Online Background Check

Conducting a Thorough Workplace Investigation Using Online Tools

A thorough but moderate background check can take several weeks or even months when conducted using traditional routes. Most organizations checking the background of a promising job candidate prefer not to wait that long, however. A promising job candidate can choose to accept an employment offer from another company in the time that those traditional background checks require. It can be tempting to skip the background check process at times, but few companies are willing to take on the risk of that move.

The alternative is to take advantage of online tools. Many such tools exist, most of which are fully legitimate and do not open the organization to possible future litigation. Other online tools are less respectable, even though they may be highly effective. If they can increase litigation risk to the organization, however, their apparent value quickly diminishes. There are enough legitimate online sources that no organization needs to resort to the others.

The issue for employers and job hunters alike is to secure or furnish appropriate and honest information, without crossing over into privacy areas that benefit no one at all. When the employer’s goal is to conduct a thorough and legitimate workplace investigation using a background check, it also needs to ensure that it remains within the bounds of various laws addressing individuals’ privacy rights.

Individual Rights

Increasing numbers of companies use credit reports to assess personal responsibility. The thinking is that if an individual pays the bills they create and avoid creating bills they cannot pay, then they exhibit the type of personal responsibility that any organization can see as being attractive. On the other hand, The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) prohibits employers from denying employment to any individual on the basis of past or current bankruptcy. Neither can an employer conduct a credit history investigation without the individual’s specific consent.

For FCRA purposes, any credit investigation that is part of a broader background check is a consumer report. As such, the FCRA requires that the potential employer secures the individual’s consent. Any organization can run a credit check on any individual if it possesses enough identifying information about the individual. Most employment applications provide most of that required information.

Citizenship affirmation forms indicating the individual’s right to work within the United States provide the Social Security numbers that most employment applications do not. The end result is that potential employers have more than enough information to run credit checks on potential employees. To avoid all threat of future litigation associated with background checks, employers must have signed forms granting permission for those employment-related credit checks.

Online Tools

Organizations can check anyone’s credit history quite simply and quickly online. As explained above, they must be able to demonstrate that they have explicit permission to do so.

Criminal history background checks require no one’s permission, however. Nearly all states maintain an online database for the specific purpose of disseminating information regarding any individual’s possible criminal activity. The data contained in these databases are a matter of public record. As such, no individual can raise a legitimate complaint that could result in litigation for the organization.

The same is true for the National Sex Offender Public Registry. Any organization conducting a background check using only online tools needs to be consulting this registry. An individual’s inclusion in the Registry may not be problematic for a hardware retailer, but it could be devastating for a health care or child care organization. For the organization, the point is that the National Sex Offender Public Registry is freely available and is highly reliable.

The Bottom Line

Ultimately, the point is that there are several online tools available for organizations that do not carry any threat of future litigation. Every organization can use those resources when they follow the rules set forth by state or federal law.