It’s never a bad idea to know the rules, especially if there’s a possibility of hefty legal fines should you forget them. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission laws govern background checks. If the employer plans to contract with a third-party background reporting company such as GroupOne Background Screening to do the check, then they must obtain written permission from the job candidate or employee. 

Employers who ask about your background must ask the same questions of everyone they interview. It must always be uniform and there is no deviation. None! They cannot alter the questions based on race, religion, national origin, sex or any other protected class. For example, an employer cannot ask additional background questions just because of a candidate’s race or sex. We once encountered an employer who would ask candidates if they were married. That’s a cannot! Such a loaded question could easily lead to a lawsuit.

Here’s what employers can ask about – employment history, education, public records, financial or credit history and what you post publicly on social media. You cannot inquire about medical information if you haven’t offered a job. Under some circumstances, you can ask for medical information after the job offer is made or after an employee starts work. You also cannot ask about genetic information.

If an employer decides not to hire a candidate because of a background check run by a third-party company, they must notify the candidate and inform them how to contact the company that produced the report. The candidate can also ask for a copy of the report for review.

The Federal Trade Commission offers helpful tips on what people can do before they apply for a job to mitigate some of the problems that could potentially crop up. But much of the responsibility falls to employers and companies such as GroupOne. Candidate and employee privacy should be strenuously protected. And most importantly for GroupOne, the reports must be accurate. Otherwise, there could be significant legal issues and fines.

Please do not hesitate to contact us for questions or information.