Claim your FREE copy of Employment Background Check Guidelines: Complying with the Fair Credit Reporting Act, conducting credit background checks and running a criminal check to avoid negligent-hiring lawsuits!
Employers and HR professionals should make it their policy never to hire a candidate without an employment background check.
When conducting a job background check, make sure you comply with the Fair Credit Reporting Act, which regulates not only credit background checks but also checking criminal records and driving records. The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) regulates how employers perform an employment background check on job applicants. Under the FCRA, you’re typically free to conduct an employment background check and use the information if you have a clear business interest, such as hiring, firing, reassigning or promoting someone. Learn about the FCRA notification rules you must follow before obtaining a consumer report on an applicant or employee, or withholding a job offer based on an employment background check, in Employment Background Check Guidelines. If you fail to do an employment background check on applicants for certain positions, you could make your organization vulnerable to a negligent-hiring lawsuit by any worker or customer who’s been hurt by a violent employee. Contacting an applicant’s former employers is an essential step in conducting an employment background check. You must also check information furnished by all candidates without discrimination against any group. Not too long ago, just a few dozen companies offered employment background check, credit background check and criminal check services. The result: Nearly 1,000 vendors are in the screening industry now, making it difficult to sort out the top tier from the fly-by-night firms. Follow the benchmarks for gauging background-screening providers in Employment Background Check Guidelines.

When employers gather information about job candidates through websites such as Google, Facebook and Twitter, they expose themselves to discriminatory failure-to-hire lawsuits. On the other hand, using the Internet in an employment background check can provide valuable information that the employer might not otherwise learn. Several states require employers to notify applicants if they plan on checking a sex-offender registry. Other convictions: Always check state law to see how you can use criminal convictions when making hiring decisions.
If you use credit background checks in your hiring process, make sure you can point to a clear business necessity. Also, focus on other nondiscriminatory approaches that can vet candidates and prevent theft more effectively than credit background checks.
So, when faced with an applicant with a criminal record, evaluate the position for the risk that potential employees would pose.
Contrary to popular belief, this federal law doesn’t cover just credit background checks. First, terrorism threats and incidents of workplace violence have made companies more aware of the need for job background checks. The employer, knowing a worker’s propensity toward violence, did not provide proper supervision and security.
Many employers have been snagged for making cursory checks of white applicants but probing more deeply in the case of minorities. It’s impossible for an employer to discriminate based on information it does not have.

Again, laws vary by state—a common regulation requires providing a public record to the applicant within a certain number of days. Most states have a statewide criminal record database, which can be searched—usually for a fee. Surveys by the Society for Human Resource Management found that 40% of employers were pulling credit reports as part of the screening process in 2010 (up from 35% in 2003). For example, jobs that allow access to customers’ homes may justify cleaner criminal records than jobs with limited public contact.
Barring applicants with traffic violations for a fast-food job is excessive, while barring applicants with violent convictions may be justified. Too often, they simply restate old information bought from private data brokers with no guarantee the data are current or correct. Usually, employers take care not to ask applicants about their age, race, gender, disability or other protected characteristics.
Call your local police department to find out which state agency handles criminal records in your state.

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