Background Checks: 4 Dos And Don'ts To Limit Your Liability

When it comes to hiring someone new for a position, background checks are critical. While many assume that this is a simple process, it really isn't that straightforward. This is because one wrong move can open you up to liability, which is the last thing that you want. Here are a few dos and don'ts that will help keep you out of hot water:

Do Make Sure That You Get Consent.

Liability is always a risk when it comes to job applicants and background checks. Therefore, before trying to access any type of background information on an applicant, it is important to get his or her consent. Some specific types of information, such as credit checks, require that you get the applicant's consent. Not only do you need the individual's consent, but you must get it in writing. Usually, the best way to go about this is by having the applicant consent for any necessary checks when they fill out a job application.

Do Remain Reasonable and Keep It Related to the Business.

When it comes to conducting background checks, there are certain privacy laws that put a limit to just how deep into an applicant's background you can go. Essentially, you only want to delve deep enough to find information that specifically pertains to the performance of the applicant and that is tied to the job. Otherwise, seeking and viewing the records could be seen as irrational, which could open you up to unnecessary liability. For example, if you are hiring a school bus driver, you will likely want to obtain driving and criminal records of the applicant. However, the same would not be true if you were simply hiring a dog walker.

Don't Discriminate or Fail to Communicate.

If you require the background check of one particular applicant in order to help make a hiring decision, then you must require the background check of all applicants in order to make things fair. Otherwise, you could be seen as performing a discriminatory act, which opens you up to a lawsuit.

Apart from conducting a check on one applicant and not another, you should also make sure that you check in with the applicant when you receive negative results before making a final decision. There may be a logical reason for the results which they can explain. Communication is key in any business transaction, so it is important that you give the applicant a chance to explain the situation.

Don't Forget to Follow the Laws.

Each state varies when it comes to regulations and guidelines for conducting background checks. Therefore, it is important that you know the law. For example, in Texas, arrests and convictions of a criminal nature that are over seven years old cannot be part of a background check for positions that pay an annual salary of $75,000 or less. However, in a state like Vermont, there are no restrictions on how an applicant's criminal record can be used.

If you are unfamiliar with the laws regarding background checks in your state, you can consult with an attorney. Alternatively, you could opt to outsource all employment screening to a professional company like AccuChex who is familiar with all the laws and can handle the grunt work for you, which will leave you more time to actually interview the applicants, check references, and review the information that is obtained.