Background Screenings: Issues to Watch in 2019

February 21, 2019 - minute read

background checkLike many aspects of the HR world, pre-employment background checks have changed a great deal in a very short time.

Back in the year 2000—less than 20 years ago—just 50% of U.S. employers performed routine background screenings. Today, 96% do, according to

Back then, there were few industry standards governing the process. There was no national association of—or accreditation program for—providers. Compliance-wise, there were two chief concerns: the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

And when a pre-employment background check was called for, HR would place the order via its trusty fax machine!

Of course, that was before 911 changed the way we viewed everything. Before Internet technology became part of our daily lives. Before workplace violence, negligent hiring lawsuits, and pervasive resume fraud altered the HR landscape.

All these factors contributed to sweeping changes in employers’ hiring practices and the background screening industry itself. 

Over the years, we’ve seen big changes in the way pre-employment background checks are conducted and candidates’ personal information is handled. Today, the background screening industry has very specific standards—and a trade association and accreditation program to oversee them.

And oh, the regulations! On the federal level, employers must comply with the Fair and Accurate Credit Transaction Act (FACT), E-Verify, privacy law, and more. On the state and local levels, new legislation continues to be introduced at a rapid-fire rate.

In short, the world of pre-employment background checks is still evolving—and it’s up to employers to somehow keep up. With that in mind, here are four key issues to be mindful of in 2019.

Maintaining Information Security 

Every time you request a pre-employment background check, you’re collecting highly-sensitive data—data that’s vulnerable to breaches. People’s personal information needs to rigorously guarded, both by background screening firms and employers.  

According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), one way to ensure data security is to use background screening service providers who have NAPBS (National Association of Professional Background Screeners) accreditation—and to use firms that submit to annual Service Organization Control (SOC 2) audits conducted by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants.

In addition, employers should be securing their HR systems and servers. Those using cloud-based software need to verify that their HCM providers adhere to the highest cyber-security standards. And if you’re still printing paper reports, how secure are those files?

Handling Social Media Checks with Care   

As social media consumes us, more employers are incorporating social media checks into their hiring process. It’s a risky business. It’s all too easy to stumble across information—say, an applicant’s religion, health status or sexual orientation—that may violate candidates’ privacy and leave employers wide open to a discrimination lawsuit. 

As a result, many HR experts now recommend leaving social media checks to the background screening services that will omit such information from their reports. In-house research can be dangerous: you can’t “un-see” what you weren’t meant to ever see in the first place!

Observing ‘Ban the Box’ Laws

To date, more than 30 states and 150 cities and counties have passed ban the box laws, which prevent employers from asking candidates if they have a criminal history. Additional laws are in the pipeline. 

As the labor shortage grows, some employers are already rethinking their hiring practices in this regard. After all, studies reveal that ex-convicts often make excellent employees, yielding lower turnover rates and greater company loyalty.  Whether or not you embrace that premise, you need to stay on top of growing ban the box legislation.  

Complying with Salary History Bans

Like ban the box laws, salary history bans are proliferating on the state and local level. So far, at least 13 states and 11 cities and counties have made it illegal for employers to ask about pay history or use salary information to set compensation.  

For employers, asking about salary may be a hard habit to break. But the penalty for doing so can be severe. In New York City, for example, employers could be required to pay a penalty up to $250,000 and take required mandated training. Employers can’t afford to let down their guard.

Staying on the Ball

EPAY’s all-in-one HCM platform helps employers conduct careful, compliant pre-employment background checks. Our Applicant Tracking System allows HR professionals to request pre-employment background checks from their preferred provider with ease.

More importantly, we maintain the highest cyber-security standards—so much so, we are the only time and labor system provider to hold FedRAMP Ready status. In addition, we help our customers stay up-to-date on ever-changing employment laws via our extensive compliance portal. Learn how we can keep your HR data secure—and your hiring practices compliant.  

Filed Under: Compliance Workforce Management Applicant Tracking & Hiring