There are a number of ways for employers to gather information on the background of an applicant for employment. Employers may simply call an applicant's former employer to confirm the applicant's dates of employment and title and to try to obtain a more detailed reference from a supervisor. However, many employers hire third parties to conduct background checks on applicants who have been offered employment. In addition, depending on the nature of the position, employers are requesting reports about an applicant's driving record, criminal record, and/or credit history. There are often legal limits on employers obtaining and using this type of information. When employers hire a third party to conduct a background check or to obtain reports from outside agencies, such reports are subject to the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and state laws. In Tennessee, employers must comply with laws concerning criminal background checks and driver's record information.
Employers are permitted to conduct background checks, including criminal history checks, on applicants and employees and, in some situations, are required by statute to conduct criminal history checks. However, employers that are not required to conduct such checks should use caution when making employment decisions based on an applicant's or employee's criminal record. The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) takes the position that it is a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act to base an employment decision solely on an applicant's arrest record. In addition, according to the EEOC, employers may only rely on a record of a criminal conviction if it is related to the job.