Background checks: What every employer should know before hiring in the US
Your company’s success, reputation and legality will depend on getting the right employee — and that requires some homework. The laws on checking an employee’s background are complicated and uncompromising, but you can get help to speed up and simplify the process while reducing the chances of a discrimination suit.
69% of US organisations conduct criminal background checks before hiring an employee — which is understandable given that one in four US adults has a criminal record. Checking can be a legal requirement in some cases, for example if you work with children or the elderly. The checks are normally carried out at the end of the hiring process, after making a job offer. They can include:
- credit checks
- drug tests
- employment and education history searches
- criminal background checks
- driving record checks
As an employer, once you receive the results of the background check, you must use the information in accordance with the law. If there is a conviction you must reconsider the intended appointment in the light of the offense and how much time has passed since the conviction and completion of any sentence. You must also give the applicant the chance to explain the circumstances and share evidence that they are now rehabilitated.
What kind of risks can background checks protect you from?
- Failure to provide a safe working environment: The US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires employers to provide a safe working environment. If you don’t perform a background check and an employee with a violent past assaults a colleague, it could be argued that you have not ensured the safety of the workplace.
- Failure to prevent theft: A credit check can help prevent theft and limit your subsequent liability for negligent hiring. This is particularly important for employees responsible for money, tax or security.
The equal opportunities dimension
You’re allowed to check an applicant’s background — but you must also comply with the laws that prohibit discrimination based on based on factors such as nationality, ethnicity, sex, religion, disability, medical conditions or age.
Getting it right
It can be illegal to do checks without the written consent of the person in question. It’s therefore best to use a third-party, which will makes sure you only see the information relevant to the hiring process. Otherwise you can inadvertently obtain information that should not be used — and this raises the possibility of a discrimination suit.
So… do the checks before you employ — but make sure you do it right.
Foothold America can perform background checks on potential employees. Contact us today