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Background Checks & Pre-Employment Screening Part 1

The Two-edged Sword of Background Checks

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The issue of employee background screening is a very sharp two-edged sword that can cut in both directions.


In one direction, failure to perform background checks on church employees and volunteers can:

  • Cause harm to children or members of the church by failing to implement simple and inexpensive safeguards to prevent sexual molestation.

  • Cause harm to children or members of the church by negligent hiring of church drivers.

  • Open the church and sometimes Senior Staff to lawsuits of negligent selection.

  • Cause financial harm to the church through theft of money or goods.

  • Create situations where people are placed in positions of authority or responsibility in which they should not be allowed.

  • Put the church in violation of state or federal law.

Regretfully, the seriousness of potential issues that arise from failing to perform background checks make it a necessity for the church: it is no longer an option, regardless of the size of your church.


However, the sword can cut equally well in the other direction . 

There are many regulations about what information you are allowed to access, under what circumstances you are allowed to access that information, and which information can legally be used in a hiring decision. 

Your church could be successfully sued for these improprieties...

  • Accessing the wrong information,

  • Failure to get the appropriate permission from the person concerned,

  • Failure to properly notify a person of a negative decision based on information discovered.

  • Failure to protect the confidentiality of the information.

  • Making a decision on data that was excluded by law for the type of position for which the person was being considered.

Your church needs to fully comply with the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) which has jurisdiction not only over credit information, but other types of personal data as well.  In addition to the above, the retention and security of this information can place a potential liability on the church. 

While violation of the FCRA is a federal offence, many states have additional laws and restrictions that provide even more challenges for the church. Improper implementation of the background screening process leaves the church door wide open to a lawsuit from the person involved. 

The Lesser of Two Evils

While no one wants the additional burden of compliance with more State and Federal regulation, the horrible consequences of failing to perform adequate background screening certainly makes it the lesser of two evils.  This is especially true when the cost of compliance is so low as to almost make a background check a petty cash transaction.

  • How can anyone look the parents of an abused child, or the surviving members of a fatal bus accident in the eye, when it might have only cost $15 - $50 for appropriate background checks?

  • How do you explain to the board or the congregation the loss of hundreds or thousands of dollars because you did not spend a little bit on a background check? 

Doing it yourself is not as easy as many internet ads will have you to believe.  The best solution is to find a reputable firm that can help get you the information you need while protecting you from legal liability.  There are reputable vendors that offer web based, pay as you go, background screenings and vendor screening.

Back to Part 1 - Why Your Church Must Perform Background Screening

Part 3 - Selecting a Background Screening Vendor for Your Church


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