Why Does An Employer Conduct A Background Check?
Motivation for an employer to require background checks is often based on the desire to safeguard corporate assets and mitigate risk. The practice has increased by 30 percent since 1996, and most companies now require it. Desirable outcomes that influence an employer’s decision to use background checks include these:
• Avoiding Liability
An employer who fails to protect clients and workers from injury caused by another employee can face negligent hiring lawsuits. A bad hiring decision can have a negative impact on a company’s reputation and budget, and hiring officials may face consequences as well. The frequency of lawsuits for negligent hiring is increasing.
• Protecting Children
The requirement for a criminal background check for anyone whose job requires contact with children helps prevent abductions and abuse. Regulations apply to volunteer scout leaders or youth coaches as well as to company employees. The National Child Protection Act gives state officials permission to check the National Crime Information Center at the FBI for certain positions.
• Preventing Terrorist Acts
The attack on the World Trade Center’s twin towers on September 11, 2001 raised awareness of the need for heightened identity verification and security in the workplace. An employer may choose to examine the background of long-time employees as well as new hires, seeking more extensive evaluation since the terrorist attack.
• Avoiding Corporate Scandals
Intense scrutiny now extends to applicants for positions as corporate directors, officers and executives as a result of the Enron debacle and other scandalous corporate events in 2002. Private lives as well as professional behaviors are the target of background investigations.
• Verifying Resumes
Inflated descriptions of employee qualifications may form the basis of resume fraud. Human resource professionals face challenges in detecting embellishments and outright falsifications on applicants’ resumes. Statistics show that 78 percent of resumes contain misleading information, and more than one-fifth claim degrees that are fraudulent. Nearly half of salary information is inflated. News articles feature details of resume fraud involving high profile executives.
• Complying with State and Federal Laws for Employment
Everyone who works for the federal government receives a background check of credit as well as criminal history. Employees who work with sensitive information usually require a security clearance as well. Ascertaining an applicant’s reliability and trustworthiness is a requirement prior to employment that provides access to sensitive intelligence. Laws regarding the use of criminal history in hiring decisions vary from state to state. The Department of Justice provides guidelines for screening employees who serve elderly and disabled Americans.
• Accessing Current Information
The availability of computer databases is a likely reason for an increasing use of employment screening. Millions of records containing personal data are rapidly available, and the cost of searching them continues to drop. With access to plentiful resources, an employer may find that it is feasible to obtain background checks.