This blog was written by Aaron Ashby, Human Resources Business Partner at Helpside. 

Bringing a new employee on your team can make you feel vulnerable as an employer. You want to make the right decision and choose a person that you can trust that also fits well with your company culture. Some employers might choose to use pre-employment background checks to get some peace of mind about who they are hiring.

Background checks can be helpful during the recruiting process, but there are many legal requirements to be aware of while conducting a background check. Here are some common mistakes that employers make when conducting background checks:

Not Getting Consent from the Employee

The EEOC sets laws for background checks across the United States. Employees must be notified in writing if a background check is being conducted and if it will affect their job eligibility. Employees also must give written consent for the employer to conduct a background check. Helpside works with clients to obtain written consent and provide notification to employees.

Informally Searching Online

Employers may be tempted to search for information about potential employees through social media accounts or search engines. However, this can easily open up issues related to discrimination. You may inadvertently learn about an employee’s age, race, religion, family status, disability, etc., which are all things that cannot impact an employer’s hiring decision, according to the Civil Rights Act. Unconscious bias can easily creep in here, so it is better to err on the safe side and avoid online searches.

Asking for Medical Records

Medical records should never be part of an employee background check. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires that employee medical records and medical history not affect hiring decisions. You can (and should) describe the minimum physical requirements of the job and ask the potential employee if they can meet those requirements.

Requesting Credit Scores

Employers can request an employee’s credit score with written employee consent but should only do so if credit score would be a good indication of an employee’s ability to perform their job. There are very few cases where this would be applicable, so employers should be cautious.

While background checks can be helpful to your hiring process, there are also many potential pitfalls to be avoided in order to keep background checks legal. If you are unsure if a certain practice is illegal or just ill-advised or you want to know more about background checks, contact Helpside at or send us your name and email using the form below and we will reach out.