It’s summer. It’s hot. From where we sit at GroupOne Background Screening, there’s no better time to discuss the basic tenets of our profession. So, pour yourself a cold glass of lemonade, turn on the porch fan and let’s talk “Background Screening 101.”

When employers conduct background checks, to include credit, criminal and past employer checks using a third party such as GroupOne, the background check is covered by the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).

The FCRA is a federal law that regulates the collection of consumers’ credit information and access to their credit reports. It was passed in 1970 to address the fairness, accuracy and privacy of the personal information contained in the files of the credit reporting agencies.

What Is a Background Check?
A background check is a review of someone’s records to include credit checks, driving records, criminal information and other documents that show an employee’s history.

Employers will usually conduct background checks on job seekers through a third-party organization such as GroupOne. A background check helps an employer verify information shared by an applicant and perhaps uncover troubling business practices or a criminal history that might be inappropriate for the specific position.

When employers use a third party to conduct background checks, they must adhere to the FCRA and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) regulations.

Types of Background Checks
Background checks come in many shapes and sizes and can include:

• Credit Checks;
• Employment History Verification;
• Drug Tests;
• Criminal History Checks;
• Academic History Verification;
• Driving Records;
• Educational Verification;
• Social Security Verification;
• Professional references.

FCRA monitors the way employers can obtain and use a background check from a third party such as GroupOne. Employers are subject to certain laws before reviewing any consumer report when hiring new employees. Before an employer can get a consumer report, they must notify applicants in writing and obtain written consent.

If an employer decides not to hire a candidate because of their report, they must provide pre-adverse action disclosure that includes a copy of the report and their rights. They must provide notice that they have decided not to hire the person and let them know the name and address of the Consumer Reporting Agency and information on their rights to dispute the report.

A person has a right to all records in their name and can ask the credit reporting agency to disclose the file. They can ask for a credit score, dispute inaccuracies and seek damages from companies that may have violated their rights.

Illegal Use of Background Checks
In this day and age, it’s difficult to believe an employer could discriminate due to a background check. It happens. So, please note employers cannot use background checks to make hiring decisions based on race, national origin, sex, religion, disability, genetic information or age. If you suspect background checks by an employer have been used in a discriminatory way, contact the EEOC.

Can Applicants Say No to a Background Check?
Over the past 35 years since GroupOne began, background checks have become quite common during the hiring process, increasing by more than 50%. While job candidates most certainly can say “No” to a background check, an employer can choose not to hire said applicant because of such a stance. And yes, this is legal and not a violation of a candidate’s rights.

Simply put, should a hospital hire a brain surgeon if they have not checked the person’s education and credentials? Should a bank hire a teller if they have not checked their criminal history? And so on…

A Candidate’s Preparation
For job applicants, it’s always a good idea to know about any red flags that could potentially be on your record. The best way to prepare for a background check is to be aware of the information an employer might find.

Request a free copy of your credit report so you know its contents. Contact the agency to correct any disputes or errors. Consider running an online background search to anticipate any problems.

Regarding these potential red flags, decide whether to volunteer this information in advance. If you decide to explain these issues, wait until an employer requests your permission to conduct a background check.

As they say, “Get out in front of it.” But be brief, succinct and focus on the changes you have made to overcome any past issues.

And with that, GroupOne would like to wish job candidates and employers alike a cool and safe summer!

The information and opinions expressed are for educational purposes only and are based on current practice, industry related knowledge and business expertise. The information provided shall not be construed as legal advice, express or implied.