Backgrounds Online Blog

  • Would You Hire an Applicant Who Has Visible Tattoos?

    December 7, 2016
    A recent study attempted to determine whether or not consumers have a negative view of employees with tattoos. The results showed most people don't even notice...
    Backgrounds Online | December 7, 2016

    A recent study attempted to determine whether or not consumers have a negative view of employees with tattoos. The results showed most people don't even notice.

    About the Study

    This study was conducted by the Old Dominion University (ODU). They ran three experiments that included 1,600 participants. Researchers photographed individuals, and altered the images to add or remove tattoos, then they showed the pictures to people and gauged their reactions.

    The impetus behind this study came from Aaron Arndt, an Associate Professor at ODU. He noticed that many of his students had tattoos and wondered if that might negatively impact their ability to land jobs. He and his colleague, Kiran Karande, also wanted to test the theory that workers with tattoos would receive a more positive reaction from tattooed consumers.

    Most Consumers Were Not Concerned

    Based on the results, having tattoos makes little to no difference. For most participants, it did not matter if the individual they were shown had body art or not. Their reactions were vastly different than what might have been expected several years ago.

    This is probably because so many people have tattoos these days. One study suggests that nearly 25% of Americans have at least one tattoo. Now that body art is so common, it may not be much of a factor in how people are perceived when they have visible ink.

    The Similarity-Attraction Effect

    Part of the study endeavored to determine whether or not a tattooed employee would receive a favorable reaction from consumers who also have tattoos. Arndt and Karande tested the theory, known as the Similarity-Attraction Effect, that people are attracted to others who have some resemblance to them. This idea, however, was disproven, at least when it came to tattoos.

    The study concluded that it made no difference to people if the employee they were dealing with was tattooed or not. Even when the consumer had tattoos, they did not display a more approving or sympathetic reaction. This could be a telling sign to businesses that are hesitant to hire people who have visible body art.

    Can Businesses Refuse Employment to Tattooed Applicants?

    Employers have a right to enforce dress codes, grooming policies and related rules. Some companies do not allow their staff to have visible tattoos, though this can often be resolved with long-sleeve shirts or other clothing options.

    The only time it is not legal to refuse employment to someone who has tattoos is when doing so violates an anti-discrimination law. Before a hiring manager decides not to select someone because they have body art, it is advisable to first consult with legal counsel and make sure they are not committing any such violation.

    Would You Hire Someone Who Has Tattoos?

    There are many factors to consider when determining whether or not to hire a candidate. Are they qualified for the job? Do they have the educational or employment history you require? Did they pass their background check? We encourage every business to maintain written documentation that explains hiring procedures and helps managers make those crucial decisions.

    According to the ODU study, having employees with tattoos is unlikely to be seen in a negative light by most of the public. While body art may not give your employees an edge with tattooed customers, it can be helpful to know that most consumers are unlikely to care, or even notice.

  • Prop 64 Could Impact Your Recruiting and Screening Policies

    November 29, 2016
    Proposition 64 made it legal for adults in California to grow and use recreational marijuana and other states passed similar laws. How will this affect your business?...
    Backgrounds Online | November 29, 2016

    Proposition 64 made it legal for adults in California to grow and use recreational marijuana and other states passed similar laws. How will this affect your business?

    Proposition 64 at a Glance

    The passing of Proposition 64 could have an immediate effect on California businesses. To better understand the potential impact, it helps to know what this law does and does not do.

    It does:

    • Make it legal for adults (people who are 21 or older) to "possess, transport, purchase, consume and share up to one ounce of marijuana and eight grams of marijuana concentrates."
    • Allow adults to grow marijuana plants in a "fully enclosed and secure" manner.
    • Reduce or eliminate criminal penalties for some, but not all marijuana-based offenses.
    • Make it legal to sell marijuana with a license (this may not happen until 2018).
    • Establish a 15% excise tax on marijuana sales.

    It does not:

    • Allow for public marijuana usage.
    • Make it legal to drive while under the influence of marijuana.
    • Authorize everyone to grow and sell marijuana - sellers must apply for and receive a license from the state.

    Thousands of People Could Enter the Job Market

    Proposition 64 did more than legalize certain aspects of recreational marijuana. It also retroactively de-criminalized possession, use and transportation for people who are at least 21. This could have a major impact on three groups.

    • People who have open charges for possession, cultivation or transportation of marijuana may have their cases dismissed.
    • People who are currently in prison for marijuana-related charges can petition to have their sentence reduced or canceled.
    • People who served time for marijuana-related activities that are no longer crimes may petition to have those records expunged.

    Thousands of California residents have been convicted of misdemeanors and felonies for growing, carrying or selling marijuana. The passing of Prop 64 means some of those activities are no longer crimes. The "Golden State" could have a large number of people re-entering the job market in the near future.

    Some Criminal Records Will Become Irrelevant

    When someone has a criminal record expunged, it cannot be used for employment or other screening purposes. It is imperative for employers to only review records that are up-to-date and accurate. At Backgrounds Online, we provide current, reportable information that can legally be used to make hiring decisions.

    Regardless of whether or not someone who was once charged with a marijuana-based offense has that record annulled, the charge might not be valid for employment screening purposes. Therefore, such criminal charges should not be used to make hiring decisions. We recommend that California employers consult with their HR or legal team to discuss how to proceed.

    Will Other States Adopt Similar Propositions?

    California was not the only state to pass new regulations regarding the use of medical marijuana. Similar laws were passed in Nevada and Massachusetts.

    There is no way to know if other states will do the same, but it is a possibility. This is something employers throughout the country should be aware of and watch out for. Our staff endeavors to keep up with laws that impact employment screening procedures. Follow our blog for news on this and other important topics that could affect your business.

    Update Your Background Screening Policies

    Every company should maintain written employment screening policies. These documents should be reviewed periodically and updated as needed.

    This is a good time for California employers to update their internal documentation and consider the changes they will face from Prop 64. We suggest including information about the types of records you are looking for when running a background check and what steps will be taken if those records are found. Use this documentation to help keep your business compliant and consistent during future hiring campaigns.

  • Is Your Company Hiring? Have You Considered Military Veterans?

    November 22, 2016
    The military is known for discipline, training and education. People who have that background possess skills that can easily translate to the civilian workforce...
    Backgrounds Online | November 22, 2016

    The military is known for discipline, training and education. People who have that background possess skills that can easily translate to the civilian workforce.

    Veterans at Government Agencies

    A recent Federal News Radio article explained that vets made up 32.5% of federal hiring in 2015. Government agencies hired more veterans in one year than they did in the previous five. This could be due to an executive order signed by President Barack Obama in 2009.

    Most of the vets accepted administrative jobs, and a large percent were hired for technical and blue collar positions. Their employers are now enjoying the benefits of adding former military personnel to the workforce. Your business could also take advantage of perks that come from hiring veterans.

    Benefits of Hiring Vets

    Varied Skillset. Veterans undergo intense training and educational programs that teach them an array of useful skills. According to, most vets have advanced training in technology, leadership and operations. These attributes are always in demand by the private sector.

    Team Mentality. Military personnel are taught to work together and rely on each other. Veterans understand team objectives, and how to use their talents to benefit the group.

    Responsibility. This is one of the most important things veterans learn. They are taught to take their responsibilities seriously, and follow through until every goal is accomplished.

    Computer Training. The media kit from Vet Jobs states: "60% of the enlisted personnel can program in at least one computer language." Vets that don't have programming skills are still likely to be computer savvy. Another key statistic discloses: "92% of active duty military in the United States use computers at their places of duty."

    Tax Breaks. Businesses that employ eligible vets between January 1, 2016 and December 31, 2019 can receive Work Opportunity Tax Credits (WOTC). Employers may claim 40% of $14,000 wages for employing veterans for 27 consecutive weeks. Businesses that hire veterans for a minimum of 4 weeks may qualify for a credit of 40% for $6,000 wages. Learn more and see the WOTC calculator at

    New Veterans Joining the Workforce

    Currently, there are around 11 million veterans in the workforce and hat number is likely to skyrocket. Approximately 175,000 people will be discharged from active duty annually for the next few years.

    Your business could have numerous opportunities to interview and hire qualified vets. Before you do, experts suggest acquiring a basic understanding of the military so you have a better perception of their background and how to help them succeed.

    Multiple studies have shown that veterans tend to leave civilian jobs because they feel overqualified. As you develop a deeper understanding of the skills veterans possess, it will help you determine what types of tasks to assign to your employees, and therefore increase your retention rate.

    Finding and Screening Veterans

    When you have job openings, you probably post them on your own website and multiple job boards. You can also post on sites that cater to veterans like and Announce a few openings on these sites, determine what works best, and develop plans for future postings based on your results.

    Before you hire any veteran or civilian, it is important to run employment background checks to make sure the person is qualified and eligible for employment. These reports confirm the person's identity, show you important information about their personal and professional past, and inform you if they have criminal records of which you should be aware.

    Every business needs skilled, reliable employees who can help them grow and prosper. The next time your company is searching for people, consider veterans who would be a good fit. Former members of any military branch can become a great asset to your business.

  • Taking Adverse Action Based on a Background Check

    November 15, 2016
    You conduct an interview and feel you've found an ideal candidate. Then, a background check shows the person is not qualified or eligible for the job. What should you do next?...
    Backgrounds Online | November 15, 2016

    You conduct an interview and feel you've found an ideal candidate. Then, a background check shows the person is not qualified or eligible for the job. What should you do next?

    Start with a Screening Plan

    Before answering that question, we're going to backtrack a bit. Every business should develop a written plan that sets guidelines and expectations for the entire hiring process.

    Most businesses hire for a variety of positions. Create screening policies for every position you might need to fill, and refer to them whenever you are hiring. These documents should discuss initial screening and interview practices, the type of background check you will run for every position, what you are looking for in the results, and what might warrant an adverse action.

    Creating these policies helps you establish a reliable hiring process and shows hiring managers what steps to take when an individual is not eligible for employment.

    Pre-Adverse Notification

    An adverse action is defined as anything that is unfavorable to a consumer. In a hiring scenario, the adverse action is generally denying employment to an applicant. Before that happens, you must send the individual a pre-adverse notification.

    The pre-adverse notice informs a candidate that an adverse action is being considered, but is not currently in progress. Along with this notice, the person must also receive a written Summary of Rights Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, a copy of their background check, and time to contest the results of their report.

    No specific amount of time is specified, but the recommended minimum is one week and best practice is around 30 days. During this time, the applicant has the right to file a dispute if they believe the background check was unfair or inaccurate.

    Sending Adverse Notification

    If the applicant does not dispute the results of their background check, then the employer may initiate an adverse action. There are specific steps that must be followed.

    The applicant must be notified of the impending action. This involves informing the person that they did not get the job to which they applied. They must also receive a Summary of Their Rights Under the FCRA, and contact information for the Consumer Reporting Agency (CRA) that prepared their background check. This allows the applicant to initiate a dispute with the CRA if they feel it is warranted.

    Maintain Consistency and Fairness

    One of the most important things to do when hiring is to establish and follow fair, consistent screening policies. This helps you find the best people for any job, and determine when it is time to initiate pre-adverse actions.

    Just because an applicant has something that might be construed as negative on their record does not necessarily mean they aren't eligible for employment. At Backgrounds Online, we provide comprehensive reports that contain the facts you need to make the best possible hiring choices. Turn to us for background checks that can be used to determine an applicant's eligibility, and for the documentation you need when you must make the decision to not offer employment.

    Follow FCRA Regulations

    It is essential for businesses to follow FCRA regulations throughout the hiring process. We've seen numerous stories about large companies that have been hit with lawsuits or other legal entanglements because they failed to adhere to the requirements set forth by state and federal laws.

    At Backgrounds Online, we endeavor to keep up with new and evolving laws that impact our customers. If you have questions about screening your applicants, or if you need to initiate a pre-adverse notification, then contact us for assistance.

    Please note that we do not provide legal advice in any way. We do, however, offer sample pre-adverse and adverse letters, as well as the consumer's Summary of Rights Under the FCRA.

  • Hiring Holiday Help? Don’t Skip The Background Checks

    November 7, 2016
    Is your business hiring additional staff this holiday season? If so, then one of the most important steps is to run background checks before offering any jobs.
    Backgrounds Online | November 7, 2016
    Is your business hiring additional staff this holiday season? If so, then one of the most important steps is to run background checks before offering any jobs.

    Thousands of businesses need extra help in November, December and January. It might seem faster or easier to skip the screening process for temporary employees, but doing so could have a negative impact on your company and your bottom line.

    When you hire people who will only be employed for a short time, you face the same uncertainties you encounter while hiring full-time employees. Screening your top candidates before extending any offers helps protect your business, staff and brand.

    Employee Theft

    It's unfortunate, but employee theft is an issue that many businesses encounter. This is especially true when the staff has direct access to office supplies, merchandise or cash. Running pre-employment background checks alleviates some of that risk.

    Background checks can include an array of criminal searches. Use them to see if a candidate has a misdemeanor, felony or other offense. Backgrounds Online offers county, state, national and international criminal searches that inform you if your applicant was convicted of theft or related crimes.

    There is no way to predict someone's future behavior, but background reports provide crucial details about a person's past to help you make educated hiring decisions.

    Employee Fraud

    There are several types of fraud, and they have varying degrees of severity. A background check confirms crucial facts to help you uncover fraudulent activities.

    First, a background check substantiates an individual's identity with a Social Security Number Trace. This search verifies that your candidate is the person they claim to be. It is the most accurate way to properly identify every candidate during the screening process.

    Job seekers sometimes commit minor acts of fraud when applying to positions for which they are not fully qualified. This can include exaggerating their work history or responsibilities, claiming to have diplomas or credentials they have not yet earned and similar scenarios. People who commit these infractions may be well-intentioned, but it is crucial for hiring managers to know that potential employees have the proper qualifications.

    Serious Criminal Histories

    Many people have minor criminal offenses that should not negatively impact their ability to land a job. However, it is important for business owners and managers to know if a candidate has a serious criminal record such as an assault, sexual offense or murder.

    Backgrounds Online provides authoritative reports that only contain reportable information – meaning data that can legally be used to make hiring choices. Before you offer temporary employment, make sure you know if someone you're considering was convicted of a serious criminal offense.

    If you don't screen seasonal employees, you could hire someone who is not properly qualified, or who might pose a risk to your business, employees and customers. As you go through your hiring process and narrow your list of candidates, run background checks on all the people you are considering. Rely on our comprehensive reports to help you make informed decisions for temporary and permanent employees.

    We hope you have a successful and prosperous holiday season.

  • Local Court Delays That Could Impact Your Background Check

    October 27, 2016
    Background checks are sometimes delayed because vital documents are not readily available from county courthouses. Currently, several locations are reporting issues...
    Backgrounds Online | October 19, 2016

    Background checks are sometimes delayed because vital documents are not readily available from county courthouses. Currently, several locations are reporting issues.

    Reports in CA, GA, NH, TN and VA could be affected. If you are running background checks on candidates in these states, please take note of the potential delays.

    California Courthouse Delays

    We have news from six California counties:

    Alameda County
    The Alameda courthouse recently upgraded to a new computer system. Unfortunately, they have not yet uploaded all of their records. In some cases, our researchers must go directly to county clerks to acquire important documents. This can cause minor delays, but we will endeavor to retrieve any data you need as quickly as possible. Please note: records that are more than 12 years old may incur additional fees.

    Contra Costa County
    There are delays in Contra Costa because of a minor staff shortage. They are working hard to keep up with all requests, but we've been told to expect some lag time.

    San Diego County
    Due to recent personnel changes, we are limited on the number of documents we can obtain in one visit. Accordingly, we will need to make additional trips to acquire all the records we need. This will cause minor delays for background checks from San Diego.

    San Joaquin County
    The San Joaquin court is experiencing difficulties with their electronic system, so documents must be pulled manually. As a result, we are only allowed to request 25 records each day. They are working on this issue and expect to have it resolved quickly.

    Santa Clara County
    We’ve been experiencing delays in Santa Clara, and are told they will continue for a while longer. The court recently acquired a new database, and the staff is still being trained on proper operation. At this time, we are only able to request 25 documents per day.

    Shasta County
    Unfortunately, we have been told to expect major delays in Shasta County. We have not received further updates at this time.

    Georgia Courthouse Delays

    The database used in Bibb County, GA has not been recently available. We are told it is now operational, but the courts are dealing with a backlog of orders.

    Our researches are coordinating with county clerks to obtain the documents you need as quickly as possible. GA clerks are endeavoring to catch up and process their accumulated requests. When this happens, turnaround time for reports will improve.

    New Hampshire Courthouse Delays

    Currently, there are delays throughout the state. County clerks are approximately one week behind in processing requests.

    While these delays are minor, if you are running a background check on someone in NH, your results may take longer than usual.

    Tennessee Courthouse Delays

    The courthouse in Madison, TN is going through an upgrade, and their electronic system will be temporarily unavailable. We are coordinating with county clerks to obtain the records we need during this time.

    There is no word yet on when the upgrade will be complete. We hope to have updates on this situation soon.

    Virginia Courthouse Delays

    If you are running background reports on candidates in the Norfolk City area, then please be aware that the courthouse is expecting substantial delays. There is currently a 30 to 90 day turnaround time for records from this county. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.

    Reports in Nueces Texas Are Being Processed

    There is good news for anyone running background checks in the Nueces, Texas area. Their system is operational again, and requests are now being processed.

    At Backgrounds Online, we work hard to keep you informed so you know what to expect when ordering background checks. We will continue to apprise you of court delays or anything else that might impact the background screening process.

    If you have questions about a report you ordered, or one you are planning to order, then contact our screening specialists for assistance.

  • New Background Screening Laws For California Employers

    October 19, 2016
    A new bill prohibits CA employers from asking applicants about certain arrest records, and establishes limits on data that can be used to make hiring decisions...
    Backgrounds Online | October 19, 2016

    A new bill prohibits CA employers from asking applicants about certain arrest records, and establishes limits on data that can be used to make hiring decisions.

    The bill also authorizes specific fines that could be levied against employers if they intentionally violate these rules. Businesses that interview and hire candidates in California should be aware of the forthcoming mandates.

    What California Employers Should Know

    The bill focuses on two key points:

    1. Employers may not ask job applicants for information about arrests that occurred “while the person was subject to the process and jurisdiction of juvenile court law.”
    2. Employers may not ask applicants for information about an “arrest or detention that did not result in conviction” or about any conviction that was “judicially dismissed or ordered sealed pursuant to law.”

    In addition to reinforcing existing laws, this bill establishes strong new regulations. It stipulates that businesses cannot use juvenile arrest records or convictions that were dismissed or sealed to make any employment-related decision. This includes hiring, terminating and promoting.

    Employers will be permitted to ask both current employees and applicants for information pertaining to arrests if “the employee or applicant is out on bail or on his or her own recognizance pending trial.”

    Nothing in the bill prohibits employers from using information about criminal convictions to make hiring decisions. A conviction is defined as a “plea, verdict, or finding of guilt regardless of whether sentence is imposed by the court.” The bill also stipulates that convictions will now exclude “adjudication by a juvenile court or any other court order or action taken with respect to a person who is under the jurisdiction of the juvenile court law by a juvenile court or any other court order or action taken with respect to a person who is under the jurisdiction of the juvenile court law.”

    The Impact on Healthcare Facilities

    Currently, employers that provide healthcare services are allowed to ask applicants about juvenile offenses. The new bill prohibits that practice, unless the offense was either a misdemeanor or felony that occurred within five years of the person applying.

    If a healthcare provider intends to utilize juvenile records that may legally be used for screening purposes, then they must provide the applicant with a list of all the offenses they are researching.

    Employers will be permitted to ask applicants about arrest records if the candidate will:

    • Have regular access to patients
    • Have access to medication

    Ramifications of Breaking These Laws

    According to the bill, if a person violates these laws, then they may be subjected to fines. The affected applicant will have the right to initiate actions against that person with the goal of recovering actual damages or $200 (whichever is greater) and “reasonable attorney’s fees.”

    The bill defines intentional violations of this law as a misdemeanor. If an intentional violation can be shown, the applicant may be entitled to receive compensation for actual damages or $500, plus additional costs and fees from attorneys.

    Update Your Screening Policies

    At Backgrounds Online, we suggest that every company establish a written set of employment screening practices. This internal documentation would act as a guideline to develop and maintain consistent and fair hiring policies.

    If your company does not have this type of documentation, now is a good time to start. California employers who have existing policies may wish to review them and make necessary updates based on regulations established by the new bill, which is also known as AB-1843.

    The bill was signed by Governor Jerry Brown on September 27. It goes into effect on January 1, 2017.

  • Rideshare Companies Will Face Stricter Background Check Laws

    October 11, 2016
    People who work for rideshare companies must pass a background check – but these reports may not be extensive enough. A new California law intends to fix that.
    Backgrounds Online | October 11, 2016

    People who work for rideshare companies must pass a background check – but these reports may not be extensive enough. A new California law intends to fix that.

    Since the inception of the rideshare industry, several news stories have shown that a few people with criminal records have been hired as drivers. While rideshare services are generally considered to be safe, there are numerous accounts of employees who allegedly committed violent crimes while on the job. We’ve discussed some of these incidents in previous blog entries, and continue to watch for more.

    These disturbing reports acted as a catalyst for this tough new law.

    Recent Stories of Rideshare Workers with Criminal Records

    In July, 2016 an Uber driver was pulled over for not wearing his seatbelt. Officers discovered the man had marijuana and an unlicensed, loaded firearm in the car. After the driver was arrested, officials learned he had two prior felony convictions. Both were weapons-related.

    In August, 2016 a rideshare operator in Massachusetts granted an off-camera interview to a local news station. During their conversation, he admitted to being a level 2 sex offender. The driver was listed on the national registry when he was hired. At the time of his interview, he was still considered an active employee.

    Incidents like these bring attention to the background screening procedures enforced by rideshare companies. In the first case, the driver’s felonies were not reported because they were more than 7 years old. It’s unclear how the criminal record was missed in the second case. Based on the report, it seems the rideshare company did not use a Consumer Reporting Agency to conduct their background check.

    What should be done to help protect people who use rideshare programs? According to California Assemblyman Jim Cooper, stricter background checks are a necessity.

    Tougher Laws For Rideshare Companies

    Cooper wrote a bill that requires potential drivers to undergo a complete criminal background check. This bill stipulates that rideshare companies must conduct their own nationwide check or hire a professional background screening company.

    These background checks would include a “multi-state and multi-jurisdiction criminal records locator or other similar commercial nationwide database with validation” and a search of the “United States Department of Justice National Sex Offender Public Web site.”

    If an applicant is listed as a registered sex offender, or has been convicted of a violent felony, misdemeanor assault, domestic violence or similar crimes, then that person would not be eligible for hire.

    The bill was signed by Governor Jerry Brown and goes into effect on January 1, 2017.

    Fines For Non-Compliance

    Once the bill is effective, rideshare companies must adhere to these new regulations or they will pay fines and may face other liabilities. The bill stipulates that a company shall be fined between $1,000 and $5,000 for every driver who has any of the criminal records specified on the bill.

    Currently, most rideshare companies assert that they have no liability if customers are injured while using their service. Some of their websites even list examples such as bodily injuries, emotional distress and even death. Whether or not these companies will update their Terms based on this new bill remains to be seen.

    One thing is certain. The intent of this bill is to hold rideshare companies accountable for the people they hire, and to persuade these companies to take more precautions during the hiring process.

    What About Current Drivers?

    According to one source, the bill covers both current and future drivers. It is unclear, however, if rideshare companies will have to re-screen all existing employees. Eva Behrend, a spokesperson for Uber, stated that they are currently seeking clarification on that matter.

    Assemblyman Jim Cooper hopes this bill will create a safer environment for everyone who uses rideshare services. At Backgrounds Online, we offer an array of Criminal background check products. If your company is hiring and requires an in-depth look at a candidate’s history, we can help.

    Please contact us if you have questions or need assistance.

  • 5 Potentially Harmful Interview Topics To Avoid

    September 29, 2016
    If you've conducted interviews for years, you might have a list of questions you always ask. Today, however, some of these topics may be illegal to bring up.
    Backgrounds Online | September 29, 2016

    If you've conducted interviews for years, you might have a list of questions you always ask. Today, however, some of these topics may be illegal to bring up.

    The laws that govern employment screening change frequently. It's time to review and update your interview process and check in with your legal counsel about any state or local laws that may impact you.

    Here are five topics to avoid during job interviews:

    Criminal Records

    "Do you have a criminal record?" This was once a commonly asked interview question. If you haven't yet, it's time to remove it from your repertoire. Here's why.

    There are numerous regulations that cover when you can and cannot ask about criminal records, and they vary by jurisdiction. You could be breaking the law by asking an applicant whether or not they have a criminal record, if they've been arrested or anything similar.

    Best practice is to avoid this subject during the interview process. You can look for criminal records when running a background check, but if you ask at the wrong time and deny employment based on the answer, you could get hit with a lawsuit.

    Learn more with our recent blog post, Would You Hire An Ex Convict?

    Credit Status

    When hiring for financial positions, you may want to check an applicant's credit status. Be aware that it is illegal to ask an interviewee if they have debt, bankruptcies or other financial issues on record. Never bring these matters up during an interview.

    You can check a candidate's credit history during the screening process. Before doing so, you must receive a signed Authorization Of Release from the applicant. California employers must also procure a separate release form before they can legally proceed.

    Learn more about the requirements of running a credit report.

    Comments That Suggest an Offer Is Coming

    When conducting an interview, it's beneficial to remain positive. But there can be a fine line between encouraging an applicant and saying things that give the impression they've already won the job.

    Avoid remarks like: "When you work here…" Or: "There are several places nearby where you can get lunch." These statements, while well-intended, can give the impression that the candidate is going to receive an offer. Such pleasantries may be unlikely to lead to lawsuits or other liabilities, but best practice is to err on the side of caution.

    If you want to inform people about the benefits of your location, try using general comments and referencing current employees. For example, you might say: "We have several lunch options close by." Or: "Most of our people drive, and there is plenty of free parking."

    Personal Background

    There are multiple topics to avoid here. You must be cautious.

    Never ask about a candidate's age, nationality or native language. While these may seem like common subjects, they are illegal to bring up during an interview.

    Religion is another danger zone. You cannot ask about a person's religious preference, what holidays they celebrate or similar questions.

    Stay away from inquiries about the candidate's family life. Don't ask if they are married, how many children they have or anything along those lines.

    Questions about an applicant's personal background could cause the person to feel they are being discriminated against. There are numerous laws in place to protect people from discriminatory practices, so it is essential to avoid personal inquiries.

    Gender Identity

    For many years there were only two "standard" gender options: male and female. That is not the case these days. People identify their gender in many different ways.

    It is imperative to understand that this is a sensitive and deeply personal topic that should not be discussed during an interview or at the workplace.

    When conducting interviews, you should be thoughtful, cautious and respectful at all times. Remember some topics that were once status quo are no longer acceptable today. A few should not be brought up at all, and others must be saved for the background screening process.

  • New Gender Discrimination Laws Impact California Employers

    September 20, 2016
    This Act, which was signed in late 2015, has California businesses rushing to review their payroll records and comply with new regulations.
    Backgrounds Online | September 20, 2016

    The California Fair Pay Act bolstered gender-discrimination laws, with a focus on equal pay for comparable work. Similar laws may soon pass in other states.

    This Act, which was signed in late 2015, has California businesses rushing to review their payroll records and comply with new regulations.

    What Is The Fair Pay Act?

    The California Fair Pay Act seeks to eliminate the gender-based wage gap. It states that people who do “substantially similar work” – based on the level of skill, responsibility and effort – must receive equal pay.

    If workers who perform comparable duties have disparate salaries, the employer must demonstrate why. Acceptable reasons can include seniority, the quantity of work each person handles and other factors that are not relevant to gender.

    These laws apply to businesses that have multiple locations. For example, employees in central California who have the same responsibilities as colleagues in southern California can now expect equal salaries. There are exceptions. Wages can be adjusted to accommodate the cost of living based on location, but the employer must be able to show valid reasons for the difference.

    The Impact In California

    Businesses throughout the golden state are examining the salaries they pay, and working towards complying with the new laws. There are many factors to consider, so attorneys may have their hands full for a while.

    Some companies have already awarded raises to employees who make less than their co-workers. A few have even been hit with lawsuits.

    In 2015, a class action suit was filed against Farmers Insurance after a female attorney discovered a large wage gap. Her litigation partner was a male with less experience, but he was being paid nearly twice as much. She discovered similar situations in the company and initiated the lawsuit. In response, Farmers spent $3 million on raises for employees who were deemed to have lower than average salaries.

    Will These Laws Impact Other States?

    While there is no way to know when anti-discrimination laws might be passed in other states, many experts believe this will soon become the new standard. Key government officials have pushed for equal pay via documents like the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and the White House Equal Pay Pledge.

    The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act was the first bill President Barack Obama signed into law. It served as an amendment to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which created a statute of limitations for employees who wished to file equal pay lawsuits. The Ledbetter Fair Pay Act gives workers 180 days to file a lawsuit after receiving a paycheck with discriminatory wages. That timeframe resets with each new check the employee receives.

    The White House Equal Pay Pledge encourages businesses to close their own gender-based wage gaps. It states: “Women working full-time earn only 79 percent of men’s wages, and we are committed to taking action individually and collectively to reduce that national pay gap.” Several large corporations, including Apple, Target and Facebook, have accepted this pledge. More are expected to follow.

    How These Laws Could Affect Your Business

    California businesses may already feel an impact from the Fair Pay Act. Businesses in other states could face updated gender discrimination laws in the near future.

    These laws are designed to change some long-standing hiring practices. One notable update is the way employers develop starting salaries. Companies will not be allowed to determine an amount based on the candidate’s previous employment. People may have experienced wage discrimination in the past, so their pay level could be less than fair for their job type.

    When new laws pass that impact hiring practices, we recommend consulting with your legal team before taking action. It is essential to comply with relevant laws throughout your recruitment efforts.

    Background Online offers background check reports that help you make educated hiring decisions. When you’re bringing on new employees, consult with your legal counsel, be aware of gender discrimination and related laws, and make sure your hiring practices remain legal and compliant.

  • Negative Candidate Experiences Can Hurt Your Hiring Options

    September 8, 2016
    People talk. Especially about negative situations. If job seekers are discussing bad experiences with your company, you could be losing qualified candidates.
    Backgrounds Online | September 8, 2016

    People talk. Especially about negative situations. If job seekers are discussing bad experiences with your company, you could be losing qualified candidates.

    A recent study from Future Workplace and CareerArc showed that “nearly 60% of job seekers have had a poor candidate experience.” There are many reasons why someone might feel they had a negative experience with a potential employer. One of the biggest issues noted was simply that the applicant did not receive any response after submitting an application.

    Did They Even See My Resume?

    According to the study, 65% of job seekers say they never heard back from companies to which they applied. That leaves people feeling like their resume was not seen by a human being.

    Many companies use software programs that conduct an initial review of applicant submissions. When an application is rejected, the candidate may not receive any notification. People typically spend a few hours on their resume and application, and after putting in that much effort, they may be frustrated by a lack of response. That could cause the job seeker to not apply at the company again, even for positions for which they are well qualified.

    A Negative Feedback Trend

    There are several websites on which people can share their job seeking experiences. Applicants who don’t hear back from potential employers might choose to leave negative feedback on these sites.

    Most people like to know what others think. We often seek out reviews for products, movies and most anything else – including the hiring practices of companies at which we might apply. If your company has a lot of negative feedback, you could lose qualified applicants who wish to avoid the type of issues they read about online.

    Open Lines of Communication

    The study also said that 99% of the employers interviewed felt “re-engaging will help them build their talent community and protect their employer brand.” However, fewer than half of these companies made any attempt to re-engage.

    Establishing a line of communication could be a good first step towards fixing this problem. Even if a candidate is not hired for one position, they might be likely to apply again if they receive a response. It could be as simple as a brief email that informs the candidate that they were not selected, and encourages them to apply for other positions. This might also discourage applicants from posting negative feedback.

    Positive Trends

    Despite the issues presented in their study, Future Workplace and CareerArc concluded that most employers are working to improve the application experience. This includes being more communicative with job seekers so they know where they stand throughout the process.

    If your company hires regularly, then the lessons from this study may be useful. Job seekers explained that they would be more likely to re-apply to a company if they felt their resume was reviewed by a person and they received a response, even if they didn’t get the job.

    Employers can also make the process better for them. If your company uses software to conduct an initial review of resumes, you could set up an email that is automatically sent to candidates who are not being considered.

    When a resume is accepted, the next step is to run a background check. Take advantage of services like Applicant Self-Submittal, which empowers your applicants to initiate their own background screening. This saves you time and opens a new line of communication for your candidates.

    Cultivate Better Candidate Experiences

    A better application process is a win for employees and job seekers. If an applicant has a positive experience, they may choose to share that story online or encourage friends and colleagues to apply to other positions in your company.

    Businesses that follow up on applications, encourage candidates to apply to other openings and cultivate a positive experience are likely to develop a large talent pool that will help them fill future openings quickly and efficiently.

  • Protect Your Business When Revoking A Job Offer

    August 31, 2016
    Now and then, your business may need to rescind a job offer. It’s a tough situation, and one that can lead to liabilities and penalties if it’s not done right.
    Backgrounds Online | August 31, 2016

    Now and then, your business may need to rescind a job offer. It’s a tough situation, and one that can lead to liabilities and penalties if it’s not done right.

    The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) recently published an important article on this topic. They explain some of the risks involved with rescinding offers, and how to protect your business if the situation occurs.

    Please note, the following is meant to be informative only. It should not be construed as legal advice. Before rescinding an offer, we recommend consulting with legal counsel for specific guidance.

    Use Caution When Writing Offer Letters

    Sending offer letters is an exciting part of the hiring process. You’re happy to have found someone who seems to be a good fit, and the candidate should be pleased to receive your offer. When writing a letter, it’s easy to forget that employment is not yet guaranteed, but it’s important to ensure your letter does not contain any specific promises or commitments.

    Avoid statements that infer the applicant has the assurance of job security. Don’t include anything that suggests the individual is likely to be employed for a specific period of time. You could be taken to court if an offer that appears to provide a guarantee is later invalidated.

    Make A Conditional Offer

    Offer letters should only be issued after you’ve completed as much of the interviewing and screening process as possible. Some steps might not begin until an initial offer is made, however, such as a background check or drug test. The screening process could uncover issues that show your applicant is ineligible for employment. It’s best to be prepared for that possibility.

    When you write an offer letter, SHRM advises it should implicitly state that at-will employment is being proposed. This signifies the offer and subsequent employment may be terminated at any time, as long as it is not done for an illegal reason.

    The offer letter should not read like a contract. It should not promise a salary for any specific length of time, or include phrases that create the expectation of long-term employment. Stipulating that the offer is conditional and employment is at-will helps protect your business if it does need to be revoked.

    Be Aware Of Potential Liabilities

    When you rescind an offer, the applicant may wish to pursue legal action against you. If your letter wasn’t crafted properly, you could end up owing money to someone you did not employ. SHRM pointed out three common claims from candidates who received offer letters but were not hired:

    1. An applicant could claim misrepresentation if an offer was revoked due to budget limitations or other issues that were known before the letter was written.
    2. An applicant could claim discrimination if they are part of a protected class, based on ethnicity, gender, disabilities and other factors.
    3. An applicant could claim breach of contract if the offer letter implies that employment is guaranteed – even with something as simple as: “Excited to have you on board.”

    Inform Quickly And Clearly

    Should you need to rescind an offer, it’s best to do so as quickly as possible. You may choose to break the news over the phone, but it is also important to provide written notification. Make the letter clear and concise. Consult your legal counsel throughout this difficult part of the process.

    It won’t always be possible, but the best time to revoke an offer is before an applicant accepts the position. When you send an offer letter, start the pre-employment background screen and any other remaining steps immediately. If the person is deemed ineligible for hire, be ready to follow up.

    The hiring process can be complicated and arduous. Backgrounds Online cannot offer legal advice on matters such as revoking a job offer, but we can guide you through every step of the screening process. If you have questions or need assistance with background checks, then contact us today.