By Katie Kulp


Hiring managers must find a delicate balance between transparency and confidentiality. On the one hand, an employer needs to know as much as possible about a candidate before making a hiring decision. On the other hand, applicants deserve to maintain their privacy to the greatest extent possible. For some time, routine background checks have helped both employers and job seekers find a balance between these demands.

Recent legal developments, however, have brought into question where the balance lies. How much information can employers collect in a background check? How can this personal data be used? The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and other government entities take non-discriminatory hiring very seriously, and your company should, as well. Here are some reminders that can help you avoid claims of discrimination.

Preventing discrimination in background screening

Though a criminal history should never be ignored completely, it’s important to examine it carefully before making a decision. For example, the class action suit mentioned earlier was kicked off when the Washington, DC public transit authority refused to hire any candidates with criminal backgrounds, regardless of the details. Since this policy was proved to unfairly affect minorities, the District was forced into a costly settlement. The EEOC has helpfully provided some simple guidelines that can protect your company from similar damages.

Timing your background checks

Though not every jurisdiction has officially passed “ban the box” legislation, conducting background checks on every candidate before interviewing them puts you on unstable legal footing. In contrast, delaying background screening until later in the hiring process proves that you are putting qualifications first and background history second.

Avoid blanket policies

Rather than rejecting candidates with criminal backgrounds offhand, consider each circumstance individually. Was the candidate convicted of a crime, or merely charged? What was the nature of the alleged offense? How much time has passed since then? Does the alleged crime directly impact the candidate’s ability to perform their specific job? Asking these questions will help you avoid discriminatory hiring policies.

Show consistency

Once you’ve identified a true deal breaker – such as a DUI for professional drivers, for example – you must apply your policy consistently to every applicant. If not, you may be forced to explain why you hired one candidate and rejected another with the same criminal history.

Demonstrate transparency

If you do make a hiring decision based on information revealed in a background check, you must notify the candidate. This notice should include a copy of the background report itself, and an explanation for your decision. This extra step protects your company from claims of discrimination and gives the candidate a chance to explain any discrepancies.

As more data about the impact of specific hiring policies becomes available, you can expect the legislation surrounding them to continue to change. At Chane Solutions, we are dedicated to helping you protect your business. Our background screening experts will ensure you obtain the information you need while remaining compliant with complex and ever-changing legal rulings. To learn more about how our flexible screening services can protect your company, contact us today.

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