Can an employer perform background checks on applicants without violating their privacy?

Employers often perform extensive background checks, especially on applicants for high-level or highly sensitive positions.  Although a release, usually included on the job application, is unnecessary in many circumstances, we recommend it for many types of background checks.  Obtaining consent and releases for background checks is a good way to avoid liability in the application process.

Employers must also consider the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) when conducting a credit check, which addresses background investigations of employment applicants.  In addition, the Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits pre-employment medical inquiries, such as questioning an applicant or doing a background search about his or her worker’s compensation history.