By Katie Kulp


Despite being an indispensable aspect of the hiring process, criminal background screening remains a complex endeavor. When business owners fail to take into account current regulations, they may find themselves in deep legal troubles due to their screening policies. Are your company’s background checks compliant with current standards? Though some laws differ based on state and locality, there are some fundamental principles that apply in all cases. Here’s what you need to know when crafting a screening policy.

Tips for compliant criminal background screening

Transparency is the key to compliance

No matter what jurisdiction you operate in, you must always obtain consent before investigating your candidates and employees. When obtaining permission, be sure to specify exactly what private information you intend to access and how it will be used. Such transparency protects your business from accusations of invasion of privacy or discrimination.

Don’t ask for too much information

The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) mandates that you limit your background checks to relevant information. For example, it’s unlikely that a position will require access to a candidate’s medical records or family history, in which case collecting and storing such information could be deemed a breach of privacy. Though it can be tempting to collect as much information as possible in order to make an informed hiring decision, you should first consider the needs of the position and tailor your screening to the job.

Avoid blanket polices

Due to the risk of discrimination against protected groups, federal and local laws across the nation generally discourage the flat-out rejection of candidates with criminal records. Unless charges or convictions are recent and directly relate to the applicant’s ability to perform their job, it’s best to give each candidate a second look even if they “fail” the criminal background check. In fact, some businesses have faced class-action lawsuits due to restrictive policies regarding criminal records.

Talk to the candidate before taking action

If the criminal background check reveals troubling information, you must give the candidate a chance to respond before taking action. Since both charges and convictions can be overturned, for example, it may be that there is more to the story than what is in the report. By giving your candidate or employee a chance to explain themselves, you are ensuring compliance with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC) guidelines for employers.

Seek expert consultation

Since the legal landscape varies between jurisdictions (and even from day to day), it takes a professional eye to craft a compliant screening policy. At Chane Solutions, we have the expertise needed to guide your business through the background screening process. To learn more about how our flexible, cost-effective screening services can help you make better hires, contact our experts today.

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