Background checks have been a standard component of the hiring process for the past quarter-century. With the proliferation of professional firms willing to provide comprehensive information on any individual who signs the proper authorization, employers have come to rely on such data to reassure themselves that the person they are bringing onboard is unlikely to do significant harm, either physical or financial.
In recent years, however, the ease of availability of supposedly reliable information via the Internet has drastically altered the background check landscape. Employers must take great care when choosing a provider. They must also endeavor to be reasonable with regard to what kinds of information they access. Performing a simple criminal background check, along with a credit history and verification of previous employment, is reasonable. Combing through decades worth of court records and searching for every possible mention on social media networks is not. If an employer takes a background check too far, they may find themselves weeding out potentially fabulous workers. At the same time, they could end up facing a lawsuit.
The best way to avoid legal action is to focus your background checks on information that is relevant to the specific position for which candidates are being considered. If you are hiring a security guard, for example, an examination of a candidate’s criminal record is entirely warranted. Likewise, if a potential new employee will be handling cash or other company assets, you may wish to run a credit check to verify that your top candidates don’t have a history of poor cash management. And if you are interviewing for a position that involves driving a company vehicle, it makes perfect sense to include a check of their driving record. Although an employer can request a pre-employment medical screening, it is generally not a good idea to request access to a candidate’s medical records. Not only are they protected by HIPAA laws, they are, quite simply, none of an employer’s business.
Whatever checks you deem relevant, you must obtain the candidate’s permission in writing prior to running any kind of background check. By and large, this is the best way to avoid a lawsuit. If you can prove that the candidate was fully aware of the kind of information you would be accessing AND gave their permission for you to do so, most any judge will side with the employer.
For more information on background checks and other aspects of the hiring process, contact High Profile Staffing today.
* This post is not intended to provide any legal advice and should not be interpreted as such. Whenever dealing with legal questions, involving background checks or any other facets of the employer-employee relationship, be sure to consult with legal counsel.