The Criminal Background Check is Only Getting More Important

As more laws and regulations restricting the criminal background check spread across the country, some employers have abandoned much of the process. Others openly advertise that they do not complete background checks, hoping to invite individuals seeking a fresh start or a second chance. Although, many continue to use employment screening services even when it requires maneuvering through regulations such as ban the box.

In housing, some states and locales have also succeeded in wholly banning tenant screening with limited exceptions. In Nevada, just such a law is under consideration in early 2023. The aim of these rules is clear: reduce recidivism rates and encourage a real re-entry to society by removing some barriers that prevent the formerly incarcerated from moving forward.

Even in the face of these changes, the reality remains the same: using background checks, when done fairly and with care, delivers important benefits that employers and landlords are hesitant to lose. While vetting can't predict future behavior, it can provide important early warning signs. 

Though attitudes may shift, the reasons to use background checks only grow stronger over time. What are they?

Background Checks Protect Your Business

For employers, background checks are an important way to safeguard their property, assets, and current employees. They may even protect the public if the employee interacts with or visits customers’ homes. A thorough vetting procedure lets you spot signs indicating someone could be at risk of re-offending. 

In other cases, such as when you uncover a conviction for a violent assault or sex crime, you may not be able to build the trust necessary to hire someone. Showing that you did everything possible to verify someone's trustworthiness before hiring is important to establish that you were not negligent. These procedures can prevent tragic incidents and protect your business from legal liability.

You Might Protect a Community When You Check for a Criminal Record

For landlords, tools such as the alias background check and the criminal history report protect those in the neighborhood or building. For example, renting to a registered sex offender could be illegal if the structure is near a school or daycare. Likewise, a habitually violent offender might raise too many red flags for a landlord to proceed. These risks form the bulk of the backlash from landlords against applying ban the box laws and restrictions on background checks to prospective tenants. 

Lax Processes Foster Widespread Mistrust

Background checks do more than safeguard you: they are also important to the public. Doing your due diligence helps to build trust between the public and your business or organization—it shows that you want to prevent the development of any potential for harm. 

Unfortunately, we can see many examples of organizations that didn't take those steps and have suffered serious PR backlash. For example, dozens of San Francisco-area police officers were found to have incomplete background checks on files—with some working for more than a year without proper vetting. Such actions do nothing to promote trust between police and the public by creating the appearance of special or double standards.

In Rochester, New York, a teacher's aide was fired and arrested after child abuse materials were discovered in his possession—a crime he'd been arrested for once before as a minor. Though the record was under seal at the time and would not appear on a background check, many parents said the situation undermined their trust in the system. Legislators may soon look at changing what kinds of convictions can go under seal.

Building an Approach That Makes the Most Sense

With a public that's engaged on issues of both vetting and fairness in hiring and renting, employers and landlords have a tricky landscape to navigate. However, abandoning the criminal background check shouldn't be a part of the plan. With important benefits for the public and your business, it should remain a key part of your processes—but those processes must respond to the evolution of the law. Be sure you're prepared with the right tools for due diligence and the best resources to respond to regulatory change.

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Michael Klazema

About Michael Klazema The author

Michael Klazema is the lead author and editor for Dallas-based with a focus on human resource and employment screening developments

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