The use of background checks to screen potential employees has become a billion-dollar business, says NPR. More than 90 percent of U.S. employers conduct criminal background checks, at least on some potential hires, says the National Consumer Law Center. In addition to criminal records, businesses look into all kinds of other information, such as credit reports and driving records. “Our approach has been, there should be a job for everybody, but not everyone is appropriate for every job,” says Les Rosen of Employment Screening Resources, a background check firm in California.
Businesses can be liable if they don’t check out workers who go on to commit crimes on the job. No company wants the embarrassment of finding out that high-profile employees fibbed on their resumes, as happened with Yahoo CEO Scott Thompson. Consumer advocates say employers have become too cautious and too nosy. “The fact of the matter is that there aren’t tremendous privacy protections for job applicants and employees in this country,” says Judy Conti, who lobbies for the National Employment Law Center, an advocacy group for low-income and unemployed workers. Last month, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission revised guidelines on use of criminal background checks. It wasn’t so much a change in policy as an attempt to clarify the rules. The gist was that on criminal records, employers should look only at those cases directly relevant to the position.