Background Checks Are Common Practice
Background checks have become commonplace for many employers, but not every job seeker knows what information an employer may learn about them through the process.
The Fair Credit Reporting Act sets the standard for employment screening for background checks being completed by an outside company. The FCRA mandates a company must obtain an employee’s written consent before a background check is conducted and must notify the employee if an adverse hiring decision is made based on information found in a background check.
Under the FCRA, an employer may be able to access a potential employee’s: driving records, social security number, bankruptcy, property ownership, past employers, vehicle registration, education records, character references, military records, personal references, credit records, court records, neighbor interviews, state licensing records, incarceration records, criminal records, workers compensation, certain medical records, drug test records and sex offender lists.
According to Nick Fishman of EmployeescreenIQ, employers are usually most interested in a potential employee’s criminal records.
“That’s obviously the number one,” he said. “Beyond that it depends, all employers are different.”
Fishman said the type of records an employer wants the most may correlate with the job opening. For instance, someone applying for a job that involves driving will probably have their motor vehicle records accessed.
Fishman said education and verification records are always important to employers, and 56 percent of job applicants have a discrepancy between what they report to the employer and what a background check reveals.
Sex offender status, credit reports, address history and social security number traces are also on top of the list, Fishman said.
There is a lot of information employers are not allowed to access
When performing a background check, according to the FCRA, including: bankruptcies after 10 years; civil suits, civil judgments and arrest records after seven years; paid tax liens after seven years; accounts placed for collection after seven years and any other negative information after seven years, excluding criminal convictions.
Records pertaining to education, military service and medical history are usually confidential unless an employer first gains permission from the employee to access the records.
Most recently, Fishman said, employers have been more and more likely to gain information by looking at an employee’s social networking sites, such as Facebook and MySpace.
“There are a lot of things out there that are tempting for people to check,” he said. “It’s a big no-no because there’s no way to authenticate the information.”
If an employer tries to access information not covered under the FCRA, penalties can vary from litigation to discontinuation of services with a background check company. Fishman said if employers don’t follow the rules, it’s only a matter of time before major legal hurdles arise, and most employers don’t knowingly go against the rules.