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The Background of Background Checks

Many employers throughout the country complete background checks on their employees on a pre-employment basis - maybe you’re one of them. If you aren’t doing them, should you be? If you are doing them, are you sure you are legally compliant?

Two very complex questions to answer. Let’s start with “should I be doing them?” Well some industries almost require the staff to be evaluated for criminal history. Jobs in the medical world, education and finance are the obvious professions which would beg of a background check being run. But what about retail? What about food service? What about a chemical engineer in your science lab who is acting out his rendition of Breaking Bad while you think everything is going perfectly? Many different industries have begun working on incorporating background checks. If you’re thinking about doing a background check – why? What is the goal of finding this particular information out? In today’s labor market a background check is an undeniable “must” for many different jobs – but what can you do with a background check?

Unfortunately, in many cases there isn’t much that this additional information can do for you. And before you make your move – ALWAYS consult with an attorney. I can’t stress enough how important it is to have legal counsel before rescinding an employment offer because of what you find out through a background check. Never (and I mean never) assume that the results of a background check are grounds to dismiss an employee or retract an offer, because you simply cannot do that anymore! (See Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and EEOC Guidance on this matter (in addition to that of your lawyer).

Now, on to the question of legality… Well here we find ourselves providing the disclaimer that I, nor is anyone else at Kuzneski Group, an attorney – I just play one in this blog. There are some simple, golden rules that you must know if you are currently conducting background checks or planning to start them in the near future. Here’s a list of the first things to consider:

1. Always make sure you review the requirements for your local area

a. Remember that there are Federal regulations, state regulations and city/county regulations – learn what

    applies to you and your business

b. If you have multiple locations note that the rules for each location may not be quite the same

2. Always have an offer of employment that has been agreed to and signed by all parties prior to running the

background check

3. Always make sure the subject of the background check has provided written consent for the investigation

4. Always follow FCRA (Fair Credit Reporting Act (yes, even for background checks) that may apply

There are many available resources out there to assist in setting up and running background checks (we’re even one of them). Some of the sources I’m most familiar with are and Experian. I’ve used both and each have their pros and cons – but overall offer a great service that can easily be adapted into your onboarding routine.

The final word on background checks are that they can help you have a more true understanding of your workforce and can also, depending on the situation, help you ensure that your new hire meets the standards of your industry.  Consultation with your attorney and other trusted advisors can help you understand this process and how best to implement it. We’ve been asked to help clients get these set up and they prove to yield excellent results and provide substantial peace of mind when properly utilized. Happy investigating!!

Kuzneski Editors

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