Employment Background Checks
Employment Background Checks Definition
Employment background checks are also commonly called reference checks. But reference checks, such as contacting your former bosses and coworkers, are typically only one part of employment background checks, which also include investigation into one or more of the following.
Beware! The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has approved social-media screening in employment background checks. Subsequently, be careful about what you post at social-networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and MySpace.
Employers conduct employment background checks to verify the integrity of job applicants and employees for hiring, promotion, reassignment and retention decisions. They also do so to avoid negligent-hiring lawsuits; for example, if an employer doesn't conduct employment background checks before hiring, then the employer might be liable if a job applicant later harms other employees and has a history of doing so.
Employers hire investigative (consumer-reporting, credit-reporting or background-check) agencies to conduct employment background checks. Alternately or additionally, employers rely on their human resources departments to conduct them.
Some job seekers who have had difficulty landing jobs hire investigative agencies to conduct background checks on themselves, so they may attempt to change any negative or inaccurate information. If you're having trouble landing a job and can't figure why, then you might consider doing the same.
Employment background checks are generally legal. (Much personal information is a matter of public record these days. Anyone can access pubic records.) In fact, the Federal government has long required its agencies to conduct background checks for certain jobs, often as part of security-clearance investigations. After 9/11, the government required its private-sector contractors to do the same and a subsequent Supreme Court ruling upheld the requirement as constitutional.
Additionally, certain state and Federal laws require employers to conduct background checks (particularly for criminal records) when jobs involve "vulnerable" individuals, such as children or people who are sick, disabled, or elderly.
However, state and Federal laws do regulate background checks to some degree; for example, an investigative agency hired by an employer cannot conduct a credit check without a job applicant's permission and must disclose the applicant's rights. After the Great Recession officially ended, some states passed laws that further restricted or prohibited credit checks for employment purposes.
Technically, job applicants may refuse to authorize background checks; but, in reality, they're less likely to land new jobs if they do.
It's a misconception that it's "illegal" for employers to disclose information about former employees during employment background checks. Generally, relevant state laws allow employers to disclose information about former employees, as long as the information is truthful, factual and limited to employment matters. Read the next page for more about this.
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