Background Checks

Can an employer get copies of your school transcripts? How about your arrest record? Is it legal for an employer to deny you a job because your credit report has a few dings? Background checks are a controversial legal topic. On the one hand, employers want to find out whether employees have the credentials and experience to do the job — and don’t want to hire someone who could get the company in trouble. On the other hand, employees have legitimate privacy concerns about how far employers should be able to go in deciding whom to hire.

Similar concerns apply to testing. There are all kinds of tests an employer might ask applicants to take, from a typing test to a physical, drug test, or personality test. Some of these tests make good sense. After all, an applicant for a job that will involve, for example, heavy lifting or detailed knowledge of a particular computer program, must have that ability or knowledge — and it’s fair for the employer to test for it. On the other hand, certain types of tests aren’t as directly related to the job — and might violate applicant privacy or discriminate against certain applicants.

This section takes a look at the legal rules that apply to background checks and testing: what employers can find out about applicants and how they can go about doing it.

Legal Rules for Background Checks

Employment Discrimination Based on Criminal Records
Can an employer deny you a job based on your arrest or conviction record?

If my criminal record was expunged, can I say I have no convictions?
The law allows you to say you do not have a criminal record, if that record has been expunged.

Questions and Answers

Nolo Resources on Hiring

Your Rights in the Workplace
Nolo’s essential guide to all of your workplace rights, including during the hiring process.

Hiring Your First Employee
When it’s time to hire someone, this book will help you learn the ropes.

Hiring Forms for Employers Kit
The forms you need to hire employees, from an application form to an offer letter.

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