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Recognizing and minimizing hiring bias with background checks

Despite advances in equitable hiring practices over the past several years, unconscious biases still cloud otherwise impartial judgement. Unconscious biases—the automatic, unintentional, learned stereotypes we use to form impressions of new people and environments—are not always benign. However, everyone has them and everyone can learn to recognize them. We’re here to help you recognize and reduce hiring bias at your company.

First impressions are important in the hiring process, but unconscious biases can incorrectly shape those initial meetings by recognizing your biases and taking measures to promote neutrality in your hiring, you can create an equitable system that ensures you’ll find the best candidate. Background checks and smart hiring practices are effective ways to minimize biases. Let’s dive into a few screening methods you can implement to make your hiring unbiased and successful.

Partner with a screening agency.

Sometimes it can be tricky to decipher what the information in a background report means. Your interpretation of a report might not be completely correct, leaving you with an impression of a candidate that doesn’t reflect who they are.

Professional background check agencies have years of expertise to help you understand what background reports really mean. When you partner with a company like One Source, you get help interpreting reports and developing a consistent approach to all background checks. Working with professionals removes misinterpretation and error that could skew your view of a candidate and harm your hiring.

Thoroughly write job descriptions.

Clear and thorough job descriptions aren’t only helpful for attracting the best candidates, they allow your hiring managers to make choices based on facts instead of assumptions. Include a full list of skills, job expectations, professional background needs and other elements of the position.

Be sure your description is clear of any words that could be associated with a gender, race, age, group or any other identifier. Run your description by your human resources team before you post the job to ensure it meets all expectations.

Customize your screening scope

After you have a job description and employment policy in place, make sure that you are screening the correct scope. The depth and width of the package you are screening with are two things to consider when creating your process.

How many years of names and addresses do you wish to search? The Federal Government typically searches seven years, making it the industry standard, however you can customize to five or even ten years.

How far back you want to search in each location? Many jurisdictions allow you to search at minimum seven years from the final disposition. Other jurisdictions have information back indefinitely. Do you only wat to see a certain scope? If so, work with your screening partner to customize you scope to fit your organization and industry.

At One Source, we want to help you make the best hiring decisions for your company. We’ll work with you to help you navigate background checks fairly and accurately. Contact One Source Client Relations team today to learn more about our screening services.

New Compliance Laws You Should Know in 2020

If you haven’t been staying up to date on new compliance laws over the past few months, we can’t blame you. Every aspect of life has been altered by the pandemic, and your top priority should be the health and safety of your family, employees and customers.

One Source is here to support you through difficult times and update you on new compliance laws that may impact your organization. Regardless of whether your company is hiring right now, these new compliance laws will likely affect you down the road.  So it’s best to stay one step ahead and be prepared when your business is ready to hire again. Here are some of the most important state and federal regulations about screening and hiring that have been passed in recent months.

The Fair Chance to Compete for Jobs Act

This federal law goes into effect in December 2021. It declares federal agencies (all departments and offices within the federal government) cannot request a criminal background check until a conditional job offer has been extended to an applicant.

Law enforcement agencies and positions with access to classified national security information are exempt from this law. This law only applies to government agencies, not private businesses. It is a version of a “ban the box” law that delays a criminal background check until much later in the hiring process.

Updated Form I-9

Every employer in the U.S. must complete a Form I-9 for each person they hire. Form I-9, used to verify an employee’s identity and employment authorization, is an important, routine part of the hiring process. 

The U.S. Citizen & Immigration Services agency released an update to the I-9 in October 2019, and the updated version became mandatory on May 1, 2020. You can visit the UCIS website to learn more about the changes to the I-9.

Drug Screening in New York City and Nevada

A new law went into effect in New York City on May 10, 2020, banning marijuana testing from pre-employment drug tests. Some jobs are excluded from this rule, especially jobs with safety requirements. If an employer screens a candidate for marijuana against this new law, the employer will be charged with discrimination.

Additionally, a new law went into effect January 1, 2020 in Nevada. This law prohibits employers from taking adverse action against applicants who test positive for marijuana. Employers can still test applicants for marijuana, but they cannot take adverse action based on a positive test result alone.

New Jersey Salary History Ban

Private employers in New Jersey can no longer inquire about their applicants’ salary history, past benefits or any other past compensation. This law was enacted January 1, 2020. The Salary History Ban is meant to encourage employers to pay new employees what they think their position is worth without context from an employee’s previous positions. Salary history bans attempt to address gender pay gaps by putting all applicants on an even playing field. Employers in New Jersey should work with their credit reporting agency to make sure salary history is not part of their employment verification reports.

Regulations and expectations in the hiring world continue to evolve. As the landscape of hiring changes, One Source stays on the cutting edge to help you make your best hiring choices. Contact One Source Client Relations today to learn how we can assist your hiring team.

Can I ever run a background check without permission?

The reasons to run a background check—and contexts in which you could need a background report are numerous: You may need a report ASAP. You may be running a check outside a formal hiring process. You may need a large number of reports completed at once.

Under a time constraint and without the strict rules of a hiring process, you might wonder whether it’s necessary to get the subject’s permission to run a screening. Technically, if you have someone’s full name, you could run a background check on them without their knowledge. However, that doesn’t mean you should. Ethically—and often legally—you should always obtain permission before screening anyone.

So the short answer is no, you can’t run a background check without permission. Screening ethics aren’t quite that simple though. Background checks in personal and professional settings have different expectations. Let’s dive into the rules, expectations and potential consequences of running background checks in different contexts so you can decide what makes the most sense for you.

Background checks in larger organizations.

If you are a landlord or an employer that hires frequently, you likely run background checks on your applicants to help you decide who to hire or rent to. In organizations with a full HR department, things are a bit different. You have employment policies and all the disclosure and authorization forms you need to properly run a pre-employment background check. But there are legal obligations for organizations that perform a lot of screenings that require consistent care, and you shouldn’t go it alone.

The information you gather from consumer reports has a direct impact on someone’s future, so you must abide by the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). The FCRA protects applicants with specific rights through the entire background check process. The law requires you to get their approval to run a consumer report—and they have the right to dispute that information.

No organization or landlord should ever disregard the FCRA. Those who do can end up in serious legal trouble like image-damaging class action lawsuits. A screening partner like One Source can help guide you through the FCRA with ease and make screening a simple and clear process. Often, credit reporting agencies (CRA) will provide you with an FCRA disclosure and authorization form as well as a sample policies and procedures to help you start. You don’t want to start off on the wrong foot by running a background check without permission. 

Background checks on a smaller scale.

Not everyone who runs a background check hires frequently or has an HR department. Smaller organizations that handle professional hiring may only need to run one or two background checks. Or you may be an individual wanting to run a report on just yourself. 

Even if you don’t hire frequently, that does not mean you shouldn’t inform those that you intend to screen. You should still have an employment policy in place and treat each new hire for similar positions equally. If you decide to utilize a CRA for this type of background check, then you will need to follow the FCRA requirements.

One Source can help with screenings on a smaller scale with our specializations in screenings for contractors and contingent works. If you want someone to do work on your office or rental home, you can screen them under the permissible purpose of site access. While you could look up the contractor online for reviews of their work, you can get a professional report on their background by utilizing a CRA. In order to do that, you must inform them of your intent to screen. Once again, you must not run a background check without permission.

At One Source, we help you see how the FCRA and screening ethics fit into your background check needs. Contact our Client Relations team today to see what screening options are best for you.

The state of the screening industry during the pandemic

While the current COVID-19 crisis and efforts to contain it have brought several industries to a halt, some businesses find themselves urgently in need of more team members. The healthcare and supply chain industries are working nonstop to fulfill the demands of sick and social-distancing populations. The screening industry has become more important than ever to these industries that are experiencing a spike in demand.

The industries with high demand have to hire new workers quickly. However, that doesn’t mean proper hiring protocols can be pushed aside.  Different security risks have arisen from having an entirely remote staff.

Background checks and monitoring are still necessary—even as the landscape of hiring changes. One Source is still here to serve your screening needs, and we’ll be totally transparent about ways COVID-19 has impacted the screening industry.

One Source Background Check’s COVID-19 protocols.

We created processes to keep our operations as normal as possible while prioritizing our team’s safety when we realized social distancing and stay-at-home orders were on the horizon for our clients.

Certain office closures around the country and the world will cause delays as we gather information for your reports. Some aspects of background checks that may be delayed across the entire screening industry include:

  • Court Records. We can process record requests in about 90 percent of U.S. counties at the moment. Many courts have ways to access records electronically. We will experience some delay for county courts that don’t have electronic records and are closed due to the pandemic.
  • Drug and Alcohol Testing. Some clinics in the U.S. are not open to those without respiratory symptoms. Some clinics are entirely closed. However, only 8 percent of the clinics in One Source’s network are currently closed. Double check with your local clinics to make sure they’re available for testing.
  • Education and Employment Verification. It may take longer to process verification requests due to some schools and organizations being closed right now.
  • International Criminal Records. Closures worldwide can slow processes and delay record requests.

Despite potential delays, we will still provide your reports on time and clearly mark if any parts are incomplete. You can see our entire COVID-19 process at the link at the top of our homepage.

Considerations for your own screening process.

You may be considering loosening some of your screening processes so you can hire faster if your demand for employees has increased. However, consider how the changes will affect your business down the road before you change your procedures.

For example, a business could choose to temporarily suspend criminal record checks to expedite hiring—a choice with potential negligent hiring and civil rights legal consequences.

Hiring without screening opens the door to negligent hiring charges. And if that business decides to reinstate criminal record checks, future hires could claim that criminal screenings were never necessary to the business and are a form of discrimination.

While we’re all taking this pandemic day by day, businesses do still need to plan ahead and consider the future of their workforce. Background checks play a big role in building a strong, consistent team and they shouldn’t be reduced for temporary circumstances.

To learn more about One Source’s COVID-19 response and how we can help your organization through,  Contact the One Source Client Relations