Last updated: September 25, 2023
Business owners are incorporating criminal background checks into their hiring process more than ever before. You can’t fault them for it. Conducting a criminal background check helps business owners vet potential new hires before actually bringing them on board. They help employers determine if someone is trustworthy, to be sure. They can also speak to whether or not they act responsibly.
If your company doesn’t run a criminal background check as part of the vetting process, it may be to your benefit to see if adding it to the process is something you should consider.
Criminal records revealed
As the name implies, looking to see if someone has a criminal history is the overall reason for performing a criminal background check. If someone is a repeat offender, an employer may decide to take a hard pass in light of the problems that might arise in the future.
Criminal background checks reveal:
- Incarceration records
- Court orders, decrees, and judgments rendered
- Felony and misdemeanor convictions
- Sex offenders
If a person is or has been involved in a civil suit, the information is prohibited from being shared due to the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). This law also keeps any information regarding arrests that took place over seven years ago private.
Misdemeanors can add up against you
Most, but not all, criminal background checks report misdemeanor convictions as well as any pending or ongoing cases. We’ll note here that misdemeanor charges are less serious than felony charges. Still, employers have the right to determine whether or not to overlook any charges, unless it is stated otherwise within company policy.
The search is conducted over federal, state, and county databases in the United States and can even include international searches if warranted.
Some examples of misdemeanor charges are:
- Disorderly conduct
- Traffic violations
- Public intoxication
If a misdemeanor charge results in an arrest, the charge may be automatically reported on a background check. It stands the best chance, of course, if the conviction is less than seven years old due to the FCRA verbiage. Failure to comply with FCRA standards set could result in stiff penalties and fines for the business owner. And, a job applicant who feels you didn’t abide by the FCRA guidelines might sue you as well.
Can you use any of the information revealed though?
That is a question worth knowing the answer to! The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) restricts employers from applying some criminal information revealed as a part of their decision to hire or not to hire someone.
Anti-discrimination laws restrict employers from applying any criminal information discovered in a way that discriminates against a job applicant based on age, gender, orientation, race, ethnicity, religious background, national origin, or disability. It’s also important to note that any arrest that didn’t ultimately result in a conviction is not something you want to base your decision on.
Furthermore, some states and city municipalities have enacted something called “ban the box” legislation. It stipulates that employers must remove questions about criminal history from job applications. “Ban the box” legislation appears to be catching on, so it’s important to keep abreast of any changes that may come up in your city or state. Don’t get caught off guard and find yourself being drug into a court case somewhere down the road.
They serve a purpose
We’ve learned that there is often red tape attached to requiring potential employees to submit to a criminal background investigation. Still, many employers deem them worthwhile. Knowing what you’re up against is the best way to move forward safely, secure in the knowledge that you hired the right person for the job.
Employers are responsible for the safety of everyone that works for them. Making every attempt to ensure that the workplace is a safe environment at all times is a top priority. Checking out the lifestyle of those who you plan to bring into the circle seems a good place to start.
We believe conducting criminal background checks on potential workers is one way to do that.