I began using pre-employment background checks as part of a hiring system more than 30 years ago. We used a two interviews system. We would inform candidates that didn’t meet our needs that others were ahead of them. Most appreciated the honesty. And we would tell qualified candidates that before we would schedule a second, we’d conduct a background check and that they could call us the next day at a specified time. Often, candidates would inform us then and there what we would find. At the time we used the Indiana State Police Criminal Background We checked driving records as well.

Why you need to do Background Checks

In 30 years of background checking, I’ve seen it all. Convicted burglars applying for residential installation positions, violent crime felons interviewing for sales positions, and paroled DWI offenders asking about jobs driving company vehicles. I’ve discovered more child molesters than I ever wanted to know about, and that alone is more than enough to justify the $15 fee to the State police.

You May Avoid Being Exposed

I consulted with a company on hiring practices. They instituted the two-interview system I recommended but not the background checks. They hired an experienced, competent, people friendly customer service representative. Unfortunately, three months later they discovered she was on probation for embezzlement, and this was only learned after she stole several customers’ credit card information. $15 would have avoided this.

Is it Legal to Refuse Employment Based on Criminal Records?

The answer is—it could be. If the criminal record is used to prejudicially it is an infringement on the candidate’s rights. For example, a particular type of crime is considered unacceptable at your workplace, but only for minorities. A blanket no-hire policy based on criminal background exposes the organization to lawsuits. Criminal backgrounds should be considered on a case-to-case basis. One other note, an arrest record doesn’t always lead to conviction and should not be used to deny employment.

The EEOC explains,

“Title VII prohibits employers from using policies or practices that screen individuals based on criminal history information if: They significantly disadvantage Title VII-protected individuals such as African Americans and Hispanics; AND They do not help the employer accurately decide if the person is likely to be a responsible, reliable, or safe employee.”

An employee with a felony driving conviction may not be able to be added to the business insurance and therefore unable to drive a company vehicle safely. A recruit, with a felony burglary position, who applies for a position working with people in their homes, may not qualify for bonding insurance, and an employee on parole for embezzlement should not be allowed access to customer credit information.

Other Points to Consider

  • Don’t DIY, hire a professional service to complete background checks. Not only will they be more thorough, such as the State police Check mentioned earlier, but they are a resource if anyone questions the information.
  • Inform the applicant. Let the candidate know you will be conducting background checks and it’s best to have them give a signed permission to do so.
  • Check with an Attorney. Criminal background check laws vary state-to-state. A lawyer should be consulted before any policy is initiated.

Is it Time to Start Checking?

I assume if you’re reading this your organization doesn’t complete background checks on applicants or not for every position. It may be because it’s considered too expensive. The $15 paid to the Indiana State Police to conduct checks more than pays for itself by identifying unreliable and unsafe candidates. And the cost can be reduced by only conducting checks on candidates that qualify after being interviewed whether it’s an only interview or the first of two or more. I’ve heard managers moan it was too time-consuming. Yes, it is—if you try to go online and do it yourself. Don’t do that. If you’re not conducting checks as part of your hiring process, shouldn’t you be? There’s a lot to lose. If yo’d like to read more I suggest, SBA (Small Business Administration) Do’s and Don’ts of Background Checks.

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