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How is background screening performed? - Avvo

Employers sometimes use background screenings to learn information about you as a potential or current employee. These screenings may reveal details that could prevent you from being employed. However, employers must follow certain laws when considering your background information.

When do employers use background screenings?

Employers may use a background check before or after you’re hired. Often, employers conduct pre-employment screening as a matter of efficiency. When a job has a large number of applicants, background screening allows employers to quickly eliminate candidates.

Generally, employers might not hire, promote, or continue employing someone with a history of work-related misconduct or criminal convictions. Additionally, a rise in negligent hiring lawsuits against employers and national security concerns have caused employers to be more careful in their hiring practices.

Employers may also require background checks to comply with state and federal laws. For instance, most states require criminal history checks for jobs that involve working with children or the elderly. Other employers may look into someone’s background to be sure that the employee meets specific requirements for the job, such as having a valid driver’s license.

What is the process of employment or pre-employment background screening?

Employers may either conduct the background screening themselves, or contract with a consumer reporting agency who conducts the screening and provides a report about the employee or potential employee. What turns up in the report depends on the type of information that the employer wishes to consider and that the reporting agency has access to.

What information is revealed from background screenings?

Employment background checks can reveal various types of information about an individual, including:

  • Social security numbers
  • Worker’s compensation claims
  • Education, certifications, and professional licenses
  • Criminal history and court records
  • Personal and professional references
  • Drug and alcohol use
  • Medical conditions
  • Credit scores, bankruptcy filings, and other financial information
  • Driving records
  • Employment history

However, under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), consumer reporting agencies are not allowed to report certain information to the employer, at least not for jobs that pay a salary of less than $75,000. This information includes:

  • Bankruptcy filings after 10 years
  • Civil lawsuits or judgments
  • Paid tax liens after 7 years
  • Accounts in collections after 7 years
  • Other negative information after 7 years.

Employers are not bound by these limitations if they conduct their own background checks.

What happens when the employer receives the background check?

Employers may consider your background information in deciding to hire, promote, or continue employing you. The type of information the employer considers depends on the job and the needs of the employer. For example, a criminal conviction for child abuse may prevent the employer from hiring you for a job that entails working with children.

What information is an employer not allowed to consider?

Employers are not allowed to consider race, color, national origin, sex, religion, disability, genetic information such as family medical history, and age for people who are 40 years of age and over. The Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC) enforces discrimination laws. States also have their own laws about whether an employer may consider criminal history for employment purposes.

If you believe that you have been unlawfully refused a job or a promotion, or have been fired from your job for unlawful purposes, you may file a complaint with the EEOC, or speak with an employment attorney about your options.

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