What If You Don’t Have Fingerprints?

by Evil HR Lady on August 21, 2018

This just was discussed at work…fingerprints & background check are required before anyone may start work. But what if you don’t have fingerprints? The new hire in question is a musician and has worn them off. I recall I had a college professor who had lost his due to exposure to mildly caustic chemicals — he had trouble getting his US Citizenship.  And what about those with no hands?

The HR decision was, no fingerprints, no hire. I think that’s a bit short-sighted. But I’m not HR.
I have never encountered this before. Having no hands would definitely trigger ADA and require a reasonable accommodation. But, is lack of fingerprints considered a disability? It doesn’t impact daily life.
I wouldn’t make the same decision, though.
Has anyone faced this problem?

{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

Tracy August 21, 2018 at 4:15 pm

The fingerprint company used by my employer does a manual record check in the event that fingerprints do not scan. The potential employee must try three times before a manual record check will occur.

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HermioneMe August 21, 2018 at 4:25 pm

At a previous job, had someone who had been a nurse who had no/very light fingerprints due to all the hand washing over 20+ years. We ran fingerprints through twice, then did an FBI name search.

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Ashlie August 21, 2018 at 4:49 pm

My dad applied for the TSA pre-check process, and he was very surprised to discover he no longer had viable fingerprints. He doesn’t have a specific contributing factor other than age perhaps. It certainly extended his process for pre-check. He had to have several more interactions and interviews to gain approval.

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Dawn August 21, 2018 at 5:18 pm

I have this problem. 1) At my daycare, we are supposed to sign our kids in/out using a fingerprint scanner. I’m the only one who isn’t required to do it because the machine can’t read my prints. 2) Our office had to be fingerprinted several years ago for compliance reasons and I had to go back a couple of times to retry because mine kept coming back as unreadable. The officer ended up notating on my chart that I had unusually soft hands and sent the notes in with my fingerprints. 3) We also have to use fingerprint scanners for some high security stuff we do at work. My fingerprints won’t work for that either and now they have to email me a separate password in addition to my existing password that I created to log in to the system. Luckily, I’m upper management and have been working here for years and there are work-arounds for me in place. I would hate to think it would prevent me from getting a job somewhere. My co-workers joke that I could make a living as a thief because of my fingerprint situation.

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GreenDoor August 21, 2018 at 5:40 pm

Palm prints are also unique to the individual and the FBI uses them as a biometric marker the same way as a fingerprint. That’s fine for background checks, but its obviously not necessarily practical for employers who have already invested in fingerprint scanners to have to re-invest in palm scanners.

Don’t worry. In a few more years, we’ll all be implanted with a government chip and fingerprint issues will be moot.

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grannybunny August 22, 2018 at 4:27 pm

I’m thinking retinal scans.

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Sandi August 21, 2018 at 5:42 pm

A very close friend of my had her finger times amputated due to illness and infection. It has always been an issue, but they acknowledge that she does not have fingerprints, but it does not impact her ability to be a flight nurse. They have made appropriate accommodations.

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Sandi August 21, 2018 at 5:42 pm

Finger TIPS

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Sandy Y August 21, 2018 at 5:50 pm

My husband recently visited the California DMV to renew his drivers license. The DMV needed to get a fingerprint of his right-hand thumb. They had to try multiple times on two different machines. For some reason, his fingerprint and/or the machine couldn’t get an adequate print. They would accept only the right thumb. What happens if the applicant does not have a right thumb? No wonder the DMV lines are so long.

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Lorie August 21, 2018 at 6:09 pm

At a previous job, I worked with senior citizens, adults, and children with disabilities. We required fingerprinting before starting. We were also required to re-scan the fingerprints of current employees after a certain amount of time. The older workers in accounting had no fingerprints from dealing with paperwork for years, and the older nurses had no prints from constant handwashing. We were still required to try and scan three times before conducting a manual background check.

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Maria Rose August 21, 2018 at 6:54 pm

Gee just learned something new today which also appears to be an example of ageism. From the comments and the article, fingerprints will fade as one ages because our skin does get thinner.
My answer to this is that this “technology “ has passed its prime and a new bioscanner technology should be used. They are already developed just not accepted for general use. (Claims of privacy evasion).
I am assuming that the company using this fingerprinting as a signing process has had problems with personnel abuses in using key entry access but they are behind the times in tech.

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JessaB August 21, 2018 at 7:20 pm

I think that possibly a case could be made for an ADA talk at least on a technicality, I have no idea whether it would stand up in a court case on the subject and do not know if anyone has tried.

But the standard for disability under ADA is effects one or more major life functions, I’d think that technically being unable to get work would be pretty major life function. No idea if it would actually fly, but if I had such an issue I’d try it just to see what happened.

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Anonymous August 21, 2018 at 8:37 pm

We had this occur with an applicant who had been in war and had hands but not fingerprints.

We were able to request a fingerprint waiver (they do exist) from our state for his background check, but it did take some extra paperwork and administrative work. To simply say “No fingerprints, no hire” IS extremely shortsighted.

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Anon August 21, 2018 at 11:08 pm

The company we use can use data such as SSN, Name, Address, State of Birth, etc to pull background reports if fingerprints are unavailable.

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Kimberly Herbert August 21, 2018 at 11:34 pm

Adermatoglyphia is a genetic condition and I believe ICE has a procedure for people with that condition. Seems that the same procedure could be used in these situations.

I’m a teacher in Texas. A while back they decided to fingerprint all the teachers who were licensed before background checks were the norm. I have atopic dermatitis. My skin is very dry and brittle, especially on my hands and feet. I often have trouble with touch screens. So on the day the man was scanning my school, I brought a letter from my doctor. I had tried to go through my principal – but he was mad someone had turned him in for unconstitutional behavior to the FFRF and HR. According to him, I was the only one smart enough to do that. (I think he meant well informed on Civil RIghts) So he took the same stand as the LW HR no fingerprints no job.

Thankfully, the man doing the actual checks had a brain. He followed procedure and called his boss. Then he tried taking them like everyone else. That didn’t work. So I was allowed to put hand cream on (something we were told to avoid because for normal people it could foul up the scan and leave the equipment greasy.) That worked. If it hadn’t he had some good oldfashioned ink and paper. Beyond that, they had other ways to check your background – but he didn’t give me details.

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Lynn August 23, 2018 at 9:25 pm

My grandmother had no fingerprints due to a disease. I know that, when she tried to get a job at a bank, she had to get a doctor’s note explaining her condition-but the manager knew her and was able to bypass procedure. I can only imagine how difficult that conversation would be today.

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Anon2 August 27, 2018 at 6:13 pm

Mine are mildly worn off, for no reasons that I am aware of – I’m guessing housework and playing too much guitar in my teens and 20s. I had this problem when I was getting my green card in the late 90s, and citizenship in the early 2000s. Both times, the system could not read my fingerprints. Both times, I was asked to come back for a second try, and then waved through when the second try did not work, either. They were able to read some of them, but not all ten. Worth noting that I did not have this issue when I went to get my TSA Precheck last year. Maybe the scanners have improved enough that they can read my fingerprints now. “No fingerprints, no hire” sounds like a very unwise hiring decision.

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Anonymous August 31, 2018 at 2:44 pm

According to the linked Longitudinal study of fingerprint recognition:

–The impact of the interactions (i) between time interval and fingerprint image quality and (ii) between subject’s age and fingerprint image quality on genuine match scores is not significant.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4507210/#d35e240

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