Creating or Revising Your Company Background Check Policy

When running background checks on prospective employees, you will inevitably encounter that awkward moment when something turns up. In that moment, the decision of whether or not to take adverse action will need to made. In order to act on the decision conscientiously, you need to follow certain guidelines to protect yourself from liability and to treat the candidate respectfully and fairly.

It is important to have these guidelines listed in your company’s background check policy. Some factors to consider including are:

  • the nature and gravity of the offense of conduct
  • the time elapsed since the event
  • the nature of the job being applied for

It is also important to be well versed in the adverse action requirements of the Fair Credit Reporting Act and EEOC. Additionally, you should consider and spell out under what circumstances exceptions the policy may be made, particularly in regards to current employees. Sometimes it may be prudent to run routine checks on existing employees, in which case this concern will be relevant.

Possible exceptions to the policy may be spelled out under an “Individualized Assessment” portion of the policy. Guidelines to consider in this section are:

  • informing the employee that his or her position in the company may be terminated based on past criminal conduct
  • allow the employee to defend their eligibility or prove their worthiness of an exception
  • conscientiously verify the info in regards to the position at stake to determine fairly if the policy does or does not apply to their situation

The key to a strong policy is thoroughness, so be as meticulous as possible with the details. Maintaining FCRA compliance as well as understanding when and how exceptions may be made will contribute to your longevity as a company.

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