Staffing Management

Employee Background Check Legislation Gets a Fresh Look

By Jon Hyman

Apr. 25, 2016

It’s been a busy couple of months for employers, keeping up with the employment-related legislation popping up in Ohio's state capital of Columbus. First, there was the Employment Law Uniformity Act, then the Pregnancy Reasonable Accommodation Act, next the Family and Medical Leave Insurance Benefits Act, and finally the Medical Marijuana Act.

Next on the docket? Legislation to regulate how employers compile and use certain background information in the hiring process.

HB 527 [pdf] will make it illegal for any employer with 15 or more employees to request a job applicant’s date of birth, Social Security Number or driver’s license number prior to making an offer of employment unless it is done to conduct a criminal background check, credit check, driver’s record check, or check of the employer’s own records, and in no case without the applicant’s written consent. It also requires an employer to keep confidential the information learned about a job applicant during the application process and maintain policies on this confidentiality. Finally, it creates a private cause of action for violations.

No doubt, privacy is a hot-button issue. In an age of identity theft and cyber crime, we have a heightened sensitivity to the protection of our personal information. This bill certainly resonates for these reasons, and while the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act will already require written consent in the many of the instances covered by HB 527, it fills a gap when an employer is running its own background check instead of using the services of a third-party consumer reporting agency. 

Keep an eye on HB 527. It has bipartisan, Republican-heavy support and may add a new layer of complexity to Ohio employers' hiring processes in the months to come.

Jon Hyman is a partner in the Employment & Labor practice at Wickens Herzer Panza. Contact Hyman at JHyman@Wickenslaw.com.

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