the attrition of the 65+ non-military crowd.

    13. Good luck if you need sick days or FMLA. They will do everything they can to fire you or make your job unbearable if you hint at FMLA. HR is in bed with management, so if you ask questions about leaving the company, your boss will find out.

    14. Details are not voluntary. You will be traveling, especially if you are not near a major military base. If you refuse for any reason, you will be reprimanded and then still told to go.

    15. Finally, you will find yourself SICK of the fact that the nation’s security clearances are in the hands of this disgusting, unethical company and their incompetent joker mob of “investigators.”

    My advice: Run. Fast.

  149. Avatar

    Case has moved to Federal District Court, Judge Pregerson. Second Amended Complaint being filed to add FLSA cause of action and reinstatement remedy. More later.

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    Resigning effective tomorrow. Good riddance to this company. My advice to full-time Investigators … ignore ACD’s & focus on work quality (and your own quality of life.) Guess what! – they they won’t fire you for missed ACD’s as long as you are producing quality work. They won’t like it, but they won’t fire you either. Investigators nationwide need to call this company’s bluff (& you all know what company I’m talking about.) If everybody did this they would have to change the metrics. It’s all you “three bags full, sir” people out there working hours for free trying to get a gold star that are messing it up for everybody else. Think about it … if the company has 2500 investigators & can subtly coerce each of them into putting in just 5 hours of their own time per week …how much is that? It’s 10,000 man-hours per week – 520,000 man hours per year. Do the math & multiply that by $ per hour. That’s a chunk of change they’re bilking the FI’s out of.

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    Randy–I’ve been warning folks for years to quit working for free, but nobody seems to listen. Good luck in whatever.

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    While “Investigator” makes some correct observations, there are many of us who put in an honest day’s work, represent ourselves, the company (yes, that company) and the customer well, and don’t work for free off the clock. Unfortunately yes, those who would choose to work off the clock to boost their stats ruin it for the rest of us. I have also noticed that they are targeting and nit-picking high-level investigators to try to save money – yet another example of them being penny-wise and pound foolish.

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    Ind contractor job contracts not honored. Was told that as a ind contractor, you could refuse assignments. However, when this was tried, they said too bad you have to do all the assignments. They want to use ind. contractors and not pay benefits but still want to control you and have you do all the work. I cant wait for this case to resolve as it will show how the ind. contractor v. employee law is being abused.

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    I left USIS for many reasons, poor management being one, but primarily because I felt that I was not able to,in good conscience, perform a THOROUGH background investigation for a National Security Position in the turn-around time allotted by USIS. OPM,DoD,and all the various federal agencies ultimately served by this money-motivated company(USIS)should take a good hard look at the quality of the investigations and the pressures being placed on the poorly paid field investigators.

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    Is the class action suit nationwide?

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    STOP WORKING OFF THE CLOCK! You are not helping yourself, one day you will not be able to handle that workload and your supervisor is going to ask why can’t you produce those high stats anymore. I work 10-15 hours OT every week, I focus on quality, quality and quality. Since they took the zoning and assignment choices out of the FI hands, I let the other stats fall where they may.

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    The sad thing about these class action lawsuits is that it is only the attorneys who make any real money. Sure, you might get a ck for a few hundred bucks while the attorneys will make tens of millions. Moreover, they are not pursuing the social security taxes that are supposed to be paid for employee misclassification.

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    Anyone ever discuss the fact that independent contractors are required to sign a contract that states that if you fail to work for one full year or 180 investigative units, that you have to pay the company back $5,000.00 to reimburse for training? Talk about indentured servitude. Of course, they do this as they know that the pay sucks, you can’t refuse assignments (per the contract they sign) and also don’t tell you until you are in the training program that they don’t pay any additional for report writing, nor do they tell you that you must make three unpaid trips to find resi sources. That is three round trips to try and get the 2 sources required.

    Moreover, if you try to take any shortcuts, they advise you not to even think about it as you will go to jail. What a business model.

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    I agree that it is not always possible to get all of the work done in a 40-hour work week, but we all have the capability of planning ahead and being accountable WHEN it is our own fault that we miss a deadline. We enter our time online daily, so we should be able to tell by mid-day Thursday if we need extra time to meet a Friday deadline. Since USIS added the approval tool for us to request OT online before working it, I have not been turned down on an OT request needed to close a case on time. I submit the request online by COB on Thursday and back it up with an e-mail to my TL explaining why it is needed. The TL’s stats get hit if I miss, and they always have a few OT hours to play with. They are only going to approve OT if it is productive. In the last 3 months, I have gotten to the point where I am closing most of my cases two to three days early and I have only worked OT in three weeks. It CAN be done. USIS really needs a secure memo board that allows investigators to talk candidly and mentor others to exchange ideas that can help each other to be more productive. I didn’t have the best rapport with my TL in 2012, but I have worked very hard to improve that this year and it has made a world of difference. We have different communication styles and we don’t think the same way, so we are not ideally a good team match – but we are both proficient in different ways. I especially enjoy reaching my 40 hours at noon on Friday, completing and submitting my timesheet, turning off my computer and locking it up, letting the phone calls go to voicemail, and not thinking about work again until 8:00 am on Monday. It is a great feeling.

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    Well, those of us in California won the time lawsuit. And, NO you can’t do this job the way it should be done in the 40 hours per week especially when you are on the road driving most of the time.

    Now there appears to be a different issue with USIS. I worked for USIS for almost eight years. I was fired in September of this year for “timeliness and quality”. I have my own investigative agency and started doing some research. So far, my research shows that 98% of those interviewed who had been fired were over 50 years of age, had worked for the company seven or more years, and were making the most money at their respective levels (investigator, senior investigator). If you have been fired within the last five years or know of anyone who has been please have them contact me at [email protected]. I would like to be able to get a larger sampling across the country rather than just in California to determine if this theory is correct. At this point, it appears to be age discrimination as well as the company replacing higher wage earners with those making much less. Thanks in advance.