More small businesses are looking to verify information submitted by applicants and conducting a criminal background check is standard practice for many companies. I hear about many small businesses that try and conduct DIY background checks by looking at local county jail websites and using free online websites, like Spokeo. This is not a best practice, is not reliable and likely does not comply with the requirements of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). So, what does a small business need to know about criminal background checks? Here are 5 tips for conducting effective background screening.
First, it is best practice to select an experienced third party background checking company to ensure that they can help your company follow all the applicable legal requirements. If you hire employees from other states, be aware that many states have additional legal protections for applicants – and your background screening company can help you comply. For instance, some states ban the ability to ask about criminal convictions on the employment application (in Florida, an employer can ask an applicant about criminal convictions).
Second, obtain an up to date disclosure and consent form that is signed by the applicant. Your document needs to meet the requirements of the FCRA. Check annually to make sure your form is still the most current version.
Third, make sure your offer letter tells the candidate that the offer is contingent upon the successful result of the criminal background check. The company has the right to rescind its offer if the results are unsatisfactory.
Fourth, only the most recent criminal convictions that relate to the specific job can be used to disqualify an applicant. The FCRA mentions using a 7 year period of time for looking at convictions. So, not any conviction, but relevant convictions can be used. The older the conviction and lower the severity, the least relevant. Generally, minor offenses that were committed years ago should not be used to deny employment.
Fifth, if your check shows a conviction, your company must use the process outlined in the FCRA to give the candidate a chance to dispute the results (if they believe there is a mistake on the report). There is a process and time frame for sending Adverse Action letters to the affected candidate, allowing the person time to communicate directly with the background screening company about any alleged errors. Your company must give the candidate a reasonable amount of time to dispute the incorrect information before you pursue another candidate.
Consultstu LLC uses Sarma to conduct its small business background screening. For questions about your background screening needs and situations, give us a call.