Many states are considering or have already adopted legislation that restricts how employers and landlords use background checks
and criminal histories to conduct employment and tenant screening
Illinois became the fourth state to restrict the use of credit histories in hiring decisions, according to a report from the Society for Human Resource Management. Massachusetts, Washington, Hawaii and other states have also adopted similar laws. The Fair Credit Reporting Act already requires candidate authorization before checking credit history, and mandates that employers can't use a numerical consumer credit score when making a hiring decision. While laws such as this are making it more difficult for business owners to fully vet employees before hiring - and ensure a safe and productive workplace - employers who do not comply with the legislation could end up in legal trouble. Even though lawmakers are under pressure to regulate use of personal information in the screening processes, and despite an overall increase in background checks by employers, the use of credit reports
hasn't increased in the past five years, according to an SHRM poll. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission says employers shouldn't ask about arrest records because this may exclude minority applicants. But if an employer does use an applicant's criminal record in the hiring decision, he or she must be able to justify the decision by showing that the seriousness of the offense, the nature of the job and the time passed since the conviction were all relevant to the business. Some ways employers and landlords can improve their screening practices and protect legality include not asking about convictions on an application and not conducting a background check
until the hiring manager is ready to make a job offer, SHRM says. Other employers avoid discrimination by only asking about felony convictions. If a criminal record is found, businesses can have an HR professional talk to the candidate to make sure it's accurate and decide if he or she is still fit for the job. Then the HR manager only tells the hiring manager whether the candidate should get the job, and does not disclose what was found during the screening process. Rules on criminal records and other screening measures vary from state to state, so employers and landlords should review both local and federal laws.