Written by: Tenant Screening Services, LLC

Employee background checks, or pre employment checks, are vital for an established company to understand more about the job applicant. This could be everything from work credibility to past brushes with the law.

Human resources, CRM, data mining, assessment center and social media concept - woman looking for employee represented by icon.
Human resources, CRM, data mining, assessment center and social media concept – woman looking for employee represented by icon.

However, while these background checks will provide information, it should be duly noted that they can also be a source of potential liability. The Internet has made it a lot easier for employers to search for personal and professional information, but it also pays to be cautious about what information you trust and the type of questions that you ask.

Run a Legitimate Background Check

Running an online employee background check is helpful in not only finding out more about the applicant, but can also protect you from liability issues. Employers must still cautious about what questions that they ask their applicant though. If the employer goes too far, they may run into a potential lawsuit.

Stick to Business-Related Questions

Background checks should always be strictly for business purposes. As an employer, it’s important not to cross boundaries into personal territory. For instance, if you’re hiring a bus driver, then digging into their driving records would be justifiable. On the other hand, if you’re hiring a part-time retail worker, there isn’t any need to go to such lengths.

Ask For Consent

Background checks have become easier than ever, thanks to the vast depth of the Internet. Employers even have access to what’s known as an instant employment background check, which gives immediate information to the requester.

Now, in order to avoid liability in general, it’s important that the employer requests access to the individual’s potentially sensitive personal information. Moral grounds still apply even with a consent form, but that’s a different topic. What matters is that the applicant agrees to give the employer access to his or her sensitive information.

Act Within Reason

An employer should always be reasonable in their investigation. Running a background check on every applicant that’s deemed worthy of hiring makes sense. Digging heavily into one’s personal past, running a credit check, and requiring them to take a physical is just too far and you’ll eventually find yourself in a legal bind. The written consent form from your applicants will only protect you to a certain extent. Act within reason when it comes to your future employees.

The Bottom Line

In order to avoid liability issues, always obtain written consent from the applicant, stick to the business topics, and don’t push the boundaries when it comes to a background check. Credit reports, drug tests, and driving records still require consent from the applicant, but they are considered routine within a background check.