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Fair and Legal Background Checking

Remember that merely finding derogatory information about an applicant is not necessarily sufficient to disqualify that person from employment.

November 2, 2001
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Related Topics: Staffing and the Law
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Background screening must be conducted in accordance with both the applicable Federal and State laws.

On the Federal level, this is primarily the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). Some states have their own FCRA requirements and privacy laws as well.

Generally speaking, background screening must be conducted on the same basis for all applicants seeking a particular position or type of position. In other words, all applicants for a particular position must be subject to the same screening.

Limits on screening
Background checks can legally be conducted only for permitted purposes only, not simply because someone wants to gather information on another person. Background screening as part of pre-employment evaluation is one of the most common purposes recognized by law.

In addition, screening must be done with the knowledge and written consent of the applicant, as required by the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). In fact, the FCRA requirements pertain about 80 percent to investigative reports and only about 20 percent to credit reporting. Employers must follow those procedures to the letter, or they can be subject to invasion of privacy suits.

In most states, an employer is also prohibited from seeking from any source whatsoever a record of arrest that did not lead to conviction.

Finally, as a limitation on background screening, it should be remembered that merely finding derogatory information about an applicant is not necessarily sufficient to disqualify that person from employment. The deficiencies found must be shown to be "job-related," according to the EEOC.

Source: InfoLink Screening Services

The information contained here is intended to provide useful information on the topic covered, but should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion.

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