Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and Federal Trade Commission Release Documents on Background Checks for Employers and Jobseekers

April 4, 2014

U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity CommissionThe two technical assistance documents from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) explain how the agencies’ respective laws apply to background checks for employment purposes. “Background Checks: What Employers Need to Know” is designed for employers and “Background Checks: What Job Applicants and Employees Should Know” is designed for job seekers and employees.

The documents’ primary purpose is to help job seekers, employees, and employers better understand their rights and responsibilities.  Among the rights and responsibilities highlighted in the documents are:

  • Employers need written permission from job applicants before performing a background check.
  • Employers have the right to conduct a background check on a job applicant or employee, as long as the employer does not unlawfully discriminate against the individual. It is illegal to discriminate against an employee or job applicant based on race, color, national origin, sex, religion, age (40 or older), disability, or genetic information such as family medical history.
  • Employers should take special care when basing employment decisions on seemingly problematic background information that may be common among people of a certain race, color, national origin, sex, religion, age, or disability status. For example, employers should not use a policy or practice that excludes individuals with certain criminal records if the policy or practice significantly discriminates against such individuals, and the records do not accurately predict whether the individuals will be responsible, reliable, and safe employees.

This is the first time that the two agencies have partnered to create resources to address concerns in this area. The EEOC enforces laws against employment discrimination. The FTC enforces the Fair Credit Reporting Act, the law that protects the privacy and accuracy of information in credit reports. To view “Background Checks: What Employers Need to Know,” click here. To view “Background Checks: What Job Applicants and Employees Should Know,” click here.  To view the EEOC press release, click here.

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