When Should You Conduct a Criminal Background Check?

According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), sixty percent of employers conduct a one-time background check as part of their pre-employment process. While this is important, it’s hardly the only time or reason your business may want to conduct an employee background check. Whether you’re sorting through your options, trying to avoid potential pitfalls, or looking for the best Charlotte criminal background checks, you’ll find the answers in the same place: with Barefoot Professional Investigations.

Why Run a Criminal Background Check?

You may have several compelling reasons to run criminal background checks on new hires or existing employees.

  • Improving quality of your workforce
  • Securing your premises, your assets, or the people you serve
  • Preventing damage to the business or its reputation
  • Hedging against possible theft, embezzlement, harassment, or negligence
  • Ensuring peak performance and productivity unhindered by criminal activity on or off the clock

Common Times to Run a Criminal Background Check

There are four use cases that tend to call for a criminal background check on an employee. Let’s run them down from the most to least common.

Pre-Employment Background Check

This is the most common reason that businesses run background checks, since it forestalls the possibility of many security, PR, and HR concerns. For many businesses, the pre-employment background check is the first and only time they approach us for background investigation services, since a prospective hire who’s passed this check is deemed trustworthy. As with the other instances listed here, the scope of the pre-employment check can encompass data verification, character references, credit reporting, and much more.

Mandated Background Check

Certain businesses operate in a legal environment that requires background checks to suit a particular purpose. This is especially common for businesses that are federal contractors (security clearances require extensive background checks). However, even companies that work primarily with the general public — i.e., those working with children, the elderly, and other vulnerable populations, or those requiring specialized credentials — will require criminal background checks from time to time. Occasionally, third parties will also either require or encourage these checks; insurers, for instance, will require periodic checks of employees’ conduct, especially driving records and the like.

Background Check for Cause

Surprisingly, running a criminal background check for cause is a relatively uncommon thing. When you stop to think about it, however, background checks for cause are a sensible approach to certain common employee issues. After all, most employees will continue to be as trustworthy post-background check as they were before; however, not all will be. An employee who’s fallen on hard economic times may resort to skimming a bit from the till, or may develop a substance abuse problem, possibly compromising your reputation and increasing your legal exposure. Or you may have heard whispers of sexual harassment against an employee and wish to deal with the issue decisively yet fairly. Sometimes the line between the criminal and the simply unethical or questionable is blurry, as is the best course of action, but being in the dark won’t help you make the best decisions.

Continuous Background Monitoring

This is an emerging use of background checks, with a separate SHRM article wondering aloud whether continuous background screening is the future normal. Continuous background screening works in much the same way that credit monitoring does, looking for changes in criminal records and credit history on an ongoing basis and letting you know of any items that raise red flags. Not all businesses need this degree of protection, but for those that do, it’s rapidly proving to be an indispensable tool.

Pitfalls to Avoid with Criminal Background Checks: a Brief Explanation

Your background checks should comply with the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, and a patchwork of state and local laws. Because of the high potential for civil and criminal penalties, background checks are best handled by a professional investigator who can assist you in navigating a possible legal minefield. Among the considerations Barefoot Professional Investigations addresses: 

  • Consent: Under FCRA, state, and many local laws, informed consent must be furnished in writing ahead of any background check.
  • Transparency: Whatever mode of screening you choose, you should be clear about its rationale, its application, and the consequences for any red flags found in an investigation; these policies should be clearly communicated in writing.
  • Consistency: Any system of background checks — whether they’re for new hires, regulatory compliance, or ongoing monitoring — must be applied equally to all employees.

Criminal Background Checks in Charlotte, NC

Useful as they are, criminal background checks pose a number of challenges. They need to be conducted with care, not to mention the utmost respect for the many legal and ethical considerations that surround them. That knowledge and depth isn’t something you’ll get from a simple public records search. It requires the experience that can only be leveraged by an experienced investigator like Barefoot Professional Investigations. Contact us today for a confidential consultation.