Conducting background checks on your employees and/or volunteers is something that has become a necessity for any organization that works with children. It’s common sense. It protects a vulnerable population. It speaks highly about your organizations’ commitment to keeping children and the people in your workplace safe. It mitigates risk.

The laws and logistics of screening, however, can be confusing, especially for youth sports groups that may not have the benefit of an in-house Human Resources or hiring professional who understands how to remain compliant. Among all of the potential pitfalls that organizations can encounter along the way, there are three traps that are particularly common. Here’s what they are and how to avoid them.

Not Getting a Person’s Written Consent

Always get consent before running a check. According to the Fair Credit Reporting Act, the chief law governing how employers perform an employment background check, you must make the candidate aware of your screening policy and you must have them provide written consent before running a check. Running a check after failing to obtain consent will essentially invalidate the results. If you use information found on a check run without permission you are subjecting yourself to a costly lawsuit. Here’s a thorough description of what consent means in a background check:

  • It’s written
  • It’s asked for on a form separate from any other forms related to the candidate’s application for the job
  • It’s required if you will hire an outside agency (like Active Screening) to check out a candidate
  • Consent often includes the right to inquire about a candidate’s credit report (but this should be specifically stated)
  • There can be no waivers, additional wording, or other unneccessary information on the form that can be confusing to applicants
  • It’s required to obtain extra information like school transcripts or military service records
  • An applicant does NOT have to consent to a background check. You are entitled to take them out of consideration if they do not consent.

No signature, no go – it’s the law!

Using Social Media as a Background Check

Facebook. Instagram. Snapchat. Twitter. Pinterest. Vine. Personal blogs. We cannot stress this enough – these are not sufficient tools for a background check. Even worse, they leave you extremely vulnerable to a discrimination lawsuit. We understand that social media has become a popular recruiting tool over the past couple years, however it should not be used to screen employees or volunteers. Social media releases information that employers are not allowed to consider when making a decision about hiring. Due to the personal nature of social platforms and privacy laws, employers who use it for hiring purposes are at a greater risk for a discrimination lawsuit. If you just can’t help yourself, make sure to abide by these tips as directly provided by Business Management Daily:

  1. Make sure you’ve got the right person. Even relatively rare names are duplicated, and many tall tales exist in cyberspace. “The way to deal with that is to bring (the Google result) to the person’s attention,” says Joe Beachboard, an employment lawyer with Ogletree Deakins in California. “I would always give the person the opportunity to confirm or deny it.”
  2. Be consistent with your searches. As with other recruiting tools, you shouldn’t discriminate when Googling based on the person’s race, age, gender or name (national origin bias). Realize that Googling may pull up photos, which means you may have to explain whether you considered the individual’s race/age/disability in your hiring decision.

Thinking a National Search is Sufficient

You may be tempted to rely solely on a national database to perform your search. That’s a mistake. A fingerprint background check reveals personal data like your birth, names, addresses, employment and arrests. An Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) fingerprint check will provide your criminal conviction history. Fingerprints alone, however, don’t paint the whole picture and can have incomplete or inaccurate information. The National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS, of which we’re an accredited agency) reports that 1.8 million workers who were subjected to FBI fingerprint checks in 2012 had faulty or incomplete information in their returns. Plus, a fingerprint check doesn’t include current reports on a person’s use of illegal substances. Only a drug test would prove that.

A background check should be comprehensive and cover all the necessary elements to make an informed decision about hiring. Comprehensive checks should include a criminal history, a reference and credential check, a driving record and, if necessary, a credit and identity check.

Many employers do not know there are different types of criminal records: county, state and national. Enlisting the help of an accredited agency like Protect Youth Sports is your best bet to getting the diverse results you desire to make an informed decision.

Still have questions? We have answers. Send us your comment below or give one of our expert team members a call at 1-877-319-5587.