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What Consent Do I Need to Run A Background Check on a Candidate?

Consent to Run a Background Check on a Job Applicant

Your organization has decided to run an employee background check in Buffalo, NY. What consent do you need from a candidate? In most cases, you will need their permission and their signature. Here’s what you need to know.

What Consent Does the Law Require for Background Checks?

According to the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), companies must notify candidates/employees with a stand-alone written document before requesting consumer information from a third-party. And recognize, the word “credit” in FCRA can be misleading. Third parties include screening providers, consumer reporting agencies, and other specialized agencies as well as credit bureaus. (And, yes, online vendors count as third-party providers too.) The FCRA notice must inform the potential employee:

  1. the organization is conducting a background check
  2. the results may impact hiring/retention decisions
  3. the individual may view and dispute all information.

If the candidate understands and agrees to the terms, they will sign off on this document. Finally, keep in mind, the FCRA is a federal law. States, counties and/or industries may have additional regulations.

Why Do I Need a Candidate’s Consent?

This process may seem excessive but, remember, errors in reporting do happen. A case of mistaken identity or another type of system glitch could result in an inaccurate screening. And, no one wants to lose a job because their background check was wrong. The FCRA gives individuals the opportunity to contest and correct misinformation. Learn more about the FCRA’s pre-adverse and adverse action process here.

How Do I Receive a Candidate’s Consent?

Companies need to create an FCRA compliant consent form. Either a screening provider or a legal team can assist with this process. If a potential employee is on-site, they may sign the paperwork in person. Electronic or e-signatures are another option. This second method is helpful for organizations running lots of background checks or working with offsite employees.

What Happens If I Fail to Receive Consent?

Conducting a background check without consent is not only unethical but also illegal. Ultimately, this can result in lawsuits and fines. Several major corporations including Amazon and Target recently have paid millions of dollars in litigation after they were charged with violating the FCRA. (CBS News, 2019)

Are There Any Situations Where Consent Is Not Required?

Technically, if a company is calling references or previous employers on their own, the FCRA rules do not apply. However, if an organization hires another business and/or person to do the investigative work for them this is, once again, considered a third party. Generally, the best policy is to keep candidates informed. After all, secretly snooping on potential employees is a bad way to start the relationship.

Are You Looking to Run an Employee Background Check in Buffalo, NY?

Metrodata Services is the leading pre-employment screening company in Western New York. We can help you conduct background checks AND stay compliant with federal, state, and local laws. Learn more about the numerous services we offer to meet your hiring needs.

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