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Municipal Technical Advisory Service (MTAS)

Background Information and Reference Checks

Reference Number: MTAS-1413
Reviewed Date: 08/29/2023

A lawful background check procedure is a systematic and regulated process undertaken by individuals, organizations, or government agencies to gather information about a person's history, including their criminal, financial, employment, educational, and personal records. The purpose of such checks is to make informed decisions about hiring where assessing an individual's background is deemed necessary.

Here is a general outline of a lawful background check procedure:

1. Authorization and Consent: Before initiating a background check, the subject (the person being investigated) must provide explicit written consent. This ensures that the individual is aware of and agrees to the background check process.

2. Type of Background Check: Determine the specific scope of the background check based on the purpose and requirements. Different situations may necessitate different types of checks, such as criminal history, credit history, employment verification, educational history, and character references.

3. Collection of Information: Collect information from various legitimate sources. This can involve contacting previous employers, educational institutions, references, and credit bureaus. It may also involve searching public records, court records, and databases for relevant information. This step is often performed by a contracted third party, professional vendor.

4. Criminal History Check: If required, access criminal records through official channels, adhering to relevant laws and regulations. Criminal background checks must be conducted in compliance with federal, state, and local laws, and they typically require specific permissions and access to restricted databases. Many employers utilize the service provided (at a nominal cost) by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI):

5. Verification Process: Verify the accuracy of the information obtained. Cross-reference data from multiple sources to ensure consistency and reliability.

6. Privacy and Non-Discrimination: Adhere to privacy laws, such as the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) in the United States, to protect the subject's rights. Also, ensure that the background check procedure does not discriminate against individuals based on protected characteristics, such as race, gender, religion, or disability.

7. Review and Analysis: Once all the information has been gathered and verified, analyze the data to determine if the subject meets the established criteria or standards. This analysis should be fair and objective, considering only relevant, job-related factors.

8. Communication of Findings: Communicate the results of the background check to the subject. This typically involves providing them with a copy of the report and information about their rights if adverse actions are taken based on the findings.

9. Adverse Action Procedures: If the results of the background check influence a decision that has a negative impact on the subject (such as denying employment), follow the legal requirements for communication and notification. This includes providing the subject with a copy of the report, information about their rights to dispute any inaccuracies, and a clear explanation of the decision.