Statistics show that one in four American adults has an arrest or conviction that shows up in a routine criminal background check. If we venture into credit checks, the statistics can get even higher.

While background checks are valuable to some industries, they’re not standardized practice for every hire. Besides the personal and privacy implications for a potential incumbent, background checks sap the time and resources of an HR department, and should only be employed when necessary.

Today, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is giving greater attention to regulating background checks. That means employers need to be able to provide a valid business case for checking up on a potential employee.

Background checks are required by law in the following industries:

  • Healthcare
  • Education
  • Childcare

The EEOC is also working to document the adverse impact of screening out workers with criminal backgrounds can have. Their findings are particularly pertinent for protecting minorities, where the rate of criminal histories is typically higher.

An Organized Approach To Background Checks

There are common components to background checks, though not all make sense for every employer. These include:

  • Criminal history
  • Child abuse history
  • Credential verification
  • Reference checking
  • Credit checks

In response to EEOC regulation, human resources specialists are advising organizations to create a Decision Grid when they start the hiring process, to determine which kinds of criminal history would disqualify a candidate from the outset.  This protects both the employer and the candidate from bias. The grid should be reviewed by a legal counsel.

For example, criteria could include:

  • A narcotics conviction from within the last five years will disqualify the candidate from getting the job.
  • A possession charge from 20 years ago will not disqualify the candidate from the job.

Ultimately, if an employer performs a background check for a non-standardized position, they need to be able to answer the following questions:

  • Does the organization really need this background information?
  • Is there a valid business case for them needing it?
  • If an employer is going to request the information, what are they going to do with it?

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