How to Legally and Safely Conduct an Employee Background Check

Employer background checks are now a routine part of the hiring process, especially as the job market becomes more competitive. For you to run your business safely and effectively, it’s important to have productive employees who can be viewed as trustworthy.

Before you begin, it’s important to establish a few things up front. While writing your job posting, you should clearly state that all potential candidates considered for the position will need to undergo an instant criminal background check online. This will tell you about the employee’s criminal record from a national database, which should provide some insight on where the employee has lived too. Some of these checks also include credit checks, which are important to anyone who will handle money.

You’ll need legal authorization to actually perform the check, which means acquiring the proper forms and getting your potential new employee to fill those forms out. Some employers will ask the employee to split the costs of this kind of check. That’s a choice left to you, but you should check with your state to see what’s legal to charge for before you do it. You should also check with your state to see what laws exist to protect you and your potential employee. You may find that the information you can use on the background check is limited, or that the full records are not accessible.

Key Takeaways

According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the number one concern on the employer side is equal treatment. Avoid asking for background checks from people of a certain race, for instance, if you want to be seen as fair and impartial. Never try to find medical history for the employee or his or her family unless you have express permission from your state to do so (which is only given on rare occasions).

According to the FTC, you must inform the employee of how you acquired the information and what you plan to use it for. Along with the applicant’s signature certifying you to retrieve the information, you should also inform the company running the background check that you have done so.

You should also be prepared to make exceptions for people with disability, or people who face criminal convictions that may be more common based on race, sex or age. For example, an older employee with a criminal conviction for marijuana possession in the past may not be an immediate threat or continued drug user.

Use this information responsibly and make sure you keep your potential employee informed.
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