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Can They Do That? Individual Rights and Background Checks

personal background check

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Background checks, also known as background investigations, denote the process of uncovering and documenting criminal, business, and financial records of a given person, candidate, or even business. Oftentimes background checks entail a current employee or prospective candidate providing or consenting to release personal details for personnel screening. For this reason, background checks are extremely prevalent in certain jobs that require an enormous degree of trust or security – jobs in the medical, education, and financial sector usually fit this description in that an unscrupulous employee would cause internal havoc.

Background Checks: A Closer Look

In terms of logistics, some governmental outfit or a private organization collaborating with the company in question normally handles the nuts and bolts of background checks. Whichever agency does the testing, background checks typically exist such that the company or organization can attain a credible and objective snapshot of an individual’s or job candidate’s past, qualifications, criminal history, and even character. Sometimes, however, governmental agencies or individual organizations abuse the individual’s largesse by discriminating against or for the employee, mishandling personal information, and generally violating the individual’s privacy based on information attained from the background check.

Your Rights; Their Rights

As the information unearthed in pre-employment screenings can be quite sensitive and abusable, there are a number of laws in the United States that circumscribe and dictate what companies can and cannot do as part of background checks. One of these laws is the Fair Credit Reporting Act. The Fair Credit Reporting Act informs the acceptable uses of consumer reports – information collected about a job applicant or individual as it relates to third party investigations – especially as those uses relate to detrimental decisions, applicant notification, and the retainment or destruction of records relating to the individual under examination.

More on Fair Credit Reporting Act

Supposing the individual was subjected to a detrimental hiring decision as it relates to her personal consumer report, the applicant is legally entitled to a “pre-adverse action disclosure.” In addition to this pre-adverse action disclosure the applicant is entitled to an entire copy of the Fair Credit Reporting Act rights as well as a written outline of the adverse action taken against the individual. In the event that information was used against the individual as a result of a background check, the individual is legally entitled to know the source of the information used against them. This means that in the case of an adverse decision the individual may successfully inquire about the provenance of the detrimental hiring decision – e.g., a credit reporting agency or another company.

Types of Checks

When most companies talk about background checks their primary interests are checks of the applicant’s criminal, financial, educational, and driving history. Increasingly companies are going to skills assessments, reference checks, sex offender registry, and credit reports to attain even more information about the prospective candidate. Governmental agencies specializing in background checks urge individual companies to only search records that are foreseeable important to the future job duties and responsibilities of the candidate, should they be deemed fit for employment. Additionally the company should decide whether a particular search is equally important for all candidates or especially salient for various candidates, and conduct searches accordingly.

Summing Up Background Checks

Already this article has defined background checks – their uses and abuses – as well as salient laws that dictate the conditions and protocols pertaining to background checks. The main law this article investigated was the Fair Credit Reporting Act, which is the leading piece of legislation federally demarcating what companies and third party investigators may probe about the candidate and what they legally may not be able to probe. Hopefully this article has bolstered the understanding of current or prospective employees dealing with background checks.

About the Author: Frank Hensch is a dectective and father of two. He enjoys writing and sharing advice to help civilians. He stresses the importance of using before hiring any individual.

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