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背景调查合法吗?

无论您是制定候选人筛选政策的雇主,还是应对工作申请和面试的求职者,花时间熟悉背景调查的合法性可能是个好主意。您可能会问,“背景调查是否合法?” 毕竟,这不是侵犯隐私吗?

简而言之,背景调查是合法的。雇主有权知道他们正在雇用谁。此外,背景调查中出现的任何事情——无论是刑事定罪、交通违规、民事法庭案件记录还是大学学位——都是  技术上  公开记录。雇主可以研究这些信息,并在做出招聘决定时将其考虑在内。大多数雇主也行使这项权利:根据 CareerBuilder 进行的一项调查,72% 的雇主对每位新员工进行背景调查。

话虽如此,雇主进行背景调查的权利并不是绝对或无限的。法律法规限制雇主进行背景调查的时间和方式,并在其决策中使用背景信息。所有求职者也拥有自己的权利,雇主在工作筛选过程中使用背景调查时必须遵守这些权利。

背景调查法律和限制

有几项法律和条例限制了雇主使用背景调查来筛选候选人或对其招聘做出不利决定的能力。其中一些法律适用于全国。其他是州法律或地方条例。由于存在差异,雇主和候选人都应该检查他们居住的地方是合法的。

以下是一些通常适用于就业背景调查的限制:

FCRA 合规性

公平信用记录法 (FCRA) 是任何有关就业背景调查合法性的对话中最重要的文件之一。FCRA 不禁止雇主对申请人进行背景调查。相反,它提供了雇主在对潜在员工进行背景调查之前和之后必须遵循的步骤。 

在检查之前,雇主必须遵循一套严格的规则来获得候选人对背景调查的书面同意。具体而言,雇主必须向候选人提供独立于任何其他申请材料或同意书的披露和授权表格。 

在背景调查之后,如果雇主希望根据报告的结果做出不利的招聘决定,它必须首先:

  1. 以书面形式将决定通知候选人

  2. 向候选人提供导致该决定的背景调查报告的副本

  3. 向候选人提供有关准备背景调查报告的公司的详细信息

  4. 告诉候选人背景调查公司没有做出招聘决定,尽管准备了相关报告

  5. 通知候选人他或她可以向背景调查公司索取一份额外的报告副本

  6. 通知候选人其有权联系背景调查公司并对报告的准确性提出异议

未能遵循任何或所有这些步骤将使背景调查的合法性无效,并使雇主容易受到 FCRA 诉讼。

EEOC 指南

平等就业机会委员会制定的背景调查指南并不像 FCRA 规定的那样严格。但是,雇主必须了解 EEOC 指南以及它如何保护候选人免受歧视。 

首先,雇主必须一视同仁地对待每个候选人。对于给定工作的所有候选人,背景调查过程必须相同。如果某个种族的人面临犯罪记录检查、信用记录检查和教育验证,那么同一工作的所有其他候选人必须得到相同的待遇。背景调查可能因职位而异,但不会因这些职位内的候选人而异。

在使用背景调查信息时,雇主必须注意歧视问题。例如,雇主不能简单地禁止所有具有任何类型犯罪历史的候选人。相反,雇主需要查看他们试图填补的职位,并弄清楚哪些类型的犯罪历史记录与工作职责相关。仅仅因为一个人被定罪并不意味着它会影响他们完成手头工作的能力。

在背景调查信息方面,雇主必须对每个人应用相同的标准。如果 10 年前的轻微盗窃定罪不会取消白人申请人的工作资格,那么它也不能取消黑人候选人的资格。

最后,雇主必须谨慎制定任何“对特定种族的个人造成重大不利影响”的背景调查标准。这种做法被称为“不同影响”,它是 EEOC 相关诉讼的常见来源。 

禁止信用记录检查

过去,雇主会查看信用记录以了解候选人的性格、财务责任以及欺诈或挪用公款的意愿。这些支票对于涉及处理金钱或其他财务责任的工作具有价值。然而,越来越普遍的论点是,不良信用是环境的结果,并不能提供对一个人的技能、气质或犯罪可能性的具体洞察。 

因此,一些州和城市已通过法律禁止或限制使用信用记录检查进行就业。拥有这些法律的州包括加利福尼亚州、伊利诺伊州和华盛顿州。受影响的城市包括纽约市和芝加哥。雇主在使用信用记录检查之前应检查当地法律。

In short, background checks are legal. Employers have the right to know who they are hiring. Furthermore, anything that comes up on a background check—be it a criminal conviction, a traffic violation, the record of a civil court case, or a college degree—is  technically  public record. Employers can research this information and take it into account when making hiring decisions. Most employers exercise this right, too: according to a survey conducted by CareerBuilder, 72% of employers conduct background checks on every new employee.

With that said, an employer’s right to conduct background checks is not absolute or unlimited. There are laws and regulations that limit when and how employers can run background checks and use background information in their decision-making. All job applicants also have rights of their own that the employer must observe while using background checks in the job screening process.

Background Check Laws and Limitations

There are several laws and ordinances that limit an employer’s ability to use background checks to screen candidates or make adverse decisions about their hiring. Some of these laws are applicable nationwide. Others are state laws or local ordinances. Because of the variation, employers and candidates alike should check what is legal where they live.

Here are a few of the limitations that often apply to employment background checks:

FCRA Compliance

The Fair Credit Recording Act (FCRA) is one of the most important documents in any conversation about the legality of employment background checks. The FCRA does not prohibit employers from conducting background checks on applicants. Rather, it provides steps that employers must follow before and after running background checks on prospective employees. 

Before the check, an employer must follow a rigid set of rules to obtain a candidate’s written consent to the background check. Specifically, the employer must provide the candidate with disclosure and authorization forms presented independently of any other application materials or consent forms. 

After the background check, if the employer wishes to make an adverse hiring decision based on the findings of the report, it must first:

  1. Notify the candidate of the decision, in writing

  2. Provide the candidate with a copy of the background check report that led to the decision

  3. Give the candidate details about the company that prepared the background check report

  4. Tell the candidate the background check company did not make the hiring decision, despite preparing the relevant report

  5. Inform the candidate that he or she can request an additional copy of the report from the background check company

  6. Notify the candidate of his or her right to contact the background check company and dispute the accuracy of the report

Failure to follow any or all these steps voids the legality of the background check and leaves the employer vulnerable to an FCRA lawsuit.

EEOC Guidance

The background check guidance laid forth by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is not nearly as rigid as what is stipulated by the FCRA. However, employers must be aware of EEOC guidance and how it protects candidates from discrimination. 

First, employers must treat every candidate the same. The background check process must be the same for all candidates for a given job. If a person of a certain race faces a criminal history check, a credit history check, and an education verification, then all other candidates for the same job must receive the same treatment. Background checks can vary a bit from position to position, but not from candidate to candidate within those positions.

In using background check information, employers must be mindful of discrimination issues. For instance, an employer cannot simply bar all candidates with any type of criminal history. Instead, employers need to look at the positions they are trying to fill and figure out which types of criminal history records are relevant to the job responsibilities. Just because a person has a criminal conviction does not mean it impacts their ability to perform the job at hand.

Employers must apply the same standards to everyone when it comes to background check information. If a petty theft conviction from 10 years ago wouldn’t disqualify a Caucasian applicant for the job, it cannot disqualify a black candidate.

Finally, employers must be careful about establishing any background check standard that “significantly disadvantages individuals of a particular race.” This practice is known as “disparate impact” and it is a common source of EEOC-related lawsuits. 

Prohibitions on Credit History Checks

It used to be that employers would look at credit history checks to get a sense of a candidate’s character, financial responsibility, and willingness to commit fraud or embezzlement. These checks have value for jobs that involve handling money or other financial responsibilities. However, an increasingly common argument is that bad credit is the result of circumstance and doesn’t provide concrete insight into a person’s skills, temperament, or likelihood to commit a crime. 

As a result, several states and cities have passed laws banning or limiting the use of credit history checks for employment. States with these laws include California, Illinois, and Washington. Affected cities include New York City and Chicago. Employers should check local laws before using credit history checks.


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