More employers doing routine background checks on potential employees

In an effort to reduce their liability going forward, many companies these days are doing more to make sure that people they are considering for new positions are everything they appear to be. This is done largely by running extensive background checks in an effort to disqualify those who they consider ill-suited for positions they might otherwise have received.

These firms are now starting to hire again after largely straying from the process throughout and in the wake of the recent national recession. However, the economic improvements have done little to reduce the caution some are now undertaking when vetting their potential employees, according to a report from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. This is in part because, even as the number of companies hiring today expands, the practice is still somewhat limited when compared with those observed prior to the national recession. And as a result of unemployment rates still being relatively high – though nowhere near those seen during and immediately following the downturn – it allows hiring businesses to be a bit choosier.

Today, the hiring processes at a large number of employers nationwide mandate that certain checks must be made when hiring for select positions, the report said. For instance, many are now mandating that applicants for jobs related to buying and selling equipment and other products go through criminal background checks.

"That will be the next step, because of our growth and increased visibility and liability," Paul Koetting, director of human for systems integration firm World Wide Technology resources, told the newspaper. "We're always trying to protect the company from all angles. When we were a smaller company, it wasn't as important. When you get bigger, you can become a target."

What employers are now looking for
Data from the AAIM Employers Association, an organization that helps Illinois and Missouri-based businesses conduct a number of services, including background checks, shows just how much this practice has gained popularity in recent years, the report said. In 2012, 810 companies used its background or drug testing services, up from 392 just a year earlier. However, another type of check that employers are now running with considerably more frequency relates to whether applicants have been named as plaintiffs in civil suits in the previous seven years. In all, the organization's AAIMCheck program ran 19,215 background checks and 4,236 drug tests on prospective employees last year, up from just 8,313 and 502, respectively, in 2010.

However, in doing all this, it is important that employers don't violate federal law related to the ways in which they run background checks and drug tests on these applicants, the report said. For instance, certain parts of the Civil Rights Act may be violated if workers of different races or national origins receive varying consideration for checks of criminal history, specifically. This was mandated by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's latest round of guidance, issued about a year ago.

Moreover, many consumer advocates say that some of these processes – which in many states can also include credit checks, as this particular practice is only outlawed in a small number – may be unfair to workers who despite some sort of trouble in their past may in fact be perfectly qualified for the position to which they are applying now. Companies that want to avoid running into legal trouble as a result of their desire to make sure workers meet all internal qualifications may want to take the time to set processes that are known to be in compliance with state and federal laws.