What Employers Need to Know About Hiring and Background Checks

December 1, 2014

When employers hire new workers, they typically want to gather some information about candidates to help them make educated hiring decisions. With the large amount of companies offering convenient online background checks, the majority of employers have background checks done over the Internet. There are several bits of information employers look for when they perform pre-employment checks. The following paragraphs outline the most common items employers look for.

Criminal Record
The law varies from state to state regarding how much information an employer may obtain about a person's criminal record or using it for hiring decisions. Before seeking an applicant's criminal record, employers who are not aware of their current state laws should contact a lawyer within their state to learn more.

Credit Report
Before looking up a person's credit report, an employer must obtain written permission from the person. A copy must be given to the person if he or she will not be hired, and the employer must let the candidate know his or her right to dispute any items on the report under the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

Lie Detector Test
Most private companies are prohibited from using these types of tests against applicants or employees due to the Employee Polygraph Protection Act. Businesses providing services such as armored transport, guard duties, alarm services, pharmaceutical distribution or other forms of manufacturing and distributing may be exempt. Employers should ensure they are exempt before proceeding. While no federal law exists specifically prohibiting honesty tests being used for hiring decisions, such tests are considered violations of state privacy laws.

Bankruptcy
This type of record is considered public, so it will be on a person's credit report. However, employers are prohibited by the Federal Bankruptcy Act from discriminating against applicants who have filed for bankruptcy.

Medical History
The Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits employers from discriminating against applicants due to mental or physical impairments. In some cases, certain conditions may prohibit a person from performing necessary job duties. Employers are allowed to inquire about a person's ability to perform these tasks. There are also state laws in place in some areas that strongly protect medical records.

Military History
Records of military service may only be requested and obtained under very specific circumstances. As a rule, consent of the applicant is required as well. Some items the military is allowed to disclose without consent are the service member's salary, name, rank, duty list, duty status and any awards.

Workers' Compensation
Appeals for workers' compensation are public records. This information can be used for hiring purposes if the employer is able to prove the injuries the applicant sustained would interfere with abilities to perform necessary job duties.

Education History
Financial information, recommendations and transcripts are all protected bits of information under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. They may not be used or obtained without the applicant's consent.

It is important for employers everywhere to know their state's laws and federal laws regarding information collection on applicants. Keep in mind that laws can change from one year to the next, so staying current is also important. To learn more or for answers to questions on this topic, discuss concerns with an agent.


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