What Is a Background Check?

What Is a Background Check?

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What Is a Background Check?

When you apply for a job, you may be required to complete a background check. In the labor and employment sphere, a background check is used by employers to verify a potential employee's identity and find out additional information about that particular individual.

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  • What Is the Purpose of a Background Check?

    The main purpose of a background check is to verify the individual's identity. This process also helps provide additional information about the individual.

  • How is a Background Check Process Is Done?

    The background check process, especially in the labor and employment field, follows a standard format in most cases. That said, some jurisdictions might have a slightly different process.

    Here's what a typical background check process looks like:

    When you apply for a job, chances are you won't be required to complete a background check right away. In fact, many people argue that a request for a background check is usually one of the surest signs that an employer might be interested in hiring a particular candidate.

    After submitting your application, the potential employer will schedule an interview with you. This interview can either be done virtually or in person. After the interview, the recruiter will examine your performance to determine whether you're the right fit for the job or among the candidates who stand a chance.

    If the potential employer thinks you might be a great candidate for the role, they'll likely request you to complete a background check. However, it's important to note that they cannot conduct a background check without your consent. For this reason, chances are you'll be provided with a document to sign. The document will state that you authorize the potential employer to conduct a background check on you.

    In most cases, recruiters pay for these tests and then schedule them for a time that works for the job seeker. After scheduling the background check, the hiring manager contacts the job seeker to inform them about the appointment with the agency conducting this test. They'll also inform them about what to bring to their appointment.

    During the background check, the agency in charge of the process will take the job applicant's fingerprints. They will then compare these fingerprints against others in a broader database to verify the individual's identity and also reveal additional information, which we will discuss shortly.

    It takes anywhere between two days to two weeks to obtain the test results. Once the results are out, the agency sends them to the potential employer for analysis. The employer will then use the information from the test results to decide whether or not that particular individual suits that particular role.

    In most cases, it won't matter if the individual has the proper academic qualification, including experience and skills to handle that particular job. If the background check results don't favor their employment, they may be denied that job opportunity. Instead, the employer will opt for any other eligible applicant with better records.

  • What Shows Up on an Employment Background Check?

    A standard employment background check might display the following information:

    Criminal History

    A successful background check will reveal the individual's criminal history. The hiring manager can then use this information to decide whether or not they should hire that particular individual. More specifically, the criminal history will include information such as:

    • Case number
    • Charges against the individual, including the level of charges
    • Arrest date
    • Outcome of the case
    • Sentencing information

    An individual's criminal history can help employers make an informed decision. For example, if the individual is a registered sex offender, they cannot work around kids.

    Without a background check, a potential employer cannot tell a person's criminal history. Therefore, hiring a job seeker without obtaining this information is a huge risk.

    True Identify

    Did you know some individuals secure employment opportunities by stealing other people's identities? Identity theft is a crime punishable both at the state and federal levels. Employers require potential candidates to get a background check to minimize the dangers of identity theft in the workplace. This check helps reveal the true identity of that individual, assisting employers in making informed decisions.

    Employment History

    Some job applicants lie in their resumes. It's not a new thing – this practice has existed for generations. For example, a job seeker might lie about having worked with certain popular companies to boost their chances of getting hired by that particular employer.

    The background check process can help reveal the applicant's employment history. In most cases, it reveals the employer's name, years worked, position held, and other relevant information. This also helps recruiters verify that the potential employee is honest. As a result, it helps build a positive relationship between an employer and an employee right from the beginning.

    Motor Vehicle Reports

    A recruiter might want to know the applicant's driving history if a job requires employees to drive company vehicles. This is done to ensure that the applicant is competent enough to drive the company's vehicle and does not have anything on their records that would disqualify them from doing so.

    It's important to note that crashes involving company vehicles cost employers a lot of money. According to a report from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, crashes involving company vehicles usually cost employers an average of $60 billion annually in medical care.
    In the unfortunate event that an employee dies due to the accident, such an accident alone could cost the employer $500,000 or even more.

    Therefore, a background check helps protect employees, employers, customers, and the general public from such accidents.

    Professional Licenses

    In an employment background check, your employer might want to verify your professional license. They do this to confirm that your licenses or certificates are authentic. This is because some applicants lie in their applications, hoping to land jobs they're not qualified for.

  • Are Employee Background Checks Mandatory?

    Under most circumstances, employers are not required to conduct background checks on potential employees. However, this usually depends on factors such as the specific industry.

    In most cases, background checks may be required for individuals who want to work in the following fields:


    The healthcare field involves a lot of risks and responsibilities. Besides accessing a patient's confidential information, healthcare workers must also conduct themselves professionally around patients. Background checks in this field can help prevent crimes such as identity theft.


    The education field is broad, and so are the reasons for conducting background checks on individuals working in this field. Because students learn from their teachers, schools must ensure that their teachers have good morals.


    Law practitioners have a lot of responsibilities, which mostly revolve around interpreting the law and helping people obtain justice. When interpreting or enforcing the law, these individuals usually have access to confidential information. For this reason, background checks help ensure that these individuals can be trusted with such information, usually based on their conduct.


    The need for background checks in the finance sector is self-explanatory. Individuals working in this sector usually have access to confidential information, including finances. As a result, the importance of background checks in this field should never be overlooked.

    Back to the issue of whether background checks are mandatory, it all depends on the policies of that particular employer and the job industry. Although it may not be mandatory in most cases, employers require potential employees to get background checks because of the risks involved when they hire individuals who shouldn't be working in that field in the first place.

    More on that below.

  • Can You Sue for Failure to Conduct a Background Check?

    Yes, you can sue an employer for failing to conduct a background check. Below are different legal grounds for proceeding with such a lawsuit.

    Physical Assault by an Employee

    As discussed earlier, an employee's criminal record is one of the things potential employers look at before deciding whether or not to hire a particular individual.

    Suppose the employer fails to conduct a background check on an employee, and the employee ends up assaulting a coworker, client, or any other member within the organization while on duty. In that case, an experienced attorney will examine whether such an assault could have been prevented. In this example, the attorney will likely establish that the assault could have been prevented.

    Here's why:

    The employee responsible for the assault shouldn't have been working in the company in the first place if they had a criminal record that made him a threat to others. But since the employer was negligent, this individual was able to pass through the cracks and secure employment with the company.

    Incompetence or Negligence by an Employee

    By now, you know that personal credentials and certifications are some of the things that appear in an employment background check. These results can help verify the job seeker's qualifications. But that's not all—they also help ensure that, if hired, that individual understands what is required of them.

    A good example is when a hospital hires a doctor without performing a background check on them. We all know that the medical field has no room for errors. This is because some errors can lead to devastating effects, such as death.

    Using the doctor as an example, let's say they prescribe the wrong medication to a particular client. The doctor could face criminal charges if the medication harms the client or kills them. They can also be sued for negligence.

    On the other hand, if it's discovered that the hospital did not conduct a background check on the doctor, they could also carry a fair share of responsibility, or even greater. This is because failure to conduct a background check on such employees amounts to negligence. Therefore, the patient was harmed or died due to the hospital's negligence.

  • What Are Some Real-Life Examples of Lawsuits Based on Failure to Conduct Background Checks?

    In the summer of 2022, a court in Texas awarded the family of Betty Jo McClain Thomas $7 billion in punitive damages and an additional $375 million as compensatory damages following a successful lawsuit against Charter Communications. The lawsuit alleged that an employee of the telecommunications company stabbed and killed the victim in December 2019.

    The then employee, identified as Roy Holden Jr., reportedly stabbed Mrs. Thomas with a tool he obtained from the company's toolbox and then stole her credit cards. The employee returned to the victim's residence a day after being sent by the company to repair her fax machine.

    The lawyers representing the plaintiff later discovered that Charter had failed to conduct a background check on the employee in question. The report further revealed that the company would have discovered several inconsistencies in the employee's report had they performed a background check. More specifically, the employee had lied about his job history. That aside, he also had lied about playing for an NFL team.

    These lies were a good reason not to hire that particular employee. But since the recruiter did not conduct a background check during the hiring process, they could not discover the individual's true character early enough to prevent such a horrible incident.

    A simple background check could have saved the life of the innocent woman who was stabbed to death. This also explains why the court awarded the plaintiff's family greater punitive damages to punish the defendant for their gross negligence.

  • Do I Have a Case Against an Employer?

    If you feel that an employer acted negligently by failing to conduct a background check, causing you or your loved one immense harm, you may have a case against them. That said, an experienced attorney can help determine the validity of your case.

    At Morgan and Morgan, we will review your case for free. All you need to do is fill out our free case evaluation form. One of our legal representatives will review the specifics of your case to determine whether you might be able to take legal action against an employer.

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