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Employee Manuals

A recent book, "The Safe Hiring Manual," includes a sample policy for employers that wish to effectively communicate background-screening procedures to workers and applicants. This is an excerpt from that book.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006
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Many employers do not refer to pre-employment screening in their employee manuals. Even when employers screen current employees for purposes of promotion, reassignment or retention, there are no legal requirements that compel employers to refer to "screening" in their handbooks. However, there is also no reason not to include mention in the employee handbook.

An employee manual is one of the most effective ways to communicate general policies and procedures to employees. A well-written manual helps avoid misunderstandings about policies or benefits, helps avoid lawsuits and thereby enhances morale. Manuals also promote consistency of treatment and reduce the risk of charges of discrimination being made.

The following sample policy on employment screening is suggested language for an employee manual. The text can be modified as appropriate for firms that choose to include their employment screening policy in the employee handbook. Because no one handbook applies to all businesses or all situations, this language is a general suggestion.

Sample Policy on Employment Background Screening

To ensure that individuals who join this firm are well qualified and have a strong potential to be productive and successful -- and to further ensure that this firm maintains a safe and productive work environment free of any form of violence, harassment or misconduct -- it is the policy of this company to perform pre-employment screening and credentials verification on applicants who are offered and accept an offer of employment. A pre-employment background check is a sound business practice that benefits everyone. It is not a reflection on a particular job applicant.

Offers of employment are conditional upon the firm's receipt of a pre-employment background screening investigation that is acceptable to the firm at the firm's sole discretion. Any applicant who refuses to sign a background screening release form will not be eligible for employment.

To ensure privacy, all pre-employment background screenings are conducted by a third party. All screenings are conducted in strict conformity with the Federal Fair Credit Reporting Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and state and federal anti-discrimination and privacy laws. All reports are kept strictly confidential, and are only viewed by individuals in this firm who have direct responsibility in the hiring process.

All screening reports are kept and maintained separately from your personnel file. Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, all background screenings are done only after a person has received a disclosure and has signed a release. In addition, you have certain legal rights to discover and to dispute or explain any information prepared by the third party background-screening agency.

If the employer intends to deny employment wholly or partly because of information obtained in a pre-employment check conducted by the company's consumer reporting agency, then the applicant will first be provided with a copy of the background report, a statement of rights and the name, address and phone number of the consumer-reporting agency to contact about the results of the check or to dispute its accuracy.

The firm also reserves the right to conduct a background screening anytime after the employee has been hired to determine eligibility for promotion, re-assignment or retention in the same manner as described above.

Applicants also are expected to provide references from their former employers as well as educational reference information that can be used to verify academic accomplishments and records. Background checks may include verification of information provided on the completed application for employment, the applicant's resume or on other forms used in the hiring process.

Information to be verified includes, but is not limited to, Social Security Number and previous addresses. Employer may also conduct a reference check and verify the applicant's education and employment background as stated on the employment application or other documents listed above.

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The background check may also include a criminal record check. If a conviction is discovered, then the employer will closely scrutinize the conviction in view of our policy of ensuring a safe and profitable workplace. A criminal conviction does not necessarily automatically bar an applicant from employment.

Before an employment decision is made, a determination will be made whether the conviction is related to the position for which the individual is applying, or would present safety or security risks, taking into account the nature and gravity of the act, the nature of the position and the age of the conviction.

Additional checks such as a driving record or a credit report may be made on applicants for particular job categories if appropriate and job-related. Employment screening assessments to determine an applicant's job fit may also be required of all applicants for employment. Skills tests related to the demands of the job may also be required.

This firm relies upon the accuracy of information contained in the employment application as well as the accuracy of other data presented throughout the hiring process and employment, including any oral interviews. Any misrepresentations, falsifications or material omissions in any of the information or data, no matter when discovered, may result in the firm's exclusion of the individual from further consideration for employment or, if the person has been hired, termination of employment.

Excerpted from The Safe Hiring Manual by Lester S. Rosen; © 2005 by Facts on Demand Press, Tempe, Ariz.

Lester S. Rosen is an attorney-at-law and president of Employment Screening Resources (www.ESRcheck.com), a national background-screening company in Novato, Calif. He is a consultant, writer and frequent presenter nationwide on pre-employment screening and safe-hiring issues.

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