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Employee Privacy Rights-Background checks

Federal and state laws allow background checks for certain jobs, as long as the checks are relevant to the job for which an employee is being hired. These include jobs involving security, trade secrets, health care, and child care. Federal and state laws prohibit employers from gathering or using certain types of background records. Most employers ask for the applicant’s permission for the background check in advance and in writing (though often it’s hidden in small type at the end of the application form). Employers do not have the right to dig into an applicant’s or employee’s personal affairs; they have the right to privacy regarding personal matters.

The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) sets provisions and standards for screening job applicants on the basis of their credit records. A background check can also be used to verify the social security number provided, and may include an analysis of the person’s work history, driving record, or criminal record if any. There may also be interviews (usually by phone) with people the applicant knows. All of these inquiries should be relevant to the job opening.

Privacy on Background check

  • Privacy of employee’s school records - School records cannot be disclosed without the consent of the student (or ex-student).
  • Privacy of employee’s bankruptcy - Bankruptcies are public records; however, the employer cannot discriminate against an employee because he/she filed for bankruptcy.
  • Privacy of employee’s criminal record (if any) - State laws vary on checking the criminal record of the employee. It is illegal to ask questions about the employee’s criminal history beyond a certain point, and that, too, varies for certain positions.
  • Privacy of medical records - It is illegal, if the applicant is disabled, for an employer to ask for medical records and then, on that basis, makes the hiring decision.
  • Privacy of driving records - Checking his/her driving record does not require the consent of the employee.

It is advisable that the applicant or employee be aware of the types of information an employer may seek. It’s better to be prepared than surprised. Obtain a copy of your credit record and, perhaps, your motor vehicle record, too, and correct any errors. It is also beneficial for the applicant to obtain a copy of his/her personnel files from former employers and try to make sure that any references given are favorable. Job applicants should also make sure that information provided in their résumés and job applications are genuine, accurate and up-to-date.

know your rights now!