Over the years, I've come to realize as a business lawyer startups require both business law and startup law support. Many people starting a new business and hiring on new employees can be a bit uncomfortable with carrying out background checks. But there's absolutely nothing wrong about conducting these checks on employees or clients. Businesses that do this are protecting their new business, their employees and their clients.
But as a business attorney practitioner myself, I've seen too many people get themselves into trouble by not doing background checks in a legal way. Any good startup lawyer offers recognizes this problem. Below are tips businesspersons can use to do background checks right.
Background Check Do's and Don'ts from a Business Attorney
Business law and federal law both place limitations on what a startup can do when carrying out background checks. Still, I strongly recommend being as thorough and broad is the law will allow. Look at a wide variety of information sources when conducting a background check. It's important to do a criminal history check, but a background check into a job applicant's prior employment, driving record, education and social media activity is a good idea too.
In addition to new business owners weeding out the ones they don't want, a thorough background check can often help them hold onto candidates they might lose by only considering one or two items. My business lawyer NYC experience tells me that focusing exclusively on applicant's criminal records can easily lead to an investigation by the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC).
I strongly advise clients not to include the so-called “box.” This is a section on the application that asks, “Have you ever been convicted of a crime?” The EEOC view this as a potential discriminatory violation of business law. Instead, it's best just to rely on a detailed background check to get this information.
Startup lawyer legal objectives are to ensure that startup law is being adhered to as closely as possible. This means having applicants fill out a legal release form for the background check, notifying the applicants of their rights, providing them with a full copy of the background check report and following up with notification regarding adverse actions.
I can't stress strongly enough that business owners should avoid skirting the edge of the law in any way. There are – unfortunately – more ways for a background check to be done incorrectly and illegally than there are right and legal ways. It's vital for new startups to be extremely careful about the rules regarding this process. It's also important to keep in mind that the specific rules governing background checks vary depending on the local, state and federal laws – as well as laws specific to certain jobs.
It's critical to be as consistent as possible. While it's fine if different positions have different background check requirements, when applicants are applying for the same position, the background checks run on them need to be exactly the same. The legal consequences of doing otherwise are significant.
One other piece of advice I always give to new business owners is that they should bring in professionals to carry out their background checks. The screeners at these firms can perform a much more thorough and detailed background check than business owners could ever do on their own. Using these professionals will also help inexperienced startup owners avoid any entanglements with federal or state law. For a free legal consultation, contact our firm today.
Ekaterina Mouratova is one of the expert bloggers in Law Firm and attorneys. She is the founder of The Law Firm of Ekaterina Mouratova, PLLC and The Startup Law Center. She has written blogs giving suggestions, tips, advises and much other beneficial information for the reader. Her suggestions are genuine and work great in the real world.