What is an Employment Background Check?

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  • Written By: L. Hepfer
  • Edited By: Lindsay D.
  • Last Modified Date: 13 March 2020
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An employment background check is generally performed when someone applies for a job. The background check is used to verify that all information provided by the job applicant is true. Employers may perform the background checks themselves online or hire an outside reputable company to do the work for them.

Before running an employment background check, the employer is required to notify the job applicant in writing and receive written authorization giving them permission to conduct the check. The written authorization must also be done on a separate document from all other documents, including the job application. An employment background check can also be used for existing employees when changing positions within the company.

Schools and other organizations can also conduct these checks on anyone who is a volunteer. New laws state that background checks are required for anyone working with children, the elderly or the disabled such as coaches, boy scout leaders, bus drivers, etc. The number of background checks has increased since the need to tighten security and safety in our country has increased.


An employment background check will verify a number of things such as a person's social security number, their employment history and people they know. A credit report is normally done to check the person's credit history. A motor vehicle report can give an employer a person's full driving record. A criminal background check is generally conducted to look for any criminal history. The history of someone's military service can be checked as well.

The three major credit reporting agencies are lawfully allowed to provide a credit report to a requesting employer, however, they are required to provide them with a modified version called an employment report that only includes a credit payment history and credit habits that the employer may draw conclusions from. Employers will use these to base their judgment on a person's level of responsibility.

School records are confidential and may not be released unless consent is given by the student. An employer is not allowed to request medical records and may not discriminate against anyone with disabilities. Since worker's compensation cases become public record, an employer is allowed to view them but can only use them if it applies to the employee not being able to perform the job duties that are being applied for. Bankruptcy is also a matter of public record, therefore very easy to find, however a person cannot be denied employment for the reason of a bankruptcy. The military has the authority to disclose a person's records without their consent, and laws vary from state to state regarding someone's criminal history.

If a person is not hired as a result of the employment background check, the employer is required to notify them with a pre-adverse action disclosure, include a copy of the report and also a copy of the job applicant's rights. They are also required to supply the person with the appropriate information on the consumer reporting agency, including their name and address, along with their right to dispute the report.

The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) has set standards for all employers to go by and often refers to an employment background check as a consumer report. That law applies only to an outside company commonly referred to as a consumer reporting agency. It does not apply to an employer doing an in-house check. When a person is applying for a job, it would be wise to study the FCRA and know their rights when giving the employer the right to do this evaluation.



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