Employee Background Checks: Are They Legal?

Why Are Background Checks Necessary?

Are all employee background check the same? What do employee background checks consist of? These are questions that many of us may have and some may even worry about. According to the National Employment Law Project (NELP), one in four adults in America has had either an arrest or conviction that will show up in a criminal background check. For certain jobs background checks may be required by state or federal law. Securing the people’s information has increased drastically due to how many more checks employers have been conducting. When it comes to applying for a new job, having a background check can be worrisome. People fear that mistakes they made in the past many, many years ago will still haunt them when applying for a job. Employee background checks over the years have become more common and actually expected by the applicants. There are many things that have occurred overtime that led to an increase in employee background screening. In recent years, a majority of the states have made laws requiring people who work around children to have a background check. This only makes sense because we want all of our children and young loved ones to be kept safe and protected. There has been an increase in child abuse and child abductions making it more of a priority to protect children. Not only do many states require background checks for those working with children, but also those around the elderly and disabled. Other factors that have contributed to an increase in employee screening was the terrorist attacks on September 11. Security nationwide has heightened after this event even in the workplace. Falsified or inflated information from applicants is another thing that has resulted in employers having to process more background checks.

What Details are in Background Checks?

Background checks typically do not dive too far into the applicant’s information. They only look into what is necessary. The employer must look at each applicant individually and ask if the conviction or offense will affect them in the position if hired. For example, if someone is applying for a cashier position and they had a recent conviction of embezzlement then that is a fair reason to not hire the person. But if someone applying for that position had a reckless driving offense on their record then that is not something that will necessarily affect their position as a cashier. The employer must look at the nature and the gravity of the offense and see if the offense relates to the job.  As well as looking at the nature of the job they are applying for. But, the higher up people get in a job, the more responsibility they will have. Which in some cases, little offense can affect them getting the job. As the applicant, it is a very good idea to give oneself a background check before applying for jobs. Know what offenses and or convictions you may have on your record. Look your driving records, credit reports, court records and things of that sort. That way, you are prepared and know whether or not you are the best fit for the job.

Items Not Allowed on a Background Check

  • Bankruptcies after 10 years.
  • Civil suits, civil judgments and records of arrest after 7 years.
  • Paid tax liens after 7 years.
  • Accounts places for collections after 7 years.

Most negative information after seven years, except for criminal convictions, is not allowed to be on an employee background check. But, there are exceptions to this rule. If the applicant is applying for a job making $75,000 or more, these rules do not apply. Unless an arrest resulted in conviction, employers are not able to use this information on a background check. But, if an employer is looking to hire someone that would be working with patients, they are able to ask the applicant about sex related arrests. Also, if an applicant is applying for a job where they would be working around and have access to medications, the employer can ask about drug related arrests.

Items Allowed on a Background Check

  • Driving Records
  • Vehicle Registration
  • Credit Reports
  • Criminal Records
  • Social Security #
  • Education Records
  • Workers Compensation
  • Bankruptcy
  • Character References
  • Neighbor Interviews
  • Medical Records
  • State Licensing Records
  • Drug Test Records
  • Past Employers
  • Personal References
  • Incarnation Records
  • Sex Offender Lists

Many background checks consist of public records created by government agencies. Both things allowed and not allowed on background checks may vary depending on the job in which you are applying for. You can simply ask the employer what information will be processed in an employee background test. In the case of a background check, the employer is just looking to find the employee that is the best fit for their company or business. If there is any questions regarding what will be on an employee background check, simply ask the employer.

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