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Beware of ‘off-the-shelf’ forms for background checks

A company can conduct background checks on job applicants, but there are strict federal laws governing how to go about getting applicants’ permission to do so.

Increasingly, businesses are using “off-the-shelf” forms for this purpose, or are contracting with third-party vendors to set up an online job application process.

The problem is that if the forms or the online services don’t comply with the letter of the law, the company itself may be on the hook.

This happened recently to the Whole Foods supermarket chain, which contracted with a vendor to set up an online application system.

The vendor required applicants to fill out a background check disclosure and consent form, as required by the law, but it allegedly violated the law by putting release-of-liability language on the same form, rather than on a separate form.

Companies that violate the law can be required to pay damages of up to $1,000 per applicant, plus other damages in some cases.

Other businesses that have been hit with similar lawsuits recently include Home Depot, Disney, Domino’s Pizza, CVS, K-Mart, Uber, Dollar General and Publix Super Markets.

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