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Challenges in checking potential employees' backgrounds

Matthew McKinney is an attorney at BrownWinick Attorneys at Law. 6a00d83452ceb069e201b8d17a5a67970c-320wi

Steve Jobs once said, "[g]reat things in business are never done by one person. They're done by a team of people."  As many successful business leaders know, gathering the proper individuals to form a winning team, however, doesn't happen on its own.

One step that leaders often implement in assembling a winning team is to perform background checks, including past employment, criminal background, driving record, and credit history on prospective employees.

When it comes to many of these checks, however, the process is not as simple and quick as performing an internet search.  For instance, the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) governs how businesses may legally screen certain matters and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has its own interpretation of how checks may drive hiring decisions.

Moreover, while you are working to build a winning team, your prospective employee's former employer may not be willing to share detailed information about your candidate for fear of a lawsuit by the candidate alleging claims of defamation, slander, breach of privacy, and retaliation. In short, simply assembling a team can involve several legal issues.  

The foregoing merely scratches the surface on a myriad of legal issues facing employers seeking to assemble a winning team.  So, what is an employer to do to navigate these issues?

For starters, many employers make sure to utilize carefully crafted waivers, written authorizations, and releases when seeking to obtain or use information. Further, savvy employers will document certain important steps throughout the hiring / screening process.

A licensed attorney can assist with each of these items - and others - as well as provide guidance on the types of positions that Iowa law requires certain background checks be performed prior to hiring.  

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