Posts Tagged ‘FCRA’


Pre-employment Background Checks And Facebook Have Companies Gone Too Far

by como ·

One of the most important laws about background checks is the Fair Credit Reporting act, or FCRA. According to this legislation, employers must tell applicants if they will be carrying out pre-employment background screening. A company could face expensive litigation and fines if they fail to follow the letter of the law regarding drug testing, credit reporting, and professionalism when doing background checks. Increasingly, however, social media is becoming a contentious area in pre-employment background screening. The vast majority – 91%, according to Reppler’s 2011 survey of 300 hiring professionals – of companies have researched social media profiles while conducting background checks.

A range of viewpoints exists on this issue. Many applicants purposely tailor their social media profiles for potential employers. These pro-social media types would argue that a modern job search is incomplete without social media networking. Yet on the other hand, many say that companies have gone too far with social media pre-employment background screening, for instance by asking each interviewee for his or her Facebook password. (A password would be required to view profiles for those whose pages are only visible to friends.)

Until recently, those in the public sector were most commonly asked for Facebook passwords in pre-employment background screening. Cops, teachers, and doctors are used to this sort of thing during in-depth background checks. NPR tells of one instance when a Maryland corrections officer was asked to provide his Facebook access during a pre-employment background check. Apparently, the state hiring agency wanted to make sure that this individual had no gang connections. Nowadays, however increasing number of private companies are also requesting social media login data.

At the moment, this form of pre-employment background check is legal across the country, but the Maryland, Michigan, Illinois, and California state legislatures are working on legislation that could ban it, under the argument that social media profile discrimination should be illegal, just like it’s illegal to discriminate against a female applicant because she implies she would like to have children in the next couple of years.

Watch legislative news and court proceedings over the next few years to see where legal boundaries are drawn regarding social media background checks, discrimination, and privacy rights. Until then, protect your company’s reputation and bottom line by following these pre-employment background screening tips:

1. Remember that courts can mandate that you explain the reasoning behind your hiring practices. The threat here is that you could be sued by a rejected applicant. If so, you’ll have to testify in court as to why you chose not to hire this person. Don’t select or reject employees based on parental status, race, age, or sexual orientation – that way your decision will stand up in court. It seems obvious, but it’s still good to remember: Hire people based on their abilities and the position’s requisite skills.

2. Follow FCRA guidelines. Those who carry out pre-employment background screening in-house should have their background check procedure reviewed by an attorney, to make sure it is kosher.

3. Ask third-party pre-employment background check companies to only tell you information related to the job itself. Likewise, in-house specialists in background checks should only tell you data that is relevant to the position at hand.

4. Beware of “Quick Fixes” for background checks. Smartphone apps and other “immediate” pre-employment background screening programs are rarely in complete compliance with employment laws.