June 17, 2014 Articles

Withstanding Legal Scrutiny in Employer-Conducted Background Checks

It's a good idea to revisit your forms and polices to ensure compliance.

By John F. Lomax Jr. and Jennifer R. Phillips – June 17, 2014

In a market where employers studiously scrutinize employees and applicants, background checks in the workplace have exploded in popularity. As one article in the Wall Street Journal noted [login required], 92 percent of employers use background checks for some or all job openings. Employers increasingly feel that criminal history and, in some cases, credit checks are prime indicators of an individual’s reliability, prospective job performance, and ultimately, his or her future success with the company. While it is permissible to ask certain questions about an individual’s background, or to require a background check, there is a complex framework of substantive and procedural requirements that employers must follow to avoid running afoul of federal and state law. Even companies that have detailed procedures already in place can benefit greatly from revisiting and updating their background-check policies, especially in light of new local requirements and the increased litigation and agency enforcement in this area.


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