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Hiring: Background Checks

Criminal background checkBackground checks are becoming part of the standard employment screening process. An estimated two-thirds of American businesses use some form of background check for their employees. These checks can reduce your risk and legal liability in the event of a workplace catastrophe by revealing inaccuracies and falsehoods on applications, potentially protecting you from a new hire who endangers or victimizes your business or other employees.

However, background checks can be a legal liability unto themselves. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has held hearings recently to determine if criminal background checks are discriminatory. The EEOC believes that minorities and those with long-ago convictions might be unfairly affected by such criminal checks.

Because of the potential for abuse and because they deal with people’s private information, there are many laws in place to ensure this investigative power isn’t abused. To make sure you’re conducting legal background employment checks, follow these guidelines:

  • Have a written policy about background checks in place, and make sure it’s followed consistently for all candidates in the same job categories.
  • Include information about background checks on your applications, including the types of checks that might be made. Let applicants know the consequences of providing false or misleading info in their applications.
  • Conduct a check only after a job offer has been made, and be clear that the offer is contingent on the results of the check.
  • Give applicants the opportunity to explain any negative or damaging information revealed by the check.
  • Maintain the confidentiality of all information obtained through background checks.

One big issue in employment screening these days is the use of information gleaned from social networking sites in employment screening. A 2009 CareerBuilder survey revealed that 45% of all surveyed employers use social networking sites to screen potential employees.

As with so many other aspects of social media, though, “social screening” is a potential minefield of liability. The information on social networks can be very personal, and at a minimum usually includes an applicant’s gender, race, marital status, age and other potential sources of discrimination claims. Social network information can also include comments from third parties that can’t be verified and can be defamatory.

If you’re going to include social screening as part of your background check procedures, be sure to include that information in the background-check section of your application packet. And as with other aspects of background checking, be sure to have a written policy in place that’s followed consistently.

Reliance Staffing Services has a variety of background screening tools available, depending on the level of scrutiny you want for your workers. We also use E-Verify for all workers to ensure an authorized workforce. Contact us today to learn more.

How have your experiences with background checks been? How about social screening? Let us know in the comments!

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