Employee Background Checks

An employee background check is an investigation conducted on an employee – or potential employee – by an employer, often through the services of a background check company.

These may be used as part of the hiring process, and are fairly common. The idea of having your personal information reviewed by a hiring manager may be an uncomfortable one. However, this can be a necessary part of applying for a job.

Employers must follow very strict rules when conducting these checks. While the information may affect your candidacy, a hiring manager may only use information relevant to the job to make his or her decision on behalf of the company, and any form of discrimination is prohibited. You will also need to give permission for the checks to be performed, and they will need to keep you informed of the process and the results of the checks. You will also be allowed to review the information and correct any inaccurate information.

Why are background checks conducted?

Background checks are generally performed in order to protect an employer’s interests. If the company hires someone with falsified credentials or an undisclosed criminal past, it may be liable for any wrongdoings the employee commits. In addition to this, many job seekers are willing to lie on their resumes, and companies will want to ensure you have the education, references and qualifications you say you do.

Some background checks may be required for a more specific reason. For example, if you are applying to work at a transportation company as a driver, the company will want to know you have a good driving record. If you do not, the company may be liable for a lawsuit. Even without considering litigation, if the company finds out you have lied on your resume, there is a high chance your employment will be terminated. If this occurs only after you have started working there, finding a replacement for you will be inconvenient and expensive.

Information Included in a Background Check

A background check may involve multiple types of reports, and the information included on your own background check may vary, depending on the state in which you reside. However, you may find it covers areas such as:

  • Employment history, which will cover the jobs you have worked in the past, your starting and ending dates for each one, and your salary. The information will be compared to what you provided in your resume. This check may also involve verifying the identities of those you offered as references.
  • Criminal records, which are frequently checked.
  • A driving report, which will disclose traffic charges, fines and accidents. Items such as a DUI might affect your candidacy for a job.
  • Your credit report, which may be checked, depending on the laws of your state.
  • Worker’s compensation claims, which may be made public in your state, but there are strict rules regarding these checks. The company may not perform this type of check until you have officially been offered a job.
  • Medical history, which may be relevant to the type of work for which you are applying.
  • Education and degrees, which may be verified against the information in your resume.
  • Social media accounts, which may be reviewed, as well.

What is required from the employer?

The standards for background checks are covered by the Fair Credit Reporting Act, as it is considered a type of consumer report. While background checks are common practice, and are by no means illegal, if an employer is going to perform one, then there are several steps he or she must legally follow:

  • Any prohibited information, according to state law, may not be researched
  • Written notice must be provided to any job candidate on whom a background check will be performed, as well as notice that the results might affect his or her candidacy
  • Written permission must be obtained from a job candidate, allowing the employer to perform the check
  • The type of investigations that will be performed, as well as the information likely to be included, will also need to be disclosed to the applicant before he or she gives permission
  • Rejecting a job applicant based on information in the background check also requires notice in writing, as well as a notification of the applicant’s rights; this allows him or her a chance to look over the report, and to contest any errors.

What is prohibited?

The information included in a background check is intended to help an employer verify your credentials and history, as well as learning of any risk you may pose to the success of his or her company. However, there are also limits as to what may be done with the information. For example, if an employer uses the information to discriminate against you, he or she is in violation of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

Your medical and genetic history, race, color, gender, age, religion, national origin or religion cannot be used to deny you employment. If an employer only checks the backgrounds of those from a certain gender, religion, race or color, this is considered discrimination.

The Effect of a Background Check on the Hiring Process

Generally, most types of background checks will be performed before you are offered a job. The company may choose to perform checks on every applicant, or only on those who are narrowed down as the final candidates for a position. Oftentimes, the background check will directly affect whether or not you are offered the job. Even if you have been given an offer, this offer may be withdrawn if the results of the check are unfavorable. Alternatively, you may be hired on a short-term basis while the checks are being performed, and you will only receive a concrete offer after the results have been returned.

You might be able to make a case explaining the results of the check, although it is often more advisable to address any potential issues before the check is performed. If you are a worker with a disability or a medical condition preventing you from performing the work required, your employer should allow you a trial period in which to demonstrate your ability to work.

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