Can a Company Make Applicants Pay for Background Checks & Fingerprinting?
According to a 2004 study by the Society for Human Resource Management, 96 percent of human resources managers say they do some type of background check on employees. Checking up on new hires can save your company time and hassle. In many states, you can make prospective new employees pay for their own background checks, but doing so is not always a wise strategy. You are required to follow state and federal laws when running background checks.
Some states have established laws requiring that employers pay for prospective or current employee background checks. For example, the Kentucky Labor Cabinet has regulations prohibiting employers from charging employees for background checks and fingerprinting. Check your state's laws or consult with your company's attorney to determine if you can charge your employees. As long as there isn't a specific statute prohibiting charges, you can assess the charge against future employees. However, employees might opt to decline jobs that require them to pay, particularly if they're struggling financially.
If you choose not to hire an applicant based upon something contained in her background check, you have to tell her this. She can then request a copy of the background check, and you can't charge her for this information. Some employers request credit checks on future employees. These individuals are entitled to one copy of their credit report, free of charge, each year. The credit reporting agencies, not the employer, are charged with providing the employee with a copy upon request.
Applicants have the right to refuse background checks and fingerprinting. You can't force someone to undergo checks or pay for them. You do, however, have the right not to hire someone based upon her refusal to undergo a background check. Some records are legally off limits. You can't legally access an employee's medical history to use in hiring decisions, for example.
You have to obtain an prospective employee's explicit, written permission to run a background check. A 2012 decision by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission significantly curbs the ability of employers to request background checks. The EEOC found that employee histories disproportionately affected minority groups. Consequently, employers now have to demonstrate that the background check is reasonably related to the job responsibilities. You can't just fingerprint all prospective or current employees or demand their criminal history out of curiosity.