The Current State Of Employee Background Checks

June 10, 2020

Background screening for employees is usually divided into 3 parts: public record searches, verifications and drug screening, and with the ongoing health crisis, each part is affected differently:


Public Records:

Most U.S. courts appear to be open and are reporting no changes to their standard processes for fulfilling public records search requests. However, if a court is closed, or if clerks are not available, then information cannot be verified, even if the court has an automated system. While some information can be obtained by automated or online means, it may need to be validated by a court person, and if clerks aren’t working, then courts repositories may not be updated.



Many of the bigger employers use automated methods for carrying out employee verifications, and provided they continue to contribute their employment records to the repositories, and these remain functional, most verifications would be unaffected by virus related closures. However, some smaller and medium sized employers may struggle if they typically rely on traditional methods of employment verification. The alternative in such cases, would be for the prospective employees to provide evidence of their previous work history with a W-2 or pay stubs. That said, it pays to keep in mind the fact that transcripts and diplomas are easily falsified, so employers should use their discretion when assessing all documents submitted to them by candidates.


Drug screening:

Many larger patient service centres are still operating for drug sample collections, while some smaller clinics are offering specimen collection services via a text-ahead service. If you’re an employer who has a physical presence in your workspace, you may want to consider oral fluid testing. This means that a job candidate can come to your workplace and be swabbed for recent uses of certain drugs.


Truncated screening:

With the global pandemic still affecting many countries, including the U.S, some employers may be considering revising their employee screening programs to enable them to quickly hire new workers. While this may get you out of a short-term fix, the long-term consequences can be devastating for companies. There is a strong risk of the entire hiring process becoming negligent and problems in validating the use of criminal checks in the future.


To help prevent against discriminatory hiring practices, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 requires that employers demonstrate that their practices are “job related for the position in question and consistent with business necessity”. If an employer chooses to suspend criminal checks during the pandemic, and reinstate them in the future, then those practices could be deemed un-job related and inconsistent with business necessity as the employer was able to hire employees without the check for some time.


It may seem like a good idea to streamline the background screening process during the pandemic, but in truncating it, employers are at risk of harming their business in the long-term. It’s essential that employers comply with the Fair Credit Reporting Act and all other applicable laws and regulations, and if you’re an employer who isn’t quite sure of their obligations during these difficult times, be sure to reach out to a payroll professional.

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