Background Checks: How Far Can Georgia Employers Go?

June 3, 2016

Background checks: They have become a natural part of the hiring process for employers. Why? Employers want to make sure they’re consistently considering all key aspects of the lives of their prospective workers.

Background checks are no longer limited to past employment, relations with former employers and references. Now credit checks, criminal records, and social media checks are all par for the background check course. In the age of the Internet, flying under the radar is almost impossible. Any information about a potential employee that exists is almost always available for employers to find online.

Most employers want to be certain they’re employing hardworking and trustworthy staff members. That said, one warning sign (say a financial issue) could cause an employer to turn away a candidate, even if that candidate appeared to be a satisfactory one overall. Why? An employer needs to be able to trust employees with money, company assets and the business’ reputation. As a result, the existence of trust between an employer and an employee is paramount.

One key part of a prospective employee’s past is criminal history. Even a small misdemeanor that occurred years ago could disqualify someone from getting a job. Employees should be aware that when a background check is performed under federal law, potential employees are protected by federal statutes. However, the law is varied and complicated. Even a minor misdemeanor can mean a lost job, especially if the position to be filled requires a license. Why? Occupational licensing boards have the power to use a worker’s criminal record to bar them from receiving certifications required to work in areas such as education and healthcare. In Georgia, there is an absolute ban against people with criminal records working in childcare—even if the arrest happened at some point in the distant past. Georgia employers can screen people through a variety of means (such as through the Georgia County Level Criminal Records Search, Bankruptcy Search, Credit Reports, Federal Prison Search, and the National Sex Offender Search).

That said, potential employees to do share some protections. The Fair Credit Reporting Act 15 U.S.C. 681 aims to ensure that the accuracy and privacy of information that’s provided by these consumer reporting agencies is contained. Though employers are entitled to gain access to criminal records from the Georgia Crime Information Center, the consent of the applicant is required. Finally, employers are not permitted to reject applications in which an applicant has revealed probation, as this is not considered a conviction.

The bottom line? There are many avenues employers can take to search for information. Although employers are generally aware that they are limited in their legal ability to reject people from employment based on information revealed in background checks, any hint of past impropriety, (however minor) is likely to disqualify a candidate from work.

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