Background screening

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Updated: 4/13/2007 3:36 pm
Background screening of job candidates is a common and legal practice that many employers utilize to ensure that workers have the qualifications and credentials they say they have in their interviews and resumes. Background screening typically involves verifying employment and education history, contacting references, and checking credit reports and criminal records. Not all employers perform background checks on their prospective employees before hiring them, but those that do generally do so in order to verify the accuracy of the applicant's information and to screen for behavior that might put other employees or the employer at risk. For example, employers can be held liable for workers who commit crimes while on the job, especially if they have a previous criminal record that the employer never bothered to investigate. Before conducting employee background checks, employers must follow certain guidelines set under the Fair Credit Reporting Act. These guidelines, which are designed to protect the privacy rights of applicants, mainly provide that employers must notify applicants in writing that a background check will be conducted. Employers must also obtain the applicant's written authorization if checking criminal, credit, or educational records. If an employer discovers something during a background screening which causes a rejection of an applicant's candidacy, the employer must notify the applicant of the results. Applicants, in turn, may ask for copies of the background screening reports and if the reports are inaccurate or incomplete, they then have the opportunity to contact the reporting agency to dispute or correct the information. In addition to these guidelines under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, several federal and state laws may limit the type and volume of information that an employer may access during a background screening.

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