More and more, employers are looking into your background before hiring. Typically, potential employers get third parties to run checks for them. However, sites like have made it very easy to run a background check on absolutely anyone. A check can unearth information related to convictions, court records, arrests, and any other public information. The period of time a check can cover legally depends on the laws of the respective state.

Is Permission Required?

In the majority of states, job applicants must consent to a background check before having one run on them. Typically, the potential employer may not run a check without consent. The applicant is required to sign an authorization form.

The employer needs permission due to reasons of privacy.

The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) has rules in place to protect people from inaccurate consumer and credit report information. Its provisions also govern who can get this information, who can provide it, and what reasons to acquire a report are acceptable. Issuers filled reports with personal information before the government passed the FCRA, not all of which was accurate. You may view and dispute any information that a prospective employer intends to factor into their decision whether to hire you or not.

This notwithstanding, a prospective employer is not allowed to check your background if his decision is based on your gender, color, race, ethnicity, religion, age, genetic information like family history of certain illnesses, or disability. Where age is concerned, the law protects people aged 40 or more.

Can I Refuse Permission?

Just like employers face the consequences for running checks without permission, applicants who refuse to give consent have certain outcomes to reckon with. Being denied the job is the most frequent one. This is hardly surprising. If a candidate refuses to consent to a criminal record check, the employer may just assume the worst. Agreeing to a check and explaining any offenses that can show up could be the smarter approach. Employers are not allowed to deny you the job based on something that appeared in a check, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The fact that employers are exposed to potential liability on these grounds makes matters even more complicated.

In most states, an employer cannot run a background check without having an authorization form signed. They may decide to hire the person without running a check, especially if they seem all right and have the right skills and other qualifications for the job. This also carries a certain risk because hiring someone without checking them might be a liability to the company.

Recourse for Employers

The law is very clear on one thing: based on a criminal record, an employer cannot deny a candidate a job. This causes a disparate impact and consequently violates federal law. “Disparate impact” doesn’t mean such an impact must be proven for the employer to suffer consequences. They can be held liable for statutory violations if their policy affects a protected group of people disproportionately, even if they never intended such impact.

Besides, there is a complicated situation where you are a member of a certain ethnic group or race and have a criminal record. In this case, it is quite hard for an employer to prove they denied you the job for a reason different from your race and the existence of a criminal record.

Final Thoughts

For all these and other reasons, employers can be discouraged from running an official background check and even from asking candidates to undergo one. They do have recourse: checking your online footprint and social media. The law doesn’t require them to tell you. If your potential employer accesses any information about you online that is public, they can use it to get an idea of who you are. Of course, they risk making a decision based on inaccurate or miscomprehended information.