Are Continuous Background Checks on the rise?

As companies continually seek to protect their brand, existing employees, and customers to avoid reputation and monetary damages, employers are starting to ramp up their background check policies in new ways. According to 11th Annual Employment Screening Benchmark Survey conducted by HireRight, it was revealed that 11% of organizations are rescreening their current employees on an ongoing basis, a practice that seems to be on the rise. The survey also identified the most popular types of employment screenings. The following are the top 5 out of 10:

  • 84% –Criminal Records
  • 73% – Previous Employment
  • 66% – Identity
  • 51% – Education Verification
  • 50% – Motor Vehicle Records

Earlier this year, Uber, a company providing several transportation services, announced it would begin conducting frequent screening of its drivers to ensure the safety of others. Since rolling out their technology in July, which provides an alert in real time when a driver is charged with a crime, Uber has terminated over two dozen drivers. With sexual misconduct allegations against Uber drivers hitting the news and passengers placing their safety in the hands of thousands of drivers, it has become of the upmost importance to do continuous background checks in an industry like this.

Continuous screenings have become more accessible and up-to-date nowadays than it was years ago due to advances and upgrades in technology. Police departments and court systems, for example, have moved to online records systems. Improvements in software to scan, analyze, and aggregate information found on the web have also contributed to these advances. Melissa Sorenson, executive director of the National Association of Professional Background Screeners, can attest that more companies are jumping on board and states, “While there are some industries whose regulations have mandated continuous or some form of periodic screening, such as health care, we are seeing more industries embrace the idea, particularly in industries with access to vulnerable people or where direct, one-to-one consumer access is a part of the employee’s or contractor’s scope of work.”

If they are not already doing so, employers should not only consider performing background checks on potential new hires but to existing employees as well. It is not illegal for an employer to ask questions regarding an applicant or employee’s background as long as it is job related and consistent with business necessity. Employers should, as always, proceed with caution and base their decisions in accordance with existing hiring and termination laws such as the “Ban the Box” regulation. Asking a person of a certain race about their financial history, for example, is evidence of discrimination and violates the laws enforced by the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission).

The following are some steps employers should take while obtaining background information:

  1. Get the applicant’s or employee’s written permission to perform the background check. If employers want reports about a person’s employment, make sure it is clearly stated in a notice and must be in writing and in stand-alone format.
  2. Do not ask any medical questions before a conditional job offer has been made.
  3. If you get information regarding credit or criminal report, employers must notify the applicant or employee in written, stand-alone format. You should disclose that the information could potentially be used for employment decisions. Applicants or employee have the right to a description of the scope should an investigative report be done.

As always, employers should consult with legal or HR professionals for advice when guidance is needed.

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