Criminal Background Checks in Business

by | Business Law

As a Virginia business litigation firm, our attorneys are frequently asked by our clients about performing criminal background checks on employees and prospective hires. While not every position in every industry merits this level of scrutiny, our lawyers recommend this practice to our corporate clients in most cases. Fortunately for employers, as long as the employee or potential employee has consented to the criminal history check, the Commonwealth of Virginia’s Central Criminal Records Exchange is permitted by law to disseminate information at the request of an employer.

Why Is A Criminal History Check A Good Idea?

It’s in the best interest of employers to hire honest people of good moral character. Naturally, the lack of a criminal record is not an absolute guarantee that a person is honest—he or she may have committed multiple crimes and has never been caught—an arrest or series of arrest may be a red flag about an employee’s character or behaviors. In addition, because a company is ultimately responsible for it’s employees and agents, there may be liability issues associated with hiring someone with a certain type of criminal history. Consider the implications of employing someone with a history of violent crimes to work in a high-stress position dealing with the public, or a professional driver with two DUI convictions. These employees may never steal from your company, but they could expose you to a lawsuit that might be prevented with the proper vetting.

What Should I Look For In The Criminal History?

Obviously, an extensive criminal history would be enough to make most employers hesitant about taking on an employee. However, a single conviction may also lead an employer to move on to the next candidate. A business’s tolerance for hiring someone with a criminal record may depend upon the type of work that they will be performing and the nature of the criminal charge. For example, a research and development company that develops a lot of proprietary products may be hesitant to hire someone who has been convicted of fraud or embezzlement. That same employer might not be overly concerned about a DUI conviction or a five year old misdemeanor possession of cannabis arrest—although, these could be much bigger issues if the employee or future employee will be operating heavy machinery.

How Do I Obtain A Criminal History?

Except in specific circumstances that are outlined in the law, if you are going to require a criminal background check, you need to have the individual who you are checking sign a release. From the Virginia State Police website:

“Requests for criminal record searches must be executed by the submission of a signed and notarized “Criminal Record Name Search” form SP-167″

However, before beginning a series of background checks on employees and prospective employees, we strongly recommend discussing it with a reputable and reliable Virginia business attorney to avoid claims of discriminatory hiring practices.