Employment Screening 101: Don’t Forget the Applicant Release-Part 9

Nick Fishman

Since this is a “101” series, I thought we should discuss one of the most basic requirements of the employment screening process: the Applicant Release. This should never be taken for granted because it is perhaps the most serious standard set forth in the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). Employment background checks must be authorized in writing by the applicant before a company can proceed (at least when the check is being conducted by a CRA [background screening company]). Failure to get the applicant’s permission before the check is conducted can get an organization in serious hot water.

At a minimum the authorization will inform the applicant that you reserve the right to conduct a background check, define the scope of the search and inform them of who will be conducting the background. In the case of California, Oklahoma and Minnesota applicants the release will include a check box that applicants can check if they want a free copy of their report. {Side note: many organizations that are screening applicants outside of these states forget that even though the other states do not mandate a check box, that the applicant still has a right to request a free copy of the report}. For New York applicants, the release simply advises that they have a right to inspect the report. Those who screen on a nationwide basis, fear not. All of these notifications can be included on one page of an FCRA compliant release form.

Employers should also know that unless your state specifically prohibits it, language can be worked into the release that allows you to re-screen the applicant throughout the tenure of their employment.

Once the release is executed, you can execute the search. Remember to keep the release on file. Accounts of how long vary and you should consult your attorneys about this.

Couple other important notes:

  • The applicant release should never be attached to the employment application. It should always be presented separately.
  • Employers are also required to provide “A Summary of Your Rights Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act” along with the release.
  • While there are certainly template release forms available to employers, it should always be reviewed by your attorney prior to use to ensure that it is both compliant and adheres to your unique requirements and standards.
Nick Fishman
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Nick Fishman

Nick Fishman is the co-founder of EmployeeScreenIQ, a leading, global employment background screening provider, and serves as the company’s executive vice president and chief marketing officer. He pioneered the creation of EmployeeScreen University, the #1 educational resource on employment background checks for human resources, security and risk management professionals. A recognized industry expert, Nick is a frequent author, presenter and contributor to the news media. Nick is also a licensed private investigator in the states of Ohio and Texas.
Nick Fishman
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