Managing the background check consent process efficiently and with candor is not just putting a tick in a box – it’s an essential component of risk management. Whether you’re vetting potential employees or investigating the background of clients, reliable background checks form the backbone of a trustworthy security firm.
However, navigating the complexities of background checks, understanding the legal implications, and choosing the right third-party service can often overwhelm you.
Welcome to our comprehensive guide to help you get down to business with managing background check consents properly, professionally, and, most importantly, efficiently. This guide will help empower security firms and organization security professionals with the knowledge you need to complete effective, legal, and thorough background checks as required.
In this guide, I’ll dive deep into the nuances of common check types, debunk some common misconceptions, explore self-analysis versus third-party services, and even get into some common questions and answers about the process.
In a world where trust is your currency, our guide will help ensure your firm stays ahead of the game with some great tips and a handy mobile reporting tool to make managing exponentially more straightforward. Let’s dive in.
Understanding Background Checks
Put plainly; a background check investigates a person or entity’s credit and criminal history. Often these checks are required to work in sensitive areas or careers, from law enforcement to security to working in customs-controlled facilities or areas of a facility under similar scrutiny.
To proceed with a background check, you need to get written permission. Enter the Background Check Consent Form (or similar apparatus used to obtain written consent).
There are several types of background checks you may need to complete. Below I’ve added a brief description of each type.
Credit Background Check
Anyone who has applied to finance something, applied for a credit card, mortgage, or other such item will undoubtedly have their credit investigated. Sometimes work environments such as banks and other financial institutions may require a credit background check of their employees to ensure they practice what they preach.
Criminal Background Check
Criminal background checks are standard in industries like security and policing. Similarly, working in sensitive areas or with sensitive or dangerous materials might require a criminal background check to ensure that risk management practices cover all the bases.
Employment Background Check
If you’ve applied for work in the last twenty years, you’ll know about an employment background check. This check typically involves contacting references and former employers to get their opinion on an individual’s work ethic, training, knowledge, and other relevant factors such as previous job performance.
FBI Background Check (Federal-Level Investigation)
A federal investigation into a person’s criminal history involves the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), known as an FBI Background Check. Other countries that have states or provinces usually have a corresponding program to identify background checks on either a regional or national level. The FBI in the United States handles the national background check process.
Motor Vehicle Background Check
Motor vehicle background checks involve a search of a person’s driving record. These sorts of investigations are often a prerequisite to driving expensive company vehicles, such as tractor-trailers.
Professional License Background Check
A professional license background check is an investigation into the validity of a person or entity’s certification with a regulatory body or bodies. You’ll find professional license qualifications standards in health care and similar industries.
Tenant Background Check
Tenant background checks often involve other checks, like credit history or creditworthiness. Similarly, tenant background checks often include correspondence with former landlords and such to identify if a person or company is a good candidate for tenancy.
As you can see, several types of background checks are available for use by employers, landlords, and others who require them. However, it doesn’t mean that anyone can throw background checks around like a deck of cards – there are rules and regulations to follow. Let’s take a look at some of those regulations.
Legal Implications of Background Checks
Background checks are legal in many countries, including Canada and the United States. However, certain laws affect the process and some considerations employers need to follow. Each province and state generally have its own specific rules and regulations, but the basis of these regulations remains generally the same. Let’s use the United States as our example.
Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA)
The Fair Credit Reporting Act is a federal US law that regulates how employers can use consumer reports, including credit and background checks. There are three basic points to consider as an employer:
- You must obtain written permission from the applicant before conducting any form of background check.
- You must notify the applicant if you (the employer) intend to take adverse action based on the background check results. In simple terms, if the background check is bad, and you intend to fire, not hire, or deny promotions due to the result, you need to tell the applicant in writing of your intention and reason.
- You must allow applicants to review and dispute any potentially inaccurate information found on the background check investigation.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or EEOC for short, is the United States federal agency that enforces laws to protect employees and potential employees from discrimination. The sort of discrimination that involves background checks might be age, race, creed, or sexual orientation-based criteria for background check requirements. In other words, if you institute a policy requiring certain roles to have background checks, you must ensure that all are treated fairly and that there is no discrimination or bias towards any group of people. Furthermore, the EEOC also ensures that criminal checks do not significantly disadvantage individuals of a certain race, origin, or other protected characteristic.
State and Local Laws
Getting to know the federal regulations in a country is usually somewhat straightforward; however, did you know that each state, territory (or province in the case of Canada) has its specific nuances to the codes, regulations, and laws that govern or affect the background check process? Please make sure to check with your local authorities to ensure you are acting in a lawful and compliant manner.
Privacy laws have become the main stage of public awareness in the last decade with the amount of data hacks and privacy concerns of people, companies, and industries. Just look at some of the biggest hacks of the decade, like the Yahoo data breach of 2013 to 2016 that exposed 3 billion user accounts. Or the Microsoft Exchange Server Data Breach of 2021 that exposed 250,000 or more businesses and governments worldwide. Privacy is a serious issue; you must maintain confidentiality with information gleaned from background checks.
Negligent Hiring Liability
On the flip side of regulations is liability. In particular, companies might face liability if they require strict security and one of their ‘professionals’ with a poor background check slips through and then gets caught doing something unsavory. Although it’s not necessarily a regulation (unless they break the law), you have to be sure that the information from the background check is appropriately scrutinized to ensure no one with the wrong qualifications ends up in a position of security.
Process of Getting a Background Check
Let’s take a look at each of the background check types and their corresponding processes and timeframes. I’ve organized the information into a table for easy reference below.
|Background Check Type
|Timeline (average, most locales)
|Employment Background Check
|In-house HR professionals or third-party FCRA-compliant services conduct an investigation. Personal information of the applicant is required (social security, address, and so forth.).
|Typically two days to a week.
|Criminal Background Check (local/state/provincial)
|Conducted by registered third-party or local police service.
|Typically a simple check is completed within 24 hours, but more complex checks may take a week or longer.
|Credit Background Check
|Conducted by third-party credit bureaus and sometimes internally via financial institutions.
|Usually, this type of background check is instant or same-day.
|Tenant Background Check
|Conducted by a property manager or appointed third party.
|Typically two days to a week.
|FBI Background Check (Federal Criminal Background Check)
|It involves submitting a request to the FBI using Form I-783 and providing fingerprints using Form FD-258. You can submit via mail or through a third-party agency approved by the FBI.
|The average wait time for this form of background check is 30 days.
|Professional License Background Check
|A request is submitted to a specific regulatory licensing body.
|Usually, it takes a few days to a week for a response.
|Motor Vehicle Background Check (Driving Record Check)
|Organizations or appointed third parties can obtain driver information from the Department of Motor Vehicles or corresponding agencies in other countries.
|Usually within 24 hours.
Here’s a general rundown of the typical steps.
- Find out what information you need from a candidate.
- Request the candidate’s permission (in writing) to obtain information appropriate to the situation via the background check type.
- Upon receiving written permission, provide the candidate with an information form to complete with all information required to complete the background check.
- Upon receipt of the background check, communicate with the applicant if it was satisfactory or if you are going to take a different approach due to poorly received information. It is best practice to provide the candidate with a pre-adverse action notice, a copy of the background check, and a copy of their rights under the FCRA.
- Provide the candidate with an opportunity to correct any inaccuracies from the background check.
Implications of Adverse Background Checks
An adverse background check can have significant implications for employers and potential employees. These checks might reveal information that could disqualify a candidate for a job or a current team member from continuing in their role. Here are some of the key implications:
A candidate could be denied a job opportunity if a background check reveals a criminal history, poor credit history, falsified qualifications, or other adverse findings. Likewise, an existing team member could be denied a promotion or could even face termination.
Legal Issues for Employers
Employers who take adverse action based on a background check need to be aware of the legal requirements under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and other applicable laws. As mentioned, before taking any adverse action, employers must provide a pre-adverse action notice, a copy of the background check report, and a copy of the FCRA rights. After the adverse action is taken, the employer must provide an adverse action notice to the individual.
Employers must be consistent in using background checks to avoid potential discrimination claims. Using background checks to disproportionately disqualify candidates of a certain race, age, gender, or other protected class could result in legal action.
If adverse information is revealed during a background check, employers must ensure they handle it sensitively and confidentially to respect privacy rights and avoid potential legal issues.
Reputation Impact: An adverse background check could affect candidates’ reputations and future job prospects. For employers, mishandling the background check process or using it unfairly could damage their reputation and lead to legal issues.
Rehabilitation and Second Chances
Employers should consider the nature, recency, and relevance of an adverse finding to the job in question. Not all adverse findings necessarily predict job performance, and many jurisdictions encourage or require employers to give individuals with a criminal record a fair chance at employment.
Given these implications, it’s essential for both employers and individuals to understand their rights and obligations when it comes to background checks. Individuals should ensure the information on their background checks is accurate and up to date, while employers should use background checks responsibly and legally to make informed hiring decisions.
Third-Party Services vs. Self-Checks
Let’s take a moment to consider the advantages and disadvantages of utilizing a third party to complete a background check or perform it in-house.
Third-party services are a great option if you don’t know the legal side of getting background checks done. Here’s a little breakdown of some of the advantages and disadvantages of utilizing third-party background investigation services.
|Comprehensive and efficient – Third-party services have all the resources set up to complete checks.
|Cost – Third-party services are often costly and can add up if higher-level background checks are a requirement.
|Legal compliance – Third-party services operate knowing the latest rules and regulations, helping to ensure compliance.
|Accuracy concerns – Sometimes, third-party services can make mistakes due to work volume or other issues.
|Reduced liability – Reduced risk of discrimination, privacy infringement, and other potential liabilities.
|Impersonal – Being impartial might be good for most people, but the impersonal nature of the service may put some off.
|Time-saving – In industries with high turnover, third-party services can save organizations time and money.
In-House Background Checks
If you work at a smaller company, you might be inclined to complete background checks in-house. I have worked in this exact situation on both sides of the managerial fence, so that I can attest to this situation. At the very least, try using an in-house background check consent form, like that found in the digital reporting app 1st Reporting.
|Cost-effective – For smaller companies, the cost-effectiveness of managing background checks in-house is appealing.
|Time-consuming – Depending on the process, you might find it rather time-consuming for individuals managing the process, especially if the candidate requests revisions to the information.
|Control – Controlling the background check process gives you total control over all aspects.
|Limited resources – While saving money is great for smaller companies, they often lack the resources that third-party services will have set up.
|Personal touch – In-house background check management means you and your team can add a personal touch, ensuring professionalism and respect for all stakeholders.
|Legal risks – Similar to a lack of resources, legal considerations mustn’t be ignored. Third-party services are often the experts regarding the legalities involved in background checks.
Common Misconceptions about Background Checks
There are many misconceptions about background checks, but three predominantly stand out.
- You can find all the information in a background check online.
Some think that they can find out what they need to know online with a little sleuthing. Although you might find some less-than-perfect images in social media, most of the information gleaned on real background checks is not readily available online.
- All background checks are the same.
All background checks are not the same. For example, I can attest that even criminal background checks have levels of depth. For example, in Ontario, Canada, you can get a criminal record check, a criminal record and judicial matters check, and a vulnerable sectors check. The first is obviously just a person’s criminal record; the second is a copy of the first, but also a search report for any judicial matters (like getting sued), and the last one, the vulnerable sector report, digs into more, including things like not criminally responsible due to mental disorders and further record suspension (pardons) related to sexually-based offenses.
- Applicants cannot dispute findings.
Applicants have the right to dispute a background check. They should have the opportunity to present evidence to rectify their report. After all, mistakes in information and data happen, so you need to give people the benefit of the doubt. Always ensure you treat everyone fairly and follow local regulations regarding background checks.
Background Check FAQ
What types of background checks are most relevant for the security industry?
In the security industry, it’s crucial to conduct comprehensive background checks, including criminal history checks, employment verification, identity verification, credit checks (especially for roles involving financial responsibility), and professional license verification. Of course, you’ll want to conduct (or have third-party conduct on your behalf) more in-depth background checks for higher-level security roles.
Are background checks legally required in the security industry?
Depending on the jurisdiction and classification of the security personnel, a background check may or may not be a legal requirement. However, each state, province, or territory will have its own requirements, which depend on the type of security. For example, security personnel who work at a local shopping mall may not necessarily be required by law to have more than operational training by their employer.
However, if a security person is working at a nuclear power plant, for example, one would assume that in such a situation, it would be a legal requirement (at least, we would hope). The best thing to do is check with authorities in your jurisdiction and remember that for security, background checks are, at the very least, a best practice.
How often should we re-screen our security staff?
Typical re-screening or re-certification runs between 2 and 3 years, depending on where you live. Some municipalities might even stretch specific classification requirements by as much as a five-year cycle. It’s best practice to increase re-screening and refresher training frequency for critical roles.
Can we conduct background checks on our own, or should we use a third-party service?
There are several benefits to utilizing a third-party service to conduct background checks on your behalf. The liability and legal requirements alone make it worthwhile in many cases.
However, it will depend on the type of security work and nature of sensitivity required, among a variety of other factors, I’m sure. If you’re operating a smaller organization, you might opt for doing your own background checks, and depending on the type and nature of the background check, it might be relatively easy to manage on your own.
If you do opt for in-house management of background checks, ensure that you or your supervising staff refresh themselves on the latest legal and legislative changes in your jurisdiction regarding the rights of both parties.
Use common sense and ensure you have a documented system in place. Utilizing a standardized system is one way to help ensure impartiality and stop any forms of discrimination within the process itself.
Background checks are like the secret sauce in the security industry – they’re essential to hiring the right people. They’re a must, whether you’re hiring the security guy for a mall or an officer for a nuclear power plant. And remember, you can’t just rely on a quick Google search. Real background checks go way deeper than that.
Here’s the deal, though: conducting background checks is a bit like walking a tightrope. You’ve got to balance finding out what you need to know and doing it without stepping on anyone’s toes legally or privacy-wise. And if you find something bad, like a criminal record, you must consider how recent and relevant it is. We all make mistakes, right?
A big part of this is staying up-to-date on the legal side of things, whether you’re doing your background checks in-house or through a third party. Each approach has pros and cons – third parties know their stuff and can save you time, but they can be costly and impersonal. Doing it yourself can save money, but it takes time and requires you to be on top of all the legal ins and outs.
Just remember, background checks aren’t one-size-fits-all. They vary in depth, and applicants can dispute any findings. It is all about fairness and following local regulations. They’re a vital tool in the security industry to keep everyone safe. So, handle them carefully, and you’ll be good to go.
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