The DO’s and DON’Ts of Conducting Legal Employee Background Checks
Background checks are yet another one of those dicey HR topics where everyone tends to be somewhat split. There are a subset of employers who strongly believe in using background checks on all employees, another subset who doesn't use them at all, and then some who invariably fall on the spectrum between those two extremes.
Regardless, it's wise to be mindful of how to legally conduct employee background checks when the time comes. Here are six DO's and DON'Ts to follow.
DO Establish Guidelines
Developing guidelines for background checks early on can be helpful in establishing consistency throughout the process. Randomly choosing who should receive a check as each interview comes up can be interpreted as discrimination and quickly get you into hot water with the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC). To help avoid legal troubles, consider setting a guideline such as all employees will be checked before moving onto the second interview. Or use some other timeframe that makes sense for your hiring process. And make sure that any screenings and information obtained are relevant to the job. For instance, pulling driving records may not be necessary if the employee will not be driving as part of their regular job duties.
DON'T Forget to Obtain Permission
While conducting background checks is fully within the rights of employers, the candidate must first grant permission. Failure to do so is a direct EEOC violation. Most employers achieve this by having employees sign a written notice stating that their background information may be used to make decisions related to employment
DO Cast a Wide Net
If you've committed to performing checks, then you need to cast a wide net when gathering information instead of just relying on one or two pieces of data. Ultimately, basing your decision on all of the information available to you, including employment history, education, references, and credit checks — again, as long as it's relevant to the job at hand — will deliver the best results.
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