In the aftermath of 9-11, and the growing problem of workplace violence, the demand and need for employee background checks and security checks are now greater than ever. Employers are turning to investigative companies in greater numbers to run employee background checks on new job applicants and existing employees, including positions where security may not have previously been given much consideration in the “pre 9-11" era. Many employers are now requiring security clearances for many non-defense related “high-tech" positions including computer programming. Employee background checks are required by Federal or State law for certain occupations such as jobs working with children, law enforcement, defense contractors, and any Federal employment.
Often, in employee background checks, especially where a security clearance is required, employers may run criminal records checks on the spouse of a job applicant as well and decide not to hire somebody based on their spouse's criminal record, even if the applicant has a squeaky clean record. In a traditional employee background check, only the applicant or employee is investigated while for a security clearance, the spouse and other family members are investigated as well. This holds true not just for top secret job positions within the US Military, or defense contractors, but now many “high-tech" civilian jobs such as programming as well. Unfortunately in some situations, whom one is married to can determine their employability. A dishonorable discharge from the US Military will automatically eliminate any chances of getting a security clearance.
In an employee background check, some things cannot be reported: Civil lawsuits, judgments older than 7 years, paid tax liens and collections paid after 7 years, bankruptcies older than 10 years. All over information except for criminal convictions older than 7 years. While employers are prohibited from requiring applicants to provide copies of their criminal records, they can obtain this information from other sources such as private agencies or public records.
Criminal histories or “rap sheets" are not public record in every state. In some states such as California, these are only available to certain employers where employee background checks are required by State and/or Federal law such as ie: public utilities, child care services, law enforcement, security companies, defense contractors.
A credit background check is very often part of an employee background check, however employers are required to obtain the employee's or applicant's written consent under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, FCRA (15 U. S. C. §1681). Many employers consider a person's credit habits a good judge of character. Following any decisions not to hire somebody based on their credit report, a copy of the report must be provided to the employee, or applicant, so they may have to option to challenge it. Employers cannot fire a current employee for filing bankruptcy, but potential employers can legally reject a job applicant. There are two different kinds of credit checks. A standard credit bureau report is obtained from any one of the 3 credit bureaus, Equifax, Experion, or Transunion. This reveals a person's credit worthiness, credit habits, credit capacity. An investigative consumer report is much more extensive and delves into a person's character, mode of living, reputation, etc. This is usually acquired by contacting associates, even neighbors or friends of the applicant to inquire as to their character.
In today's increasingly security-conscious world, employers feel they have a responsibility for the welfare and safety of their employees, company reputation, and liability. Job seekers and employees can expect more employee background checks, and be placed under the microscope more than ever before.
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