Invasion of Privacy?Your Background Check: Private Or Public If you are faced with the possibility of having to undergo a background check as a prerequisite for obtaining a new job you may be wondering about your right to privacy and those isuues with your employer.Buzz
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Why should I worry about a background check?
Know that your employer has a right to know more about you; especially with regard to any possible criminal history and past job performance.
Fact #1: Virtually all criminal records are public. If you commit a crime or even if you don't and you are charged with a crime, the record of that is available to the public. Courts have records of all crimes or suspected crimes that made it to court. Some police departments make their arrest logs available.
'What about the presumption of innocence?' you may ask. That is still in effect, but nevertheless the charges brought against you are public record. In fact anyone can go down to the local courthouse and request to see your record, and they don't even have to be a citizen. About half of the country's criminal records are available online in some form or another, often on fee or subscription sites.
Juvenile records are the exception to this rule and are generally sealed unless the person was tried as an adult for a major crime.
If you have a minor crime in your past try to get it expunged from the record. Technically an employer can't deny you employment if you had a minor criminal record in your past where you were found not guilty. Like the old saying, 'You can't un-ring a bell.' Once they see a criminal record it tends to stick in their minds. Getting a record expunged is relatively simple and usually doesn't require an attorney. There are internet companies that specialize in expungement.
Fact # 2: There is no magic government database that lists all of your previous employment and education. A surprising amount of otherwise smart people ask me, 'Can you get a list of someone's previous employment and verify it?' The simple answer is No. there is no database with your employment listed. Remember, background checkers are verifiers. You have to give us the info, we then verify it.
Fact # 3: Employers can get credit info on you. Employers can order a Credit Report which is a specially designed credit report specifically for employment purposes. It is exactly the same as a regular credit report with two important exceptions; It doesn't show your credit account numbers and it doesn't tell your age or date of birth. The good news for you is that you are notified whenever one of these reports is ordered on you.
Most credit bureaus require a separate consent form signed by you to enable the employer to order a credit report. This is to prevent having the consent text buried in the fine print of and employee background check consent form and having the report ordered without your express permission.
Fact #4: Employers can ask your date of birth for the purpose of obtaining your criminal history, because criminal records are searched by name and date of birth. What they may not do is discriminate based on your age. There are still people out there that think that if a potential employer asks for their date of birth that they can automatically sue for age discrimination. No, you have to be discriminated against first. Most recent legislation has set the bar much higher for age discrimination lawsuits. You have to show a pattern of age discrimination by the employer, which is vastly more difficult to prove.
Throughout the 14+ years that I have been doing background checks I have had many, many arguments with people and attorneys (a little joke here) who say that an employer may not ask for age or date of birth. They are wrong, Period. Saying, 'Show me the law.' usually works against their argument, but for the really hard cases I always ask them if, at their business, the human resource people are blindfolded when they conduct an interview. 'Why would they be?' they ask. To which I reply, 'God forbid that they could tell the applicant's sex, race, religion, national origin, etc, all things that an employer may not discriminate against.
Another word about discrimination: While the above is true, some legal discrimination does occur. (How many old, fat lifeguards have you seen at the beach, for example?) The acronym is BFOQ which stands for Bona Fide Occupational Qualification which basically means that if a church wants to hire a pastor, they can require that he be of that faith or if