A couple of weeks ago we told you about an issue affecting some border cities and towns. The problem is that some state laws prohibit checking another state’s criminal records during the screening process. In the case of East Grand Forks, Minnesota, the laws were affecting how much information they were able to access during a background check of potential employees. The fact that the city had a police department secretary, and not a professional screening agency, conducting the checks wasn’t helping the matter.

At the time of our initial post, EGF was considering outsourcing its screening needs to a third-party Credit Reporting Agency (CRA) – that’s industry speak for a company who conducts background checks. Since then, the city council has moved forward with plans to use a private agency to screen applicants. The only problem is that the city has no formal or written policy on who should be screened.

This local newspaper article says the city has a few ideas:

  • employees who may work with children
  • applicants for liquor and/or business licenses
  • background checks might vary depending on the type of position (law enforcement officer vs. administrative assistant)

While city officials mull over a new policy, we’re reminded of this post that appeared on ActiveCare last summer during our Budget 2015 Preview Series:

Budget 2015: 4 Steps to Define Your Screening Services Policy

We encourage you to click on the headline above and read the entire post, but if there is one key point to drive home, it’s this – a background screening policy provides a blanket set of instructions, guidance and rules that everyone in your company must abide by to instill consistency and efficiency into the hiring process. Certainly, this stands for employees, but hiring transparency for all applicants and volunteers will keep you on the right side of the law and increase your chances of attracting and retaining top talent.

A good screening policy will ensure all candidates are treated equally and should include a written document similar to this that notifies applicants of the screening policies and procedures you use.

“[Company Name] requires a criminal history check for all full-time, part-time and temporary employees upon hire once a conditional offer of employment has been extended by the hiring manager.

Although a disqualification is possible, in accordance with federal and state laws, a previous conviction does not automatically disqualify an applicant from consideration for employment with [Company Name]. Depending on a variety of factors (for example, the nature of the position, the nature of the conviction, age of the candidate when the illegal activity occurred), the candidate may still be eligible for employment with [Company Name].

However, if an applicant attempts to withhold information or falsify information pertaining to previous convictions, the employee will be disqualified from further employment consideration in any position with the company due to falsification of an application.

An offer of employment may be extended to an applicant prior to the completion of the criminal conviction check. However, the applicant’s first day of work in the position must not be prior to the satisfactory completion of the criminal conviction check.” – Source: http://www.shrm.org/templatestools/samples/policies/pages/cms_015059.aspx#sthash.Yd9wgGDe.dpuf

Unfortunately, there is a lot of mis-information and skepticism about the background screening process. That’s why blogs like ActiveCare are so important – we value the opportunity we have to educate people about what the screening industry is really like and how we go above and beyond to protect our clients and the people whose information we gather. It’s crucial that companies embrace the background screening process and present it in a positive, transparent light for prospective employees. Often this means allowing the candidate to communicate directly with the employer and the screening provider during the process.

Border cities who may find themselves in a similar situation as EGF should seriously consider following its lead and outsourcing screening needs to a private agency and firming up a sound screening policy. It’s a smart move that will save your employees and your taxpayers money and time, and help to further protect you from any compliance issues.

Click here to learn more about Active Screening’s pre-employment background programs.

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