Welcome to the final post of our 3-part series analyzing a joint effort by the EEOC and FTC to give employers and employees the scoop on background checks.

We started with a breakdown of the entire document that was co-written by the government agencies and released in early March. Then we explained what employers should take away from the guide.

Up now… what employees need to know. Since it worked so well the first time, we’re going to continue in a Q & A format. So here’s our take on the top 5 things employees might wonder about background checks.

Employee: Will every employer run a background check on me each time I apply for a job?

Active Screening: It’s up to the employer. Some industries, like law enforcement, educational institutions, and the military, routinely run background checks whereas others trust the information being provided them by an applicant. It is, however, easy to lie and there are several recent cases where employees have been busted for lying. Our recommendation is that every employee in every industry should be treated equally and background checks should become standard operating procedure. Not only does that level the playing field among all applicants, but it also helps ensure a safe workplace for everyone.

Employee: So how do I know if someone is running a check on me?

Active Screening: Well, there is a difference between an employer asking standard questions about your background in the hiring process and having them commission a screening company like us to run your background. There are restrictions to both and we’ll outline them in a sec. However, you need to know that it is perfectly legal for them to ask questions about your background or to request a background check.

An employer can ask you all sorts of things during a job interview. These include:

  • work history
  • education
  • criminal record
  • financial history
  • social media presence

Most times your medical and/or genetic information is off-limits but you may want to ask about that.

It’s important for you to know that an employer is not allowed to treat you differently from anyone else based on your answers or your gender, sex, race, religion, disability or age (usually 40 and over). These are protected by the EEOC and you can file a complaint with them if you feel you’ve been discriminated against.

Some companies hire a screening company like us to run their background checks. By law, you have to be informed that a background check is part of the hiring process. And by law, you have to sign off on it (authorize) before we can conduct the screening. We may look at things like your credit report and criminal history. You also may object but the EEOC states: “You don’t have to give your permission, but if you’re applying for a job and you don’t give your permission, the employer may reject your application.”

If you think an employer got a background check done without your permission, call the FTC.

Employee: What if I don’t get the job because of something in my background check?

Active Screening: That’s called ‘adverse action’ and this post by RJ sums it up perfectly. Don’t worry, it’s not always the end of the line in your job search. You have some protection and recourse. If an employer chooses not to hire you based on concerns from the background report, it not only has to tell you about it, but it has to provide you with a copy of the report and the contact information of the agency who performed the background check. In rare cases, a screening company may make a mistake and you have the right to challenge that information, request that it be fixed, and have an updated and correct copy sent to your employer or the personnel department of where you’re trying to get a job.

Employee: I have asthma. Can my medical condition prevent me from getting a job?

Active Screening: Depends on the job. Medical conditions are typically off limits in the hiring decision. However, if your asthma might put you, or others, in danger, or prevent you from the doing the job as well as another candidate, then it’s possible you might not get the job. Those are legitimate, and lawful, reasons why you may not get hired. However, you have the right to ask to for the chance to show you can still do the job.

Employee: Hmm… I think I may have more questions in the future. Where should I go for answers?

Active Screening: We’d be happy to help! Our resource page has lots of downloadable materials that you can read on your own time. Subscribe to our blog’s RSS Feed. We make things user-friendly so you don’t already need to be an expert to learn some cool stuff. If you still have questions, give us a shout. Here’s our phone numbers. We even have live chat available on our website. Talk to you soon!

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