Because background checks are easier to perform today than they’ve ever been in the past, 96 percent of human resource professionals claim to run these checks on potential employees. If you’ve found yourself in the somewhat uncomfortable situation of having your history looked at under a magnifying glass, you clearly aren’t alone. You should know that you have rights and that there are laws in place to protect you.
Many people assume, mistakenly, that background checks can be performed at any time. The truth of the matter is that no check can be conducted without your express permission. Any company that you apply with must inform you of their intent to run a background check. According to the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, those same companies must secure your permission to do so in writing.
2. Copy of the Report
Much like the ability to receive a free credit report if you are turned down for credit, you are entitled to a free copy of the report received by any potential or current employer who digs into your past. Unless you’re squeaky clean, these reports can be helpful in understanding what impression people are getting of you. Also like your credit report, you may be able to dispute information included in your background check.
There are things that an employer can check and things they cannot. Here’s what’s off-limits: Bankruptcies over 10 years old, civil suits and judgments over seven years old, paid tax liens over seven years old, collections accounts over seven years old, and other negative information that is over seven years old. Criminal convictions are available to employers forever, as is anything reported in the media. If you’ve been in jail or made the six o’clock news due to your escapades, you can be sure that it will show up in a background check.
4. Run Your Own Check
Any citizen can run a background check on themselves for under $100. These in-depth checks will show you exactly what your potential employer will see should you consent to a check. This is often beneficial if you will be sending out massive amounts of resumes and can take your time finding a job. If there are any mistakes on your background check, you can clear them up before you give consent for someone else to look at your history.
While an employer cannot refuse to hire you based on your gender, race, sexual orientation or disability, they can refuse to hire you because of what is discovered through a background check. No company is required to hire you; it’s best to keep that fact in mind. If an employer decides not to hire you based on the information, you will be notified but will have no recourse.
Before you consent to have a background check run by a potential employer, you should know your rights. You should also know that you aren’t required to consent to a background check. Do understand that refusal to give your consent is very likely to cost you that particular position; that’s the employer’s prerogative.
Writer Christopher Shanks is an avid blogger who write regularly about the best best criminal justice colleges. Learn more about when it’s legal to do background checks here.