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You are Here: Home > Articles > Employment Background Check

Employment Background Check

If I leave my job under less than desirable circumstances, can my ex-employer disclose it during employment background checks?

In some U.S. states, most of what rightfully belongs in your personnel file is not confidential. Additionally, you might have signed a release form when you hired on, authorizing your employer to give out employment-related information about you without legal consequence.

Even if you didn't sign a specific form, the authorization might be stated in a policy manual or a general employment agreement, and you likely agreed in some way, shape or form to abide by company policies or adhere to the terms of the agreement.

Similarly, your prospective employers might require you to sign releases authorizing them to solicit information about you from your former employers during background checks.

As if that isn't enough to put you on edge, several states have passed laws that allow employers to speak candidly about former employees during employment background checks, with immunity from defamation lawsuits.

Still, you might be able to relax; it's not so much what employers can say, as it is what they're willing to risk saying.

In many states, the laws related to employment background checks allow you to sue, if your ex-employer intentionally states false or misleading information that prevents you from landing a job. But employers are still hesitant to even state the truth, because former employees might try to sue anyway.

It's a burden of proof thing and it costs employers to go to or stay out of court. Even if employers are in the clear, they risk juries siding with the "little people" against the "big, bad, corporate giants."

You've got a couple of other things on your side, too. For one, not every employer has legal eagles on staff, who can accurately interpret the laws. So, they shy away from the complexities of background checks or they're just plain naive about what they can legally say.

For another, there are plenty of nightmarish lawsuit myths and rumors floating around about employee background checks. As a result, all but the bravest employers play it safe and avoid the legalities in the first place.

If your ex-employer plays it safe, then they will likely give out only scant information, such as your name, rank and serial number. The typical equivalents for employment background checks are listed below.

  • Dates or confirmation of employment
  • Job titles held
  • Final salary; but some of your ex-employers won't give that out unless you authorize it in writing
  • Other "safe" facts, such as company-sponsored training classes you attended

Next Page > What else should I consider about employment background checks?
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