Woman fired as a result of error in FBI criminal database

Ages ago when I first saw “The Net”, an action thriller featuring Sandra Bullock as a computer expert whose life gets turned upside down by hackers who have access to her record in the police database and use it to make her look like a criminal and destroy her credibility, I wondered about the possible life-altering mistakes or misuses of computer kept records.

Eschol Amelia Studnitz, a Maryland senior accountant with Corporate Mailing Services, felt the full brunt of such a mistake when she was fired from her job and given only a few minutes to clear her desk and leave.

Wired reports that the reason behind this development was the following: CMS was recently contracted by the Social Security Administration to handle their mail. To perform such a task, the CMS employees must have a low-level security clearance, so the SSA checked their names against the FBI’ criminal database.

Due to an error in said database, Studnitz was deemed “unsuitable” (no additional explanation given) to perform any job connected to that contract. But, instead of just giving her other tasks to perform – assignments that have nothing to do with the contract in question – the CMS chose to eliminate her as an employee altogether.

Studnitz must have been shocked, for she knew that she had no criminal history. Two weeks later, her claim was backed by the SSA. They sent another letter in which it said that she was cleared for work on the contract.

But the CMS had other plans. They told her she wouldn’t be automatically reinstated in her job and that she has to send an application. When she did so, they said that they were reorganizing her department and that they will let her know when they were finished. When she finally got the final reply last week, she was told they won’t be giving her her job back because of alleged mistakes she made while doing it.

Studnitz has been unable to find a new job since losing this one, and she’s thinking about a lawsuit. It’s not yet clear if it will be against the SSA or her former employer, or both.

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