Ask The Experts: Prospective Employee Background Checks

Question: May an employer perform a background check on prospective employees? If so, when?

Answer: Background checks are permitted; however, in general, they should not be completed before an employer has made the employee an offer of employment. Background checks provide employers with the means to verify the accuracy of information provided by a job applicant as well as gain other information about an individual that is relevant to employment.

For example, a background check may verify previous employment, salary, education, and any of the following, as applicable:

  • Military service records.
  • Driving records.
  • Credit records.
  • Social Security number.
  • Character references.
  • State licensing records.
  • Criminal records.

Employers may utilize a third party to collect background check information or personally gather information through computerized and posted public records, commercial databases, and Internet search engines. However, employers must ensure that any employed third party or Internet-provided information maintains strict compliance with federal and state laws. Working with a third party is highly encouraged to ensure the greatest level of compliance and consistency with the background check process.