What You Need to Know About Pre-Employment Background Checks in Florida

Ready to hire? Keep these ten points in mind before you begin the background check process:

  1. Brushes with the Law. An employer who obtains a satisfactory criminal history check on a job applicant is presumed to not have liability if the person later commits an intentional tort (a civil wrong that causes someone else to suffer loss or harm resulting in legal liability for the person who commits the tortious act). Criminal history record checks may be obtained from each county in Florida and from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Separately, employers can also check a job applicant’s name against the outstanding warrants and sexual offender databases.
  2. Spanning the Twitterverse. Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and other social media sites may provide a trove of information about job applicants. There’s no law against searching social media sites. However, these sites are likely to contain information—race, religion, sex, marital status, etc.—which cannot be grounds for non-hiring for many employers.
  3. Sue Happy. An employee who is involved in numerous civil lawsuits may not be ideally suited for the job. Employers may check the civil court records of each county in Florida to determine whether a job applicant has sued or been sued in civil court. 
  4. Credit Checks in the Red. Federal law requires employers to obtain written consent before obtaining a job applicant’s credit report. If the employer decides not to hire the person based in part on the credit report, he or she must be provided with a copy of the report.
  5. Making the Grade. Federal and Florida laws make student education records confidential. However, employers can require job applicants to provide school transcripts or verification of enrollment. Degree or enrollment verification is available through most schools or third-party providers like National Student Clearinghouse.
  6. It Stays in the Exam Room. Medical records are generally confidential under both federal and Florida law.  Employers can ask applicants questions about their ability to perform specific job duties, but employers cannot ask for medical records.
  7. Right to be Bankrupt. Bankruptcy records are a matter of public records, so it is possible for employers to determine whether a job applicant has declared bankruptcy.  However, federal law prohibits most employers from discriminating against an applicant because he or she filed for bankruptcy.
  8. Got Hurt and Can’t Work. Employers should be concerned about abusive workers’ compensation claims, which can increase employers’ insurance premiums. Workers’ compensation claims are public records in Florida. Employers that obtain the necessary release form can search for job applicants on the Division of Workers’ Compensation Claims Database.
  9. License to Drive. When job duties involve driving, Florida employers should require job applicants to provide written consent allowing the employer to obtain the applicant’s driving record. Without consent from the applicant, an employer may only obtain a driving record to verify information provided by the applicant.
  10. Cannot Tell a Lie. In most cases, federal law prohibits asking job applicants to submit to a lie detector (polygraph) test. There are a few exceptions when hiring for specific positions, such as armored car drivers and pharmaceutical distributors. 

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