I’ve recently realized that over the past several years we’ve spent a lot of time discussing and analyzing the latest background screening trends and stories of the day. We’ve kind of gotten away from the basics and so I thought we could dedicate some time to freshening up some of the old issues in a way that applies to today’s human resource environment.
It might seem like a no-brainer these days that employers are mandated by the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) to obtain an applicant’s written consent to conduct an employment background check. And by and large we find that most employers are aware of this. But have you taken a look at your release lately and wondered if the form that was created for you 10 years ago is still working for your organization?
Defining the Scope
The applicant release is designed to notify your candidate that you and, or your background screening provider will be performing a background check to determine if they are eligible for hire. The release should include the scope of the search. Most companies opt for a more generic scope, while others will specifically detail exactly what will be searched. An example of a generic scope would be the following:
You may be the subject of a “consumer report” and/or an “investigative consumer report” which may include information about your character, general reputation, personal characteristics, driving record, and/or mode of living, and which can involve personal interviews with sources such as your current and past employers, friends, or associates.
Now, upon consent you as the employer may not choose to exercise your right to request all of the information detailed above, but the fact that you have included it allows you to do so if you deem it appropriate or germane to the candidate.
Other companies choose to include specific language about what will be checked which is fine, however unless they modify the language, the scope of their search should never include other information.
What if I want to Re-Screen the Candidate or Conduct Another Check Throughout Their Employment?
If you want to avail yourself of this option, and most companies do, you must include it in the applicant release. Otherwise, you’ll have to get a new consent form each time you want to run a background check. This can be pretty awkward with existing employees, particularly if you want to conduct the check because you have reason to believe there might be some adverse information out there. An example of language that allows for this is below. Once you have the authorization signed, just rinse, lather and repeat.
These reports may be obtained at any time after receipt of your authorization and, if you are hired, throughout your employment.
Notifying Applicants of Their Rights
Of course protecting ourselves by protecting our applicants is in everyone’s best interest. A good release will ask the candidate to acknowledge that they have received a notice that a background check will be conducted (aka the release you are asking them to sign). And if you plan to utilize employment and, or education verifications and, or reference interviews (these services are part of what is referred to as an “Investigative Consumer Report”), you should also provide them with a copy of a document called “A Summary of Your Rights Under the FCRA” and have them acknowledge receipt as part of your release. Even if you do not choose to conduct an Investigative Consumer Report, it might make sense to include the language and give them the notice, just in case your policies ever change. Again, this will save you from having to obtain a new release if you choose to utilize these services at a later date and time.