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Avoiding issues in the background screening process

Aug 03, 2013 Quinn Thomas

Avoiding issues in the background screening process

Background screening continues to become a more spoken-about aspect of corporate operations, especially as several sectors and government departments have increased efforts to identify and eradicate poor practices. Checks need to walk the fine line between comprehension and privacy, ensuring that the firm gets all of the information to make the right hire while not impeding on civil rights.

The best practices and laws surrounding background screening are complex, sometimes confusing and often specific to the industry in which a company operates. For these reasons and more, business executives who do not feel entirely comfortable with the process should consider outsourcing the task to a firm that specializes in background checks.

Don't overdo it

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette recently reported that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which is among the most active parties in background screening enforcement, has been filing a high volume of lawsuits in recent years. The EEOC's increased activity should serve as a warning to business owners that poor screening practices will lead to legal issues, levied fines and potential sanctions depending on the severity of the offense.

According to the news provider, the EEOC issued new guidelines regarding legal and moral practices when checking an applicants' criminal history, and how that information can be used when making the final decisions on hires. The first two companies to become the subjects of investigations in light of these new rules were an auto manufacturer and a retailer, both of which operate internationally.

The source explained that the EEOC filed the lawsuits against these companies because it suspected they were leveraging background checks to reduce the chances of African-Americans getting the job. The retailer was accused of offering conditional contracts to applicants that would be passed if the background check came up clean, while the investigation uncovered two potentially illegal actions.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette explained that one applicant had been denied the job because of a drug possession conviction that was six years old, despite the fact that the individual had a clean record while working at another retailer for four years. The news provider noted that another applicant had not gotten the job because the check erroneously pulled up a criminal conviction that was not actually real.

This illustrates how background checks need to be thorough enough to maintain a safe working environment for employees and customers, though in line with EEOC standards.

What to do
Forbes listed several best practices of background screening, asserting that firms should be broad and thorough while still following the laws as strictly as possible. The news provider stated that any instances of bending the law will be treated seriously by regulators should they catch wind of the shoddy processes.

According to the source, companies need to be excellent communicators when it comes to background checks, ensuring that all applicants are kept abreast with the process and understand the finer points. Finally, Forbes added that businesses will need to maintain consistency throughout the hiring process, and always use a professional agency to conduct background checks when in need.