8 Background Screening Mistakes to Quit Making in 2020

(Last Updated On: January 30, 2020)

background screening


As we take our first step into the next decade, it’s a perfect time to take a look at the way we’ve been doing things and decide what is working and what needs to go.  As Human Resource professionals, hiring the best talent is always at the top of your resolution list for the New Year.  Background screening is an ever-evolving process and doing the “same old” can get you in a lot of trouble these days.  Let’s take a look at some of the common background screening mistakes, that are “so 2019”, it’s time to leave them in the dustbin of time.

Don’t fall victim to these mistakes:

  1. Excluding vendors, subcontractors and gig workers from my background screening process

Over the past decade, the use of a contingent workforce has been a rising trend for many organizations.  The Federal Reserve estimates the total number of gig workers to be as high as 75 million people.  Much like traditional employees, these individuals often have access to an organization’s clients, resources and equipment.  Unfortunately, contingent workers have proven to be a chink in many organization’s armor, resulting in high legal costs and devastating consequences to the company’s reputation.  The screening process for these workers should be as robust and comprehensive as for any employee engaged to represent your organization.

  1. Only running pre-employment screening checks

In 2020, most employers have realized the importance of pre-screening potential employees.  According to a 2019 HR.com/NAPBS survey, 96% of organizations are conducting background checks on employees.  Primarily, these checks are being done as a singular pre-hire screen.  In the coming decade, HR professionals need to consider that conducting a single background check only provides an employer with a “snapshot in time”.  Any employee misdeeds that occur post hire may go unnoticed, leaving a company vulnerable to issues with workplace violence, employee theft, or other criminal activity.  Ongoing, continuous monitoring helps maintain a safe workforce and mitigates risk.

  1. Relying on Google to tell me about my candidate

Alexa may know a lot of things, but you may not want to count on her for decision making on your potential employees.  The accuracy of social media accounts is questionable and in some states, relying on social media for your hiring process, can put you in legal hot water.  Professional background screening companies are obligated to comply with strict FCRA regulations, which means the information you receive is appropriate to use in the hiring process and has been verified to actually belong to your candidate.

  1. Automatically disqualifying anyone with a criminal record

When a criminal record is uncovered during a background check, employers must use caution when making the decision to disqualify that applicant.  To remain in compliance with EEOC recommendations, employers should conduct an individualized assessment, which considers relevant factors including: the nature and gravity of the offense, the time that has passed since the offense, and the nature of the job.  Additionally, there are numerous state and local laws that require an Individualized Assessment.

  1. Avoiding policy changes in regards to medical marijuana

We’re starting the decade with 33 states that allow medical marijuana use.  If you are an employer that is drug testing and you haven’t recently reviewed how to handle legalized marijuana use in the workplace, that should be on your radar for 2020.   There are an increasing number of state laws prohibiting discrimination against workers who use medical marijuana.  Additionally, Nevada and New York City are leading the way in passing laws that prohibit pre-employment marijuana screening.  Of course, there is a lot of “grey area” that provides exceptions for safety sensitive positions including drivers and caregivers.  Employers should be looking at job positions to make sure that marijuana drug testing is appropriate and not in violation of state discrimination laws

  1. Not considering fair pay laws in your hiring process

As we move into 2020, the increasing trend amongst state and local governments to prohibit employers from asking about salary history information continues to grow.  Currently there are 17 statewide bans and 20 local bans restricting employers’ access to salary information.  These laws are intended to promote pay equity and close the gap on gender and race discrimination in the workplace.  HR professionals should be looking at current policy and consider removing questions related to salary and increasing pay transparency. Partnering with a background screening provider such as Justifacts with built in compliance tools that are updated in real time as legislation is passed, can also make staying compliant less intimidating

  1. Having employees check a box on your application to let them know that you are going to be running a background check

2019 saw a record high number of FCRA lawsuits.  FCRA violations typically result in class action lawsuits and can carry multi-million dollar settlements.  It is essential for organizations to provide candidates with a stand-alone disclosure form stating that you are going to be performing a background check on an applicant prior to conducting any background checks. While reviewing your disclosure make sure to exclude any “extraneous” language on disclosures such as state law notifications or release from liability verbiage.  Additionally, applicants must complete an authorization form that permits you to conduct a background check on him/her. It is essential to have a valid signature on this form prior to beginning the background check process.

  1. Not letting candidates know why you are not going to be hiring them (particularly if it is due to information uncovered in a background check)

Informing a candidate that you have decided not to extend an offer is not always the most enviable task.  However, taking the time to notify candidates about your decision not to move forward conveys respect and is an FCRA requirement if the decision is based on information uncovered during the background check process.  The FCRA requires a two-step Pre-Adverse Action/ Adverse action process.  In the first Pre-Adverse Action step, the applicant must receive notification that the employer may not be extending an offer due to some piece of information found in the background check.  The applicant must also be provided with a copy of his/her report as well as a Summary of Rights.  Employers must allow the applicant a reasonable amount of time to dispute the findings, typically defined as five business days.  If the applicant does not dispute the information, and the decision not to hire remains, the employer must send a second Adverse Action letter, a completed report, a Summary of Rights, and your CRA’s contact information. Justifacts offer clients a complimentary adverse action tool to assist clients with this process.


Now that we’re kicking off a new year and a new decade, let’s work to “tidy up” your background screening process and make the necessary changes that help to avoid risk and grow your company.

Justifacts is here to Help

Justifacts continues to stay up-to-date on how new federal, state, and local regulations impact employment background checks. We offer numerous services, ranging from employment verification to criminal record checks for industries extending from the manufacturing industry to non-profit organizations.  Furthermore, Justifacts’ built in compliance tools, updated in real time, help clients stay current with any new legislation that may affect your background screening process.  These compliance tools are offered at no additional cost to our clients.

If you are looking for more information on our services, feel free to request information or give us a call at 800-356-6885 to speak to our sales team.


It is important to note that Justifacts is providing this information as a service to our clients. None of the information contained herein should be construed as legal advice, nor is Justifacts engaged to provide legal advice. We go to great lengths to make sure our information is accurate and useful. We recommend you consult your attorney or legal department if you want assurance that our information, and your interpretation of it, is appropriate to your particular situation.