Construction, Manufacturing and Contractors

Background Checks for Construction and Manufacturing: A Guide

Construction, Manufacturing and Contractors

Construction and Manufacturing Background Checks

It's hard to argue that the construction and manufacturing industries aren't the backbone of modern society. From the builders that give families a place to live and businesses a place to work to the manufacturers that ensure we can enjoy all the comforts and convenience of modern life, these sectors are a fundamentally powerful element of the economy. Continuously high demand, especially for new construction to address space shortages in parts of the country, mean that employers in both industries must engage in ongoing efforts to recruit and retain talented workers capable of delivering quality outcomes. When there's such a pressing need to "staff up" and to do so quickly, are construction background checks an integral part of the hiring process today?

The answer is a resounding "yes" for many reasons we'll explore below. From protecting other members of your crew to ensuring your business can win important contracts from public entities, construction and manufacturing background checks have a key role to play that you can't afford to overlook.

At a time when there are many concerns about "time to hire" and when evolving legislation creates hiring challenges for manufacturers, the thought of including yet another step in the hiring process gives some employers pause. In almost every case, though, this concern stems from an unfounded premise: that background checks are necessarily a slow or tedious process.

With support from a team such as, you'll find the opposite is true. We can process most construction and manufacturing background checks in seconds with a professionally maintained database of criminal records collected nationwide. With such speed, you can afford the time it takes to engage in other verification efforts, ultimately ensuring you build a team you can trust with confidence.

Let's explore the specific reasons why these industries should have a robust policy in place for vetting job applicants, dig in to how to use background checks legally and consider what goes into a comprehensive background check.

Why Do Construction and Manufacturing Companies Need Background Checks?

There are three fundamental reasons to include employee vetting in your hiring process. Primarily, businesses should endeavor to understand as much as possible about those they intend to bring on board. For example, does an applicant have the right skills to work with you? Have they truthfully represented their experience and prior employment experience, or have they embellished their resume as many job seekers do?

Second, background checks work to keep your business and its employees safer. While no crystal ball can predict when or if someone will commit a crime again in the future, evidence of past wrongdoing may give you pause in some cases. For example, someone with a two-year-old felony conviction for a violent assault may not be the best fit for your team. Such a person may not be suited to a high-pressure work environment with time constraints. However, every individual is different—that same person might have an extensive paper trail concerning rehabilitative efforts that could make them a potential employee.  Evaluating everyone on their merits and circumstances to make the best decisions for your company would be best.

Finally, vetting provides your business with a shield against litigation. If you do not vet applicants and someone in your employ commits a crime on the job that harms someone else, you may be liable for negligent hiring. In other words, the law expects you to do your due diligence to avoid making unnecessarily risky hires. Without taking those steps, an injured party and a savvy law firm could tie up your business in court for months, leading to costly settlements and judgments.

Knowledge, safety, and liability—background checks for construction workers and manufacturers have their place in the hiring process for good reasons you can't afford to ignore.

Compliance Items and Legislation to Keep in Mind

Even when you recognize the importance of background checks, you must first consider the proper way to use them before ordering them on job candidates. Remember, the law considers background checks to be a type of consumer reporting, which the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act governs. Builders and manufacturers may also face additional regulatory pressures and concerns within their county, greater metropolitan region, or state. 

Failing to understand how to comply with the law and how to use background checks legally can expose your company to claims of discrimination and unfair hiring practices. You could even face a lawsuit, or the government might levy fines against your company. At a time when laws and even social attitudes around some forms of drug use continue to change rapidly, even the pre-employment drug test is no longer as simple as it once was.

What is a "ban the box" law? What does the EEOC have to say about using background checks fairly? We have the answers concerning manufacturers and legislation about background checks.

Ban the Box Regulations

For many years, it has been a standard practice among various employers to include questions on job applications about an individual's criminal history. This often takes the form of a check box that asks applicants to indicate whether they have ever been convicted of a crime. Usually, applications ask about felonies, but some employers may ask about convictions. Applicants must often also supply some details about the conviction.

However, this practice has fallen out of favor rapidly in many jurisdictions nationwide as advocates for reform have pushed to "ban the box" on applications. The reasoning is simple: asking about criminal history so early, before an employer can fully evaluate an individual, opens the door to discrimination. Many companies quietly discarded or ignored applications with the conviction box checked. With millions of Americans incarcerated and many tens of millions more living with criminal records, the barrier to employment was too high.

Ban the box laws require employers to delay questions about criminal history and the use of background checks until later in the process. The idea: require businesses to evaluate individuals as candidates first. Many ban the box laws stipulate that employers must provide a conditional job offer before they can order a criminal history check. Some impose stiff fines on companies for violating these rules. So far, 37 states have some form of a "ban the box" law on the books, and more than a hundred counties and cities have enacted their own rules.

Construction companies must navigate "ban the box" laws in a manner unique compared to many other industries. In some states and municipalities, these rules only apply to public employment with the government rather than all private businesses. Even if a builder is not obligated to delay checks as a private employer, they may face a requirement to do so if they wish to bid for and win government contracts. Therefore, any "ban the box" law in your area of operation merits careful consideration for compliance purposes.

Always review state and local laws before using consumer reporting products.

The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA)

The Fair Credit Reporting Act, or FCRA, was initially passed into law to rein in rampant and discriminatory misuse of consumer credit information. Before the FCRA, consumers had very little recourse if there was inaccurate information about them contained in their credit reports. Some people even dealt with deliberate misinformation. The FCRA implemented a framework that reduced these problems and protected individual rights.

Under the FCRA, using background checks for employment screening counts as ordering a consumer report. As such, the FCRA regulates all background checks and how businesses may use them. Employers face several critical requirements that they must take care to meet—overzealous and litigious lawyers have often feasted on minor FCRA compliance deviations that turned into massive, multi-million-dollar class action lawsuits. Many of those suits do not end in the employer's favor.

What are the critical and essential elements of FCRA compliance? 

To learn more about the ins and outs of the FCRA and what it means for background checks for construction companies and manufacturers, our in-depth knowledge base article has even more detail for you to explore.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)

In 2012, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission determined that using criminal history information as part of the hiring process fundamentally impacts some more than others, especially African Americans and Hispanics. As such, the EEOC voted to issue new guidance on how employers may use and consider conviction records. The EEOC holds that the purpose of searching records must be strictly "job-related" and a necessity for doing business.

As part of this change, the EEOC issued new guidance to employers on how0 to ensure that they maintain fair hiring practices that do not unfairly discriminate against job seekers. These practices include the following:

Everyone must maintain fairness in hiring and avoid disparate impacts on minority groups, including builders and manufacturers. Carefully review your policy and consult an employment lawyer to ensure your procedure aligns with EEOC expectations.

Navigating Changing Drug Laws

Drug testing is often a supplementary procedure in a construction or manufacturing employment background check. In both sectors, worker safety on the job site is paramount. Impairment could lead to serious injury or even accidental death. Accordingly, the drug test remains a pillar of the hiring process for these industries. Even so, with changing drug laws across the country, especially surrounding cannabis, companies must adopt a more considered approach based on these changes and local laws.

Many states now have medical marijuana, and a growing number have legalized recreational cannabis even as the substance remains illegal at the federal level. Seven of these states go so far as to bar employers from acting against individuals for off-duty marijuana use, and many assert that medical marijuana usage cannot be considered a disqualifying factor. Companies must carefully review the rules and regulations applicable to their location before considering the results of drug tests.

Some employers have chosen to skip drug tests altogether because of these changes. However, screening panels can still alert you to concerns surrounding the abuse of hard drugs such as methamphetamine or opioids, which can cause substantially more impairment on the job. Ultimately, you will need to build a workplace drug policy that neither excludes qualified candidates nor compromises safety. With more changes to drug laws likely in the next few years, this is an area where hiring managers should frequently re-evaluate their policies.

What Background Checks Should You Use?

With a legally compliant policy for using background checks, it's time to consider how your business can effectively vet job applicants to hire those who pose the lowest levels of up-front risk to your business. How does that look in practice? Can you order a criminal history check, review that, and call it a day? Likely not. Every effective background check process involves more than a basic criminal record check, even though such reports are what most people think of when they hear about “submitting to a background check."

Even though construction and manufacturing have sometimes been called "unskilled" labor, the reality couldn't be farther from the truth. The work done by these employees has a long-lasting impact on the world, from creating products used in the home to creating homes themselves. Quality and reliability come from knowledgeable, experienced, and professional workers—and your background check should play a key role in identifying who is the best fit for your team. 

What checks do you need to use to ensure you're creating a team that will work safely and effectively together?

Identity Verification

It's essential to be sure that you obtain the records of the correct individual when you start an employment background check for a manufacturing position. It is also necessary to know that you have followed every avenue to locate any criminal records associated with someone, even if they went by another name in the past. Verifying identity is a simple way to ensure that someone can legally come to work for you.

Using a Social Security number, it is possible to determine whether any aliases are associated with it other than the name your applicant supplied. Using identity verification results creates an opportunity for a more far-reaching background check that may uncover records created under that alias. This simple search is a good place to begin and creates a solid foundation of confidence for you to continue with vetting.

Criminal Record Checks

The backbone of every hiring process, criminal record checks, lets you move through the process of selecting workers with confidence and a more fully informed point of view. Unfortunately, there is no single central repository for all criminal records nationwide. Instead, they exist in a patchwork of fragmented systems that stretch from county courts up to the level of the state police. Other kinds of checks, such as an FBI background check, consult different sources altogether.

Selecting the right background check package for your business is essential. For builders, a check of state and local criminal records may provide the level of detail you need. For manufacturers in sensitive industries such as defense, a more comprehensive investigation of someone's background may be necessary. To streamline the process, we regularly collect criminal record information from resources nationwide and maintain a database that offers instant results for large portions of the country. Results for some states, such as California, may take longer due to local regulations.

Remember, examining criminal histories are an important element of safeguarding against future claims of negligent hiring. Explore our case study on industrial manufacturing and construction background checks for real-world examples of how we’ve helped businesses navigate challenges in this arena.

Metro, County, and State Considerations

While manufacturing tends to occur in single locations, construction companies may frequently accept projects in different areas. Sometimes, you may even take on jobs outside your state. In doing so, it is important to be mindful of how background check regulations can change. For example, when operating in a large metropolitan area, you may face compliance obligations when hiring in one county rather than another. One state may ban the box; another may not. Ensuring you have a clear understanding of these differences is key.

Likewise, it is essential to recognize that individuals often move frequently, especially in an industry such as construction. A background check that only consults records from an individual's current county or metro could leave important records undiscovered. Using a far-reaching tool such as the US OneSEARCH, you can instantly access records compiled from all 50 states and all the major metropolitan areas. When necessary, you can drill down to individual counties and search for records that still need to make it into state databases. In doing so, you can conduct even more thorough due diligence when necessary.

Driving Records

In most cases, neither builders nor manufacturers will need to consult driving records before hiring. Only if you intend to hire someone to operate a commercial vehicle (as defined by Department of Transportation regulations) will you need to consult driving records. This is a separate vetting process, different from the criminal process, that comes with its own set of considerations, regulations, and compliance concerns. Learn more about what an MVR report is and who needs to order them now.

Drug Screening

As we mentioned earlier, drug screening is an important part of maintaining safety on the site. An impaired coworker is a danger to everyone nearby. While drug tests can't indicate whether someone is intoxicated at the time, they can reveal patterns of use. Be aware of local rules regarding cannabis and employment in your area. Besides those regulations, where they exist, employers remain free to develop their own drug policy, including taking a zero-tolerance approach to any positive test during the hiring process. Most screening panels will show results for common drugs, including meth, heroin, cocaine, and others, enabling a more fully informed decision-making process.

Resume Verification

Employment verifications are an important part of construction background checks since they help you understand whether someone has been truthful about their previous work experience. You can also confirm their job duties, the dates they worked, and learn to a limited degree what their time with other employers was like. Many people lie on their resumes, even those seeking jobs in construction environments, and they may pad their experience or misrepresent their qualifications. Taking the time to investigate these claims and verify their accuracy lets you build confidence in a team with the required skills and knowledge.

Preventing Sexual Misconduct

Employers should strive to prevent sexual harassment and improper behavior in the workplace. As part of that initiative, checking sex offender registries while hiring is a critical step. All sex offenders face a requirement to register, especially when they move from one location to another. While such an offense may not be an automatic disqualifier, employers should carefully consider how recent the offense was and the severity of the crime. 

Hiring someone with a severe offense who then commits another similar crime could reflect on your business poorly. Our background checks include consulting state registries for matches by default.

National Security Checks

If you intend to bid on certain kinds of public contracts, such as those offered by the federal government, your business may also need to screen its employees against sanctions lists and take other measures related to national security. The government cannot and will not work with sanctioned entities or participate in a project that otherwise violates international sanctions. Checking names against the terrorist watch list and even the Interpol fugitive list may also be necessary.

Because government procedures build security into each step, it is important for businesses to understand how to meet those obligations. Our National Security OneSEARCH ensures that you can rapidly check more than 100 different critical sources to vet certified professionals, executives, or even rank-and-file employees when required.


How do you check the background of a builder?

For companies looking to hire builders, background checks must follow a well-defined process that follows the law. This includes meeting disclosure and consent requirements defined by the Fair Credit Reporting Act. After obtaining consent and extending a conditional offer where necessary based on local law, you can use a consumer reporting agency such as to obtain a criminal record check. This report contains the background information you need to know.

If you need to hire someone with a specific skill set or certifications in building, you should take additional steps to verify that they have fairly and honestly represented their qualifications. With criminal history checks, professional verifications, and pre-employment drug testing, you can select qualified candidates to build a highly effective team.

Can you become a construction worker if you have a record?

In most cases, yes. Some employers using construction background checks may choose not to hire individuals with certain severe and violent felony convictions, such as murder. However, even most felony convictions do not necessarily preclude someone from obtaining a builder or contractor's license. Construction is an industry that typically sees high turnover and requires new employees regularly. The less public-facing nature of construction work also means that employers may be more likely than others to hire individuals with a criminal record. Many formerly incarcerated individuals have made a fresh start by finding work in construction or manufacturing before transitioning to other fields.

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