Background checks used to be so simple; but in recent years, they’ve started to feel more like a Catch-22. Fail to conduct one, and you could be on the hook for any employee misbehavior that a background check would have brought to your attention. Use background checks indiscriminately, though, and you could face legal action for illegal discrimination in hiring.
New laws and an extremely vigilant Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) have made the process of protecting your company – while still making great hires – more complex and risky than ever. How can you be thorough and still stay legal? Here are a few tips from A.R. Mazzotta. While they’re not a substitute for professional legal advice, they can help you prevent problems and hire smarter:
- Give notice. Tell the candidate that you will be requesting a background check before you send the request. Get written permission from each candidate before requesting the report. Candidates who acknowledge, in writing, that they know you are performing a background check cannot claim surprise if their history comes up during the hiring process.
- Skip arrest histories and sealed or expunged records. Stick only to criminal convictions that appear on the background check report. Remember, an arrest is not proof of wrongdoing. A conviction is. Likewise, digging into sealed or expunged records can be interpreted as an attempt to discriminate against the candidate.
- Use written job descriptions. Written descriptions clarify the essential functions of your job, as well as the skills and experience you require. Create one for each job, and then use them every time you evaluate whether an applicant’s criminal history is relevant to the position for which the candidate is applying.
- Be willing to ignore the criminal background check report. If the information in the criminal background check is irrelevant to the written job description, do not base any part of your hiring decision on the report. Instead, focus on the candidate’s skills, experience, references and interview performance.
- Give more notice. Suppose the background check reveals a conviction that relates directly to the job for which the person is applying (e.g., the background check reveals a conviction for embezzlement, and the applicant is seeking a job as an accountant). If you decide not to hire the applicant based on the background check information, notify the applicant in writing. Provide a copy of the background check report as well as a written statement explaining your decision, the specific reasons, and the applicant’s rights under the Fair Credit Reporting Act.
- Train your staff. Everyone involved in the hiring process should understand your entire background check policy and how to use it – even if they are not likely to be the ones performing the checks themselves. Re-train staff periodically to refresh their memories. When everyone is on the same page, your background check policy can be applied more uniformly, adding another layer of protection against the risk of a discrimination lawsuit.
Looking for more information on Connecticut pre-employment screening? Check out this related post:
Ensure the Success of Your Next Placement with A.R. Mazzotta
Finding the perfect candidates for your organization requires experience, in-depth market knowledge and a comprehensive screening process. A.R. Mazzotta Employment Specialists combines all of these to ensure hiring success. Partner with A.R. Mazzotta today and connect with Connecticut’s finest office, administrative, light industrial and professional talent.