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Checklist for Criminal Background Checks

What steps should you follow before conducting a criminal background check? The following checklist addresses issues that you should consider and steps to take before looking into the criminal history of prospective employees.

Step 1: Determine whether a criminal background check is necessary

Is the employer subject to state, federal, or local regulations that require criminal background checks?

* Is the employer subject to state, federal, or local laws that limit criminal background checks?

* Does the position the applicant is seeking involve: contact with the public; working with vulnerable individuals; handling money; use of a dangerous instrument; work involving the public trust; driving?

* Is a union involved? (A collective bargaining agreement may limit the use of criminal background checks.)

* Does a policy of conducting criminal background checks have the potential of discouraging qualified applicants or disproportionately affecting protected minority groups?

Step 2: Develop a process for conducting criminal background checks

* Are applicants informed in writing that a criminal background check will be conducted?

* Are applicants asked to sign a consent or release in connection with criminal background checks?

*Are applicants informed that a record of conviction will not necessarily result in denial of employment?

* Has the person who will conduct the check been trained as to the proper agency to contact, fees to be paid, etc.?

Step 3: Implement the criminal background check process

In conducting the criminal background check, have the following criteria been met:

* Have notice and consent requirements been met?

* Is the check being conducted in connection with a position for which a criminal history check is appropriate?

* If the employer is covered by federal or state laws that require or limit criminal history checks, is the check being conducted in compliance with those laws?

* Is the process being conducted in a non-discriminatory way (i.e., is the same procedure followed for all applicants for a given job or class of jobs)?

* Before using information obtained in the criminal background check to make an employment decision, have the following criteria been met?

* If arrest records are considered, has the employer examined the surrounding circumstances and given the applicant an opportunity to explain the arrest?

* If it appears that the applicant engaged in the conduct for which he or she was arrested, is that conduct recent and job-related?

* If conviction records are considered, does the number, nature, and recentness of the convictions indicate that the applicant is unsuitable for the position?

*Can a business necessity for making the employment decision based on the conviction records be shown?

* Is there information indicating that the individual has been rehabilitated?

* Is the information obtained in the criminal background check treated as confidential?

* Is the information obtained in the criminal background check disclosed only on a need-to-know basis?