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Employment Screening And Background Checks Explained

The logic of “Trust But Verify” seems to apply when it comes to employment screening. All businesses and organizations of any size should screen prospective employees for criminal records. This is the only way businesses have to protect their employees and the public from hiring someone with a serious criminal record that may cause significant harm.

When a negligent hiring lawsuit is filed, sometimes the best defense may be evidence that the company conducted a quality criminal record background check before they hired someone. 

The extent a private employer may consider an applicant’s criminal history in making hiring decisions can differ from state to state. Legislatures often try to enact legislation limiting the rights of employers to consider an applicant’s criminal history if it does not directly apply to the position applied for.

You should familiarize yourself and consult with professionals with regard to any governing laws in your state.

Federal, State, County, and database criminal record checks

Credential verification’s such college degrees, past employment or licenses held are often presented inaccurately on employment applications. This can be one of the most time consuming tasks in a Human Resources Department, and many HR departments have found it to be cost effective to have a professional employment screening service that does credential verifications complete this part of the employment screening process. 

The following list contains the types of information that employers often rely on as part of an employment screening check, Some of the he laws governing access and use of records in making hiring decisionsBusinesses using an employment screening company must obtain an employee’s written consent before seeking:

  • Criminal records
  • Credit reports

Note: Bankruptcies are a matter of public record and may appear on an individual’s credit report. The Federal Bankruptcy Act prohibits employers from discriminating against applicants because they have filed for bankruptcy.

If you decide not to hire or promote someone based on information in the credit or criminal record report, you must provide a copy of the report and let the applicant know of his or her right to challenge the report under the FCRA.

Visit the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection website for more information.

Under no circumstance can you discuss information contained in a consumer credit report with the applicant. Always refer them to the credit reporting agency for discussion or dispute.

  • Medical Records

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, employers cannot discriminate based on a physical or mental impairment or request an employee’s medical records. Businesses can, however, inquire about an applicant’s ability to perform specific job duties. Some states also have stronger laws protecting the confidentiality of medical records.

For Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) checks, consult these resources:

  • FBI Services for Businesses
  • FBI Criminal History Checks for Employment and Licensing
  • FBI Checks on Employees of Banks and Related Entities
  • Polygraph / Lie Detector Tests

Most private employers are prohibited from using lie detector tests, either for pre-employment screening or during the course of employment. The Employee Polygraph Protection Act prohibits The law includes a list of exceptions that apply to businesses that provide armored car services, alarm or guard services, or those that manufacture, distribute, or dispense pharmaceuticals.

Even though there is no federal law specifically prohibiting you from using a written honesty test on job applicants, these tests frequently violate federal and state laws that protect against discrimination and violations of privacy.

Military Service See our page on obtaining Military Records by clicking here. Military service records may be released only under limited circumstances, and consent is generally required. The military may, however, disclose name, rank, salary, duty assignments, awards and duty status without the service member’s consent.

Workers’ Compensation Records Information from a workers’ compensation claims history may be used only in very limited circumstances such as job assignments. State laws vary on the use of workers’ compensation records and some will not allow access at all.

School Records These always require a release signed by the applicant. Under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act and similar state laws, educational records such as transcripts, recommendations and financial information are confidential and will require the signed release before being disclosed. Also, most Schools and Universities outsource the access to these records to a third part company. Almost all charge a fee for confirming or accessing these records. Any such fees are added to the cost of the credential verification but are never incurred without your express consent.

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