Should Background Checks Be Mandated?

Posted by on June 5, 2012 in Employee Background Checks [ 0 Comments ]

background checksLast week, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick vetoed portions of a bill that would require the state’s gaming commission to conduct full criminal background checks and drug screenings on all future employees. Fingerprints, photographs, and credit score checks would also be a prerequisite for employment with the commission, no matter what the position is.

The importance and value of background checks for many sensitive positions, industries, and employers is unquestioned, but if you were left to your own discretion (which, as a small business owner, you likely are), would you know where to draw the line?

If you do conduct background checks on potential employees and find something that doesn’t sit well with you, best practices (and new EEOC rules) dictate that you evaluate the situation carefully by considering three things if and when you pull background history on your candidates: the nature of the offense, the length of time since it occurred, and how it relates to the position.

Benefits of Mandated Background Checks

No question, you’d have all the necessary background information on any job candidate that applies. This will help you improve compliance, particularly if your company is in healthcare or financial services. Studies show that 40% of job seekers either provide false information or distort employment applications in some other way. If there are licensing or certification requirements that regulate your company, mandated background checks can keep you from seeing steep fines or audits.

Mandated background checks will also help you weed out any potentially harmful candidates. Without thorough investigations of your applicants, you’re potentially inviting criminal interests to take advantage of your business, or the others that work for you. Fraud, negligence, theft, violence … they are all real concerns for a business owner. You could face fines, litigation fees, and severe damage to your brand’s reputation.

Mandatory background checks might be that insurance policy that ensures the employees you do hire have gone through a rigorous screening process and are high quality.

Drawbacks of Mandated Background Checks

The highest levels of background checks and screening may not be necessary or appropriate for every employee. Would you need:

  • A credit check for a janitor?
  • Fingerprints for a marketing manager?
  • A urine test for an administrative assistant?

It’s overkill.

Further, it’s a tax on your staff resources. You’re potentially wasting staff time and human resources budget by conducting thorough background investigations on every potentially employee. The more information you require, the pricier your reports will be. Plus, ensuring that all background checks are fulfilled and double-checking that histories are satisfactory and requirements are met can be a challenging task for yourself or your human resources department to keep up with.

You might also be missing out from the talent pool. People may decide not to apply for employment with your company if there are any hiccups from their past — even from those foolish college years. They may fear that you’ll automatically disqualify them, which could prevent you from engaging with a potentially dynamic and valuable employee.

Where do you stand on mandated background checks?

Photo source: freakonomics.com


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