It is a standard practice for employers to run background checks on potential new hires. Such checks help employers protect their company by learning about the trustworthiness of the candidate through their financial, criminal, and driving records and education and employment verifications. But the pandemic has affected the operations of many institutions worldwide. From court closures to remote college campuses, it may be more difficult for the screening provider to check a criminal record or verify an educational background. Nonetheless, the possibility of delay should not cause employers to lower the standards of their screening policies.
The most important reason why an employer should not temporarily waive certain parts of a background check is because it may make it harder to justify its necessity in the future. For example, say a court is closed and is unable to provide information on candidates’ criminal history. Because of this, an employer who is anxious to add the new hire to the frontline chooses to waive the criminal check requirement. Well, when a court begins to provide legal information again and an employer decides to reinstate the criminal check requirement, the employer could face compliance issues.
Under current anti-discrimination laws, namely Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, employers must demonstrate that its hiring practices are “job related” and “consistent with business necessity.” But if an employer chooses to forgo the criminal checks during the pandemic and wishes to reinstate them later, they may be violating this law. Since the criminal check was once suspended, one could argue that the practice was not job related or that it was not a business necessity. Furthermore, streamlining the employment screening process by waiving certain aspects could lead an employer to overlook valuable insight into a candidate’s character. Therefore, while a shorter background check program during the pandemic could bring short-term benefits, it runs significant long-term risks.
So, what are your options?
We have outlined up two possible avenues available to employers during these times.
Hire now (but reserve the right to run future background checks)
If a company is in a position in which new hires are urgently needed, they may hire the candidates based on the information available to them at the time of the background check and reserve the right to conduct additional background checks post-hire, once information providers resume to normal operations. But if an employer takes this route, they must clearly communicate with both their background check provider and the new hire.
They should work with the background check provider to take note of those candidates whose checks are not yet completed so that the provider can easily revisit the report in the future. Employers should also make it clear in an employee’s offer letter that the offer of employment is contingent upon the successful completion of a background check that may occur at a later date.
Delay the hire
For employers who are required by law to complete background checks prior to a new hire’s start date, they may have to delay the worker’s start date. But whether a background check provider can access the required information for an employment screen depends on the location of the various sources of information, from the courthouses to the educational institutions.
All in all, although background checks may take longer during the pandemic, they are, especially now, critical to manage your risk. With the rising number of job seekers and the remote workforce, companies must do what they can to ensure that they are hiring qualified professionals who will be valuable additions to the company.