Q: Can I run an employee background check on someone who we have already hired?
A: Yes, provided you have the required authorization in place.
Q: Can I run a background check if we have information that our employee recently got into some type of trouble?
A: Provided you have the required authorization in place, yes. You must be careful here, though, depending on the type of “trouble”, since you do not want to be seen investigating, for example, an employee’s real or perceived disability.
Q: Can an employer inquire about a candidate’s personal habits and lifestyle, like sexual preference, marital status, etc.?
A: As a general rule, no. Matters such as these are frequently protected by the state, local and federal anti-discrimination laws.
Q: If we begin conducting pre-employment background checks, are we obligated to run them on our current employees as well?
A: No, provided you are making the distinction for business reasons and not as a pretext for discrimination against a protected class of employees or prospective employees.
Q: If we have a background check conducted and there are adverse findings in the report, can we ignore them and hire the candidate anyway?
A: Yes, the information produced by a background check is just that; information. It is up to you to weigh the results of an investigation to determine whether it has sufficient weight to affect the hiring decision.
Q: If an applicant is new to this country or here on a work visa, are we obligated to conduct a background investigation in their home country?
A: No, you are not obligated to conduct an investigation in a foreign country, which can often prove impractical or cost-prohibitive. One alternative is to request a prospective employee’s visa file under the Federal Freedom of Information ACT, which often contains a fair amount of background information.
Q: Can we deny a candidate a position based solely on a poor credit record?
A: The answer to this question may vary from state to state and from position to position. While some states allow the use of credit records as part of the screening process, other states have limited the use of credit to only positions where the applicant will be placed in a position of financial responsibility within the hiring company.
For those states that do allow the use of credit records, there is no express prohibition against denying an applicant based solely on a credit record, but the use of credit records alone has been challenged on the grounds that it is used as a proxy for other, clear discriminatory bases, such as race or sex. Federal law prohibits employers from discriminating against employees because they have filed for bankruptcy protection. Great caution should be taken when considering this category of information; the benefit of a complete background check is that it provides a multi-faceted picture of the applicant, allowing the employers to make a decision based on the entire record, not just one aspect of it.
Q: What do we do if the candidate insists that the information contained in the background report is not accurate?
A: If the candidate is denied employment due solely to the negative background check, the candidate should be given an opportunity to dispute the information and prove that it is incorrect. Typically, the candidate will dispute the information with a credit reporting agency or other source of the allegedly bad information.
Q: I only have a few employees. Does the FCRA apply to me?
A: Yes. The FCRA does not distinguish between a small business owner and large corporation. If the information you seek on an applicant or current employee meets the definition of a consumer report and the information is compiled by a consumer reporting agency, the FCR applies no matter how many employees you have.
Q: Does the FCRA apply to current employees we wish to screen?
A: Yes. The same law applies to ALL checks made for employment purposed. IT covers a report used “for the purpose of evaluating a consumer for employment, promotion, reassignment or retention as an employee.” (15 USC §1681 a (h)) The same is true whether you are a California business owner or located in another state in which only the FCRA applies.
Q: How long should it take for a background investigation to be completed?
This all depends upon the state or states that the applicant has resided in and the types of searches you request. Some states offer resources that produce same-day results. Others take additional time to search for records and return their findings. Typically, one to five business days are normal.
An additional factor to take into account is the verification of employment and or education. These types of verifications can take up to two weeks to complete in extreme cases because the cooperation of the past employer is required. After making contact with applicant’s previous employers, there may be some time for them to search their records or have the appropriate person call us back. In these cases, the screening agency often produces a report with the initial findings and then provides a supplemental report when the employment or education verification is complete.
Q: Why do some employee screening companies offer Instant On-Line Results?
A: Unfortunately, these Pre-Employment Background Checks companies are selling you free information that is very poor substitute for an actual investigations. What these firms do is collect old public record information on individuals or purchases it from some other firms that collect it, limiting their searches to just that data. The bad news is, these types of instant searches are almost always incomplete and usually outdated. Essentially they are trying to lure you into purchasing their “instant” turn around time, but they fail to tell you how poor the quality of information really is. With these companies, you are buying their disclaimer, not the background check.
Q: How many years do criminal records go back?
A: Each state, county and city is different. Some courthouses choose to only maintain seven years of records, some hold on to cases for ten years and others have no time limit to age of their records. Arrest records are often maintained the same way. Whereas one state may keep arrest and conviction data for seven years, some for ten and others have records that go as far back as they have been recording them. Unfortunately, there is no set rule, but seven to ten years is most common.
Q: What are the costs involved with conducting Pre-Employment Background Checks on potential employees? Are there additional fees associated with these searches?
A: This will largely depend on how much security you need in your hiring process. Legitimate background checks can cost as little as thirty dollars. For a more sensitive hire, you may elect to have a more comprehensive search conducted. Most employee screening firms offer packages searches and can customize those to save money.