InsideHR: Sharing Employee Background Checks With Customers
As a vendor to many large, security conscious clients, CleanPower is often asked to provide customers with copies of employees’ background checks. Although seemingly innocuous, complying with this request can cause legal dilemmas if certain steps are not followed. Our employees entrust us with their personal and confidential information and we have an obligation to protect that data. If a customer asks you for copies of your employees’ background checks, follow these guidelines to protect this sensitive information.
Typically (and ideally), the request is initially brought up during the sales process. At that time have a discussion with the client to determine their true needs and to explain the risks of co-employment issues. Often, the client only requires an affidavit describing the required background checks and stating they have been performed. In other instances, the client will accept copies of the forms with all personal information such as date of birth, address and Social Security number blacked out.
Sometimes clients require visual proof of the employees’ background checks, including the eVerify document. If that occurs, ask if it is possible to show them the completed forms but do not let the documents out of your possession. If that doesn’t suffice, ask the customer to sign a legal document stating that they will:
• Use employees’ background checks and confidential information for the limited purposes of evaluating the employee for assignment in their facility;
• Use the data in accordance with all federal and state laws governing the privacy and use of such information;
• Notify you in writing if any unauthorized person/entity gains access to employees’ background checks;
• Indemnify you from all claims resulting from any unauthorized disclosure of the information.
In cases requiring you to submit employee records, also ask your employees to provide their written consent to release the information as a condition of hire for that particular facility.
A different twist on the situation occurs when a customer wants to perform their own background checks on your employees, asking for the employee’s name, address, Social Security or driver’s license numbers and date of birth. Generally, this occurs with government entities that use databases contractors do not have access to.
In the rare instance when a client does not allow the employee in their building, they typically refuse to disclose the reason. This may leave you wondering what they learned that was not uncovered in your own thorough screening. In those cases, double-check your processes and confirm that you have a complete list of other states the employee may have lived in. Again, both the client and the employee are asked to sign legal documents governing the release, use and safe-guarding of the information.
Infrequently, clients have requested credit reports for our employees. Only in very rare cases does that information have any bearing on the type of work our crews perform; therefore we typically do not run those checks.
Although we are all conditioned to say “yes” to our customers, in the case of releasing confidential information it should be a “qualified yes.” Systems must be in place to keep your employees’ information private and to protect your company from liability.
Barbara Whitstone is the senior vice president of business operations for Milwaukee-based CleanPower, a Marsden Services Company. She has been with the company for more than 22 years, holding several positions in both operations and sales.
She is RBSM certified, a graduate of Ripon College and has been instrumental in CleanPower’s move to more sustainable cleaning processes. In December of 2010 she led the project to earn the Cleaning Institute Management Standard, Green Building (CIMS - GB) Certification for CleanPower, a designation which the company renewed last year.
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