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Simple background screening missteps can lead to major issues

Sep 07, 2013 Quinn Thomas

As enterprises from across the country continue to increase hiring efforts during the current economic recovery, many human resources professionals and executives are running into problems related to the background screening process. Background checks are a necessary component of the onboarding process, as employers are responsible for maintaining a safe and comfortable working environment for employees and clients.

However, background checks have become more complex in recent years, especially for organizations in certain sectors such as elderly care. With increased emphasis on walking the line between security and fair employment practices, many businesses will benefit from the use of an outsourced background screening company that specializes in the laws and best practices.

FCRA rears its head
Baker and Hostetler LLP recently reported that one employer is now coming under scrutiny and investigation because of its alleged disregard for the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) during the background screening process. While many businesses will remember that the guidelines of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) need to be followed during screening procedures, the FCRA might be forgotten.

According to the firm, the FCRA includes a variety of regulatory statutes that oversee the use of third party credit reporting companies during the background screening process. Organizations will often use information like credit histories to decide whether the applicant can be viewed as reliable.

However, the source noted that the FCRA prohibits employers from taking into account certain types of information and the reporting agency from providing it. Now, a credit reporting company is the defendant in a class action lawsuit that arose following a variety of complaints that alleged the firm had provided employers with outdated or irrelevant information.

Baker and Hostetler LLP suggested all companies follow the guidelines of state regulators, the EEOC and any industry-specific watchdogs to avoid investigations, sanctions and fines.

Outsourcing is safe and simple
Too many companies try to conduct the background screening process without enough awareness of the law or outside support from seasoned professionals. Between the FCRA, EEOC and many other pieces of legislation and watchdogs, background checks can be a minefield for organizations, especially small businesses.

Firms should consider outsourcing the background screening process to a proven agency that specializes in the practices, as this can expedite the onboarding process without putting the businesses at risk of regulatory violations. With more companies increasing hiring today than any other time in the past five years, outsourced background checks are often the safest and most sound approach to onboarding.