Posted on August 4, 2015

Ask HR: Are Selective Background Checks Acceptable?

Just when you think you’ve heard it all, one of your employees stumps you with a question you haven’t heard before. The pros at the HR Support Center really have heard it all—at least, until tomorrow.

Here is a recent question and expert advice from HR On-Demand, one of the features available to HR Support Center subscribers.

Question: We don't typically do background checks, but we're hiring an internal HR person who will have access to sensitive information. We want to do a background check for this position, but since we've never done one for anyone else, we're worried it would look discriminatory.

Answer from Aimee, HR Pro: You may conduct background checks for some jobs but not others. Different jobs may require different levels of investigation, but for the same job title, make sure you keep your process uniform to avoid charges of discrimination.

As long as you are consistently background screening similarly situated job types, selective background checks are acceptable. For example, if you have decided that you will conduct background checks for this HR role because the employee will have access to financial information, payroll data, and employee social security numbers, you should, going forward, also conduct background checks for other positions with similar access.

We recommend limiting what information obtained in a background check you use in employment decisions. In your situation, it would be logical to consider information obtained from a background check concerning an HR applicant’s conviction for identity theft or falsification of records, but probably not about a DUI or trespassing conviction.

In addition, if you decide to do background checks, there are state and federal laws governing when and how it should be done. If you decide to conduct a background check for this position, please let us know. We can walk you through the process with state and federal laws in mind.

Aimee is a recognized leader in the field of Human Resources. Aimee was previously the Global Director for the Board of Directors of the local chapter of the Society for Human Resource Management. Prior to that, she was the HR Director and Global HR and Organizational Effectiveness Adviser for Mercy Corps, an international humanitarian relief and development organization, and worked as an HR consultant to small and mid-sized companies.

_This Q&A content is taken straight from the experts at HR Support Center. Click here to learn more about HR Support Center and HR On-Demand; we’d also love the chance to explain in person