Is it Legal for Employers to do Annual Criminal Background Checks?

Criminal background checks

Criminal background checks are becoming a standard part of the hiring process. Nearly all – 96% – of companies conduct background checks as a part of the hiring process. While some employers conduct annual criminal background checks, it is not as common. However, it is legal under most circumstances.

The key thing to remember is that employers must apply background check policies uniformly. If they were to conduct checks for only certain employees, such as those of a specific race, the practice would be considered discriminatory. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) prohibits including any medical or genetic questions during a background check. As this information is generally not part of a criminal background check, most employers need not concern themselves with the requirement. However, if the criminal background check includes additional information, it is good to remember the prohibited items.

In addition to being legal, annual criminal background checks are good practice for most employers. Many employers believe that if an employee were to be convicted of a crime, the employer would learn about it. After all, an arrest and conviction would be hard to keep secret, right? Well, not in some cases. Employees may be able to keep a conviction secret by paying bail, serving a sentence with work furlough or volunteer hours, or serving a jail term during the weekend.

In these instances, it will be up to the employer to ascertain any new criminal convictions on their own. This cannot be done without follow-up background screening. One of the best ways to do that is by conducting annual background checks. These checks can benefit the employer in multiple ways, including:

  • Keeping the workplace safe. Employers have a duty to keep their workplace safe for employees and customers. Yet, countless stories of predators in the workplace pose a safety risk for everyone. If the employer knows of a conviction that may threaten other employees, such as stalking, harassment, or assault, they can take action to prevent a security incident. But if no annual criminal background check is completed, a conviction of this type may fly under the radar. Without the necessary information, the employer cannot take precautions to keep the workplace safe, which can be a huge risk and liability.
  • Reducing theft or losses. If an employee previously cleared during a criminal background check gets convicted of theft, embezzlement, or extortion, your company’s assets may be at risk. Discovering this type of conviction can help you proactively keep an eye on your finances or limit this employee’s access to assets and money. Any of these actions could reduce the potential that your company would lose money if the employee were to attempt this type of behavior in the workplace.
  • Increase compliance. Some state and local governments have laws governing how often employees in certain industries need background checks. Those jobs that work with vulnerable populations, such as children, the elderly, or disabled individuals, often have this requirement. If your company fails to adhere to laws, it may be non-compliant. And non-compliance can result in fines or penalties. Worse yet, it could result in an unfit person gaining access to vulnerable individuals. Unfortunately, this could result in harm being done to those in your care.
  • Decreased risk. Most business owners understand that the risk of legal action is always present. There is a threat that you may be sued by an employee, customer, partner, or supplier. But in many of these cases, if the company can prove that it held up its responsibilities, the likelihood of punitive legal judgments is minimized. And one of the best ways to demonstrate that your business prioritized customer and employee safety is by having records showing that regular criminal background checks occurred.

A pre-hiring criminal background check pulls a potential employee’s record at a specific point in time. However, many things can change over time, and employees may have new arrests or convictions. An employer may only learn this information by completing regular background checks. Fortunately, criminal background checks are not as comprehensive as full-blown pre-employment background checks. They can usually be completed quickly and easily.

These regular background checks are completely legal, provided that they are applied uniformly to all employees regularly. They provide many safeguards and protection to the company conducting them. To learn more about conducting complaint criminal background checks, contact USA Fact today.

USA Fact Global Screening Services provides comprehensive background and criminal checks for employers that comply with federal and local laws. By helping you eliminate high-risk applicants through tailored solutions, USAFact enables you to create a safe and productive work environment and a foundation for future success.