Background Check

Demystifying Background Checks

Background checks are a contentious topic that raises questions that go to the heart of privacy, equal opportunity, and fair treatment. Some companies don’t do background checks, they do them wrong, or they overdo it. Usually that’s the source of the trouble, and the problem.

If you’re using overly-invasive, unjustified searches for the type of job you are looking to fill, you’re likely violating laws and regulations related to the Federal Credit Reporting Act, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or many others depending on your industry. 

 On the other hand, if you are not doing background checks, you may be opening up yourself for lawsuits for negligent hiring. You’re not safeguarding your employees, your customers, or seniors and kids, from potential violence or abuse. You are playing Russian roulette with your livelihood and the livelihood of others! For instance, there is a case where a school in New Hampshire got sued by parents because they hired an ex-convict. Had they done a background check, they would have realized he was a convict. But they didn’t, and he assaulted one of the kids. The parents filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court of New Hampshire, and the offender was sentenced in November 2013, to 3-8 years in state prison, for convictions on charges of sexual assault and indecent exposure. This person already had a police record, and was discharged from a previous school in a different state for a similar offense. He simply went to another state, and got the same type of job again. If you are already conducting background checks, congratulations. You are taking a step in the right direction–but hold on a minute! Are you compliant with laws and regulations concerning how background checks should be performed, and do your processes discriminate without you realizing it? Are you aware of the potential mistakes and pitfalls?

 In 2013, a class action lawsuit alleged Domino’s Pizza was not providing denied applicants copies of their reports, and not separating the consent form from the application for employment. One of the applicants caught onto that, and it didn’t take them too long to identify the pattern and find others affected. That turned into an action group suit, ending when Domino’s had to pay $2.5 million to a settlement fund. 

 There are people who argue for stronger background checks legislation, while others say the checks are discriminatory. The thing to remember is that all background checks must be justified. For a driving job, for example, if the applicant is responsible for transporting people, then a driver motor vehicle record is justified. You don’t want them if they have a history of reckless driving, or driving under the influence. If you’re hiring for the medical field, then you want to make sure that licenses are valid, they’re verified, and that there hasn’t been any sanctions or penalties against them in a different state. You also want to do drug screening, because you don’t want someone under the influence to be responsible for injecting people with medications. They could inject patients with the wrong medication, mismatch prescriptions, provide an incorrect dosage, or inject themselves with the medication to get high!

 In most cases, even if you go to court, you have to  be able to show that your hiring practices are not way out of line, or discriminatory. Background checks must be professional, and relevant to the essential requirements of future performance for that candidate. If you’re an employer, be aware of your placement of disclaimers, waivers, and how you compose authorization forms. Don’t bury the important information in other text. Detail specifically what you’re going to do, what products you will use, and how. Make sure you get a good, valid signature from applicants who understand clearly what they are signing, and give them an opportunity to dispute the background checks results.

By ensuring that your practices are fair, nondiscriminatory, and your paperwork is up to date, you greatly reduce your chances of losing a lawsuit. In the book: The Business Immunity System-The Pitfalls & Side Effects of Data Handling, Privacy Issues, & Background Checks, SB Checks CEO, Rachid Zahidi, delves further in to help you demystify this topic.