If you’re actively looking for a job, be aware that basic background checks – like an employee handbook sign-off and a harassment policy – have become a staple of human resources departments. However, employers must comply with relevant employment laws.
According to a survey from the Ohio-based Employers Resource Association (ERA), 91 percent of their employer-respondents are using background checks. In Minnesota employers hiring certain types of employees are required by law to perform background checks.
For example, employers hiring security guards are required to check their background with the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. Employers hiring certain counselors are required to check references for evidence of sexual contact with patients or former patients.
Schools are required to check the criminal history of individuals offered employment in the school. Rental property owners must request background information from the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension before hiring property managers.
In addition to background checks required by statute, employers are likely to perform applicant background checks appropriate to the job. For example, if you are applying to work as a clerk in a convenience store, the employer may want to conduct a background check if you will be working alone and handling cash.
To avoid discrimination claims, an employer who performs background checks should be able to justify it. A hotel may want to conduct background checks on employees who have access to guest rooms, as might a manufacturing company who hires forklift drivers. Employers shouldn’t ask anything during a background check that cannot be asked of the applicant face-to-face. Outside firms used to conduct background checks must comply with these rules, as well.
The Minnesota Human Rights Act generally prohibits employers from seeking or obtaining information from any source that pertains to an individual’s protected status (such as age or marital status) in making a job decision.
Another pre-employment hiring practice is the credit check. Twenty percent of employers are doing credit checks, according to the ERA survey.
Minnesota employers are subject to notification and disclosure requirements – that is, they have to inform you – regarding their use of consumer credit reports to learn background information about applicants and employees. Credit history checks may reveal marital status, birth date, or public assistance status. Employers should approach the use of credit checks very cautiously.
For more information, see An Employer’s Guide to Employment Law Issues in Minnesota.