We understand that employers need to conduct background checks to ensure the safety and security of their businesses and their employees. However, it is equally important to ensure that these background checks are conducted in compliance with federal and state laws.
In this article, we will provide you with a comprehensive guide on background checks, including what employers can and cannot do when conducting background checks on job applicants and employees.
What is a background check?
A background check is a process where an employer looks into an individual's history to determine their suitability for a job. The information gathered during a background check may include an individual's criminal history, credit history, employment history, education, and other relevant information.
What are the legal requirements for conducting background checks?
The legal requirements for conducting background checks vary depending on the state and the type of job being applied for. The federal government has also established guidelines under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) that employers must follow when conducting background checks.
Under the FCRA, employers must obtain written permission from the job applicant or employee before conducting a background check. Employers must also inform the individual of their right to dispute any inaccurate information found during the background check.
Under the EEOC, employers must ensure that their background check policies do not discriminate against job applicants or employees based on race, color, national origin, sex, religion, disability, or age. For example, if an employer has a policy of not hiring individuals with criminal records, they must ensure that this policy does not disproportionately impact individuals of a certain race or national origin.
What information can be included in a background check?
The information that can be included in a background check varies depending on the state and the type of job being applied for. However, in general, a background check may include the following information:
- Criminal history: This includes information about any arrests, convictions, or other criminal activities.
- Credit history: This includes information about an individual's credit score, outstanding debts, and bankruptcy filings.
- Employment history: This includes information about an individual's previous employers, job titles, and dates of employment.
- Education: This includes information about an individual's educational background, such as degrees earned and schools attended.
- Professional licenses: This includes information about any professional licenses or certifications held by an individual.
What information cannot be included in a background check?
There are certain types of information that cannot be included in a background check. For example, an employer cannot obtain an individual's medical history or genetic information without their written consent.
Employers also cannot ask about an individual's marital status, race, religion, disability, or other protected characteristics during a job interview or on a job application.
What should employers do with the information gathered during a background check?
Employers should use the information gathered during a background check to make informed hiring decisions. However, employers must also ensure that they are not violating any federal or state laws when using this information.
If an employer decides not to hire an individual based on the results of a background check, they must inform the individual of their decision and provide them with a copy of the background check report.
Conducting background checks is an important part of the hiring process, but it is equally important to ensure that these checks are conducted in compliance with federal and state laws. Employers should obtain written consent from job applicants or employees before conducting a background check, and they should only use the information gathered during the check to make informed hiring decisions.
By following these guidelines, employers can ensure that they are conducting background checks in a fair and legal manner. If you have any questions about conducting background checks, please contact a qualified employment lawyer for assistance.