Best Practices for Conducting Employment Background Checks

Dec 08, 2014

Related Practice: Employment

This is the final installment of a three-part series covering the legal requirements and best practice for employers conducting background checks. The first post, "Legal Requirements for Background Checks," outlines obligations for employers conducting background searches for employees and job applicants. The second post, "Limits Under Seattle Ordinance No. 124201," focuses on the specific requirements employers with staff or operations within Seattle city limits must follow. Contact counsel if you have specific questions about your business' obligations for background checks and other employment matters.


In order to comply with Washington law and generally avoid problems in carrying out background checks, employers should follow the following best practices:

Create a Policy

Applicants should be aware of the company’s policy regarding background checks and that the employer has the discretion to disqualify applicants based on the results.

When developing a background check policy, create a list of crimes that automatically disqualify an applicant. Keep in mind the factors that may influence the decision, such as gravity of the offense, date of the conviction or evidence of rehabilitation. Once the policy is set, make sure hiring managers stick to it.

Screen All Candidates

All qualified candidates should be interviewed and their references checked. In certain circumstances, consider seeking out undisclosed references using the applicant’s information. If applicable, train applicants on how to work with children and how to identify problems.

Be sure to document all of the above in writing.

Perform the Background Check

Only perform the background check after the initial interview and after the applicant has been informed about the background check and provides the signed disclosure.

Follow the procedures provided by Washington law, and use the WATCH program to quickly perform each background check.

Inform the applicant of results within 10 days of results.

Contact a member of our Employment group if you have additional questions regarding background checks.