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Avoiding Risk in Background Screening

July 24, 2021

By Susan Chance, courtesy of SBAM Approved Partner ASE

Is avoiding risk in background screening worth having someone on staff just to help with beefing up your company’s background checking practices? One publication suggests just that. It has been my experience that most people working with backgrounds are wearing many hats, and especially with all of the events of the last 16 months or so, employers have been in a race to keep up with all of the changes to their practices just in regard to the COVID pandemic. Given the time and attention demanded by this, in addition to an already busy schedule, who has time to worry about the details of background checking?

Well, someone should. When is the last time you had a compliance audit for your background screening processes and policies? This may seem like a topic that is brought up often, and it is, with good reason. Many employers need to be reminded of the requirements for the proper authorization and disclosure forms and the need for complete information on applicants, just to name a couple of issues.

Some of these areas are not difficult to manage if you pay attention to the details. That may sound easier said than done for most busy professionals, but it is imperative. Having a subject matter expert (SME) on board to monitor the details and keep staff up to date with training will not only assist in minimizing the risks of making mistakes in background screening, but it can also save time in eliminating the need to have forms redone or to chase down required information.

A proper disclosure form is actually a very short form with minimal information, and that is what it is designed to be. The form must be a stand-a-lone document, so it cannot be combined with other forms or have any “extraneous” information added to it. The number of lawsuits over this form continues to grow, so while it is a “little” form, it is also a very important form.

A middle name for an applicant may also seem like a small matter, but it is not. Running background checks on applicants and employees helps to mitigate the risk of negligent hiring. It is not just running a background but making sure you get the most accurate background check possible. It is surprising how many people do not list their middle name on documents requesting that information.

This can create opportunities for misinformation, especially when the person has a common name. If your applicant’s name is Robert James Smith, but their background is marked that they do not have a middle name, any potential records under Robert James Smith would be removed as they contain a middle name, and the profile states the applicant does not have a middle name. You could end up missing information that would be important in the employment related decision you have to make.

As another example, if the applicant just lists Robert J. Smith, records for Robert James Smith and Robert John Smith could show up. It will take longer to validate the information without the full middle name.

Areas such as negligent hiring or having inappropriate background forms are fast growing areas for lawsuits. Besides the potential legal pitfalls, finding the right person for your available positions is a challenge, and timing to get them on board is so important. A little attention up front can save time in the process and help to keep your company out of legal trouble. Perhaps you should consider having a subject matter expert on your staff.

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