Background Screening

Based on client needs, federal, state and local requirements, AP Verifications can create and implement a legally defensible background screening program which may include a variety of testing such as:

  • Employment References
  • Character Reference Check
  • Gaps in employment history
  • Identity and Address Verification
  • Credit History – bankruptcies
  • Criminal History Report.

Laws

Due to the sensitivity of the information contained in consumer reports and certain records, there are a variety of important laws regulating the dissemination and legal use of this information. Most notably, the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) regulates the use of consumer reports (which it defines as information collected and reported by third party agencies) as it pertains to adverse decisions, notification to the applicant, and destruction and safekeeping of records. If a consumer report is used as a factor in an adverse hiring decision, the applicant must be presented with a “pre-adverse action disclosure,” a copy of the FCRA summary of rights, and a “notification of adverse action letter.” Individuals are entitled to know the source of any information used against them including a credit reporting agency. Individuals must also consent in order for the employer to obtain a credit report.

Florida Law

Florida House Bill H0775, passed in 1999, provides protection for employers from negligent hiring liabilities, provided they attempt to conduct certain screening procedures. Employers who follow these steps will be presumed not to have been negligent when hiring if a background check fails to reveal any records on an applicant.

Types of checks

There are a variety of types of investigative searches that can be used by potential employers. Many employers choose to search the most common records such as criminal records, driving records, and education verification. Other searches such as sex offender registry, credential verification, skills assessment, reference checks, credit reports and Patriot Act searches are becoming increasingly common. Employers should consider the position in question when determining which types of searches to include, and should always use the same searches for every applicant being considered for one position.

Reasons

They are frequently conducted to confirm information found on an employment application or résumé/curriculum vitae. One study showed that half of all reference checks done on prospective employees differed between what the job applicant provided and what the source reported. They may also be conducted as a way to further differentiate potential employees and pick the one the employer feels is best suited for the position. Employers have an obligation to make sure their work environment is safe for all employees and helps prevent other employment problems in the workplace.

Checks are also required for those working in positions with special security concerns, such as trucking, ports of entry, and airports (including airline transportation). Other laws exist to prevent those who do not pass a criminal check from working in careers involving the elderly, disabled, or children.

Possible information included

The amount of information included on a background check depends to a large degree on the sensitivity of the reason for which it is conducted—e.g., somebody seeking employment at a minimum wage job would be subject to far fewer requirements than somebody applying to work for a law enforcement agency such as the FBI or jobs related to national security.

Criminal, arrest, incarceration, and sex offender records

There are several types of criminal record searches available to employers, some more accurate and up to date than others. These “instant” searches originate from a variety of sources, from statewide court and corrections records to law enforcement records which usually stem from county or metro law enforcement offices. There are also other database-type criminal searches, such as statewide repositories and the national crime file. A commonly used criminal search by employers is the county criminal search.

Citizenship, immigration, or legal working status

The hiring of illegal workers has become an issue for American businesses since the forming of the Department of Homeland Security and its Immigrations and Customs Enforcement(ICE) division. Many history making immigration raids over the past two years have forced employers to consider including legal working status as part of their background screening process. All employers are required to keep government Form I-9 documents on all employees and some states mandate the use of the federal E-Verify program to research the working status of Social Security numbers.

Litigation records

Employers may want to identify potential employees who routinely file discrimination lawsuits.

Employers that routinely hire drivers or are in the transportation sector seek drivers with clean driving records—i.e., those without a history of accidents or traffic tickets. Department of Motor Vehicles and Department of Transportation records are searched to determine a qualified driver.

Drug tests

Drug tests are used for a variety of reasons—corporate ethics, measuring potential employee performance, and keeping workers’ compensation premiums down.

Education records

These are used primarily to see if the potential employee had graduated from high school (or a GED) or received a college degree, graduate degree, or some other accredited university degree.

Employment records

These usually range from simple verbal confirmations of past employment and timeframe to deeper, such as discussions about performance, activities and accomplishments, and relations with others.

Financial information

Credit scores, liens, civil judgments, bankruptcy, and tax information may be included in the report.

Licensing records

A government authority that has some oversight over professional conduct of its licensees will also maintain records regarding the licensee, such as personal information, education, complaints, investigations, and disciplinary actions.

Medical, Mental, and Physiological evaluation and records

These records are generally not available to consumer reporting agencies, background screening firms, or any other investigators without documented, written consent of the applicant, consumer or employee.

Military records

Although not as common today as it was in the past fifty years, employers frequently requested the specifics of one’s military discharge.

Social Security Number

(or equivalent outside the US). A fraudulent SSN may be indicative of identity theft, insufficient citizenship, or concealment of a “past life”. Background screening firms usually perform a Social Security trace to determine where the applicant or employee has lived.

Other interpersonal interviews

Employers may investigate past employment to verify position and salary information. More intensive checks can involve interviews with anybody that knew or previously knew the applicant—such as teachers, friends, coworkers, neighbors, and family members; however, extensive hearsay investigations in background checks can expose companies to lawsuits.