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Understanding Civil Background Checks and Why You Should Conduct Them When Hiring

If you’re hiring in Buffalo, NY, you probably realize pre-screening your employees is a smart idea. So, what types of record checks should you run? Criminal background checks? Civil background checks? Or both? Here’s what you need to know.

Understanding Civil Background Checks

What’s the Difference Between a Civil and Criminal Background Check?

Criminal background checks report crimes against the state. These may include felony and misdemeanor convictions, incarcerations, and pending criminal cases. On the other hand, civil background checks list cases brought to court by the alleged victim or wronged party. Criminal cases could lead to jail time and/or fines, while civil cases often result in financial penalties and/or judge’s orders. In addition, criminal cases must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, whereas civil cases follow less rigorous standards. The O.J. Simpson case is a well-known example of the difference between criminal and civil trials. Simpson was acquitted of murder in a criminal court but was found legally responsible in civil court. Although he wasn’t sent to jail for committing a crime, he was ordered to pay $33.5 million in a civil settlement.

What Will Civil Backgrounds Check Show?

Civil records can be pulled at the local or federal level. Most states divide local cases between lower and upper courts based on the amount of the claim. Typically, lower courts handle claims for under $5,000, while upper courts handle claims for over $5,000. Local claims uncover matters involving contracts, discrimination, eviction, car accidents, personal injury, nonpayment for goods, consumer rights, and product liability. Family law matters, such as estate disputes, divorce, child support, and child custody, also show up on civil background checks. At the federal level, civil record searches include issues concerning civil rights, interstate commerce, tax disputes, financial institutions, and government regulations. Since the federal bankruptcy court is a civil court, you may learn about any bankruptcies filed by the candidate too. At both the local and federal level, a civil background check will show results regardless of whether the individual was the plaintiff or the defendant.

Why Are Civil Background Checks an Important Part of the Hiring Process?

As with other types of pre-employment screening, civil background checks provide insight into a potential candidate’s values, judgments, and behaviors. This type of information is beneficial if you are hiring someone for a financial or managerial role. For example, if someone owes hundreds of thousands of dollars in tax liens, you may not want to put them in charge of your business’s accounts. Similarly, if a potential hire was sued by their former employer for leaking company secrets, you’ll most likely think twice before adding them to your executive team.

How Do You Run a Civil Background Check?

Civil background checks fall under the Fair Credit Report Act (FCRA). This federal law ensures the accuracy, fairness, and privacy of consumer information. Despite the name, the FCRA applies to all consumer information, not just credit reports. This means, if your company is conducting a background screening through a third-party vendor, you must follow FCRA guidelines. Specifically, you need to 1) Tell the candidate you plan to run a background check in a stand-alone document. 2) Inform them the results may impact hiring/retention decisions. 3) Receive their written consent. 4) Give them the opportunity to view the report and contest any possible errors using the FCRA pre-adverse and adverse action process. Finally, keep in mind, you will need to comply with state, local, and industry laws too. A screening provider accredited by the Professional Background Screening Association (PBSA) can walk you through this process.

How Often Should You Conduct Civil Background Checks?

You run a civil background check on a potential hire, and everything looks good. You’re done! Right? Maybe not. Even over the course of a few years, employees’ lives can change dramatically. They could lose a major lawsuit, file for bankruptcy, or suffer through a messy divorce. And, despite your efforts to keep track of your team, you might meet someone who hides their problems incredibly well. Thus, your organization may decide to conduct not only civil but also other types of background screening on a more regular basis. Ultimately, the frequency depends on the position and your company’s needs. For instance, running civil background checks on an entry-level accountant every six months is excessive. However, you should screen your chief financial officers more than once every twenty years. Again, a screening provider can advise you on the policies that make the most sense for your business.

Does Your Company Need Help with Pre-Employment Screening?

Whether you need to conduct civil background checks, criminal record searches, or both, Metrodata Services is here for you. Located in Buffalo, NY, Metrodata Services designs customized background screening packages to fit every organization’s needs best. Plus, as a PBSA accredited vendor, we’ll make sure you stay compliant with all federal, state, and local laws. Learn more about the advantages of partnering with Metrodata today!

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