Is there Such a Thing as a ‘Certified’ Background Check?

Is there Such a Thing as a ‘Certified’ Background Check?

Two business people discussing ideas in co-working space with aBackground checks insure you have the right employee.

Running a background check of your employees is important, but equally important is to trust the check you’re running. So how do you judge the quality of a background check?

Background Checks And Certifications

It’s fairly common to ask if a background check is “certified,” but that’s the wrong question to ask. There’s not really a certification process, per se, for background checks. This is a function of how background checks work: There’s simply no way to “certify” scanning public records and compiling data. There is, however, a legal obligation to be aware of when you run a background check for employment purposes: The Federal Credit Reporting Act, or FCRA says that when you use a third party (a Credit Reporting Agency) there are specific rules and procedures outlined by the FCRA that must be followed.

What is FCRA?

Passed in 1970, the Fair Credit Reporting Act is designed to prevent the inclusion and spread of false or inaccurate information in consumer data files. To that end, it regulates credit bureaus and their customers, and it has a few specific requirements you’ll need to meet when conducting a background check.

First, you’re obligated to only use the information you acquire in certain ways, of which employment background checks is one, so you’ll be abiding by the law there. Secondly, you’ll need to disclose to employees that you will run the report, get their consent to do so, and inform them if you won’t be hiring them according to the results of their background check. Finally, you’ll be required to identify the background check company or Credit Reporting Agency you use to allow the applicant to contest any inaccuracy in the report.

In addition to the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act, twenty-eight states have laws that add obligations to the standard FCRA. For example, California has a supplemental law called the Investigative Consumer Reporting Agencies Act, or ICRA, that requires agencies to disclose anyone who’s run a background check on them in their records.

Failure to meet these obligations can expose you to legal liability and bad press; it can be especially difficult if you’ve denied a job to an employee based on flawed information. So, how can you protect yourself and ensure a background check is properly run?


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Always know who you’re hiring.

FCRA And Background Checks

First of all, before approaching any background check agency, do your research and know what your obligations are under the law. Even when hiring the best, it still helps protect you and your employees from legal liability to know what your responsibilities are under the law, and these obligations will help you form policy as you go forward.

Secondly, ask detailed questions of any agency you’re considering about FCRA and how they’ll help you meet your obligations. Any agency worth paying will be fully aware of the law and your obligations relating to it, and will have solutions to ensure you’re meeting those requirements.

Finally, ask the agency to lay out its process for you. Do they require you to obtain consent from all applicants? Do they provide the form they need you to have signed? If an employee asks for their report, do they have a process in place to deliver it? If so, you’ve found an agency you can trust.

If you’d like to see how the best run a background check, request a free background check trial to learn about our process. We’ll help you find the best employees for your business.

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