How should HR inform managers about delayed background checks?

In our HR department, we do background checks on potential employees. Sometimes there is a delay in processing. When that happens the HR manager sends an email to everyone from a director to a secretary saying something like, “Delay in criminal report and 2nd drug test.” I just believe the perception of this kind of delay gives out negative consequences and breaks confidentiality. Is there something that says they can only say, “There is a delay”? I wouldn’t want everyone to know I had a day delay in the criminal background check.

Rita Risser Chai replies:

There is a network of laws concerning drug testing at both the federal and state levels that could have specific requirements.But as a general rule, you’re right, the fewer people who are given sensitive information, and the less information they’re given, the better. Best practice is to tell only those with a need to know that there is a delay, without specifying the reason. Only the HR representative who is processing the background check, and perhaps his or her supervisor, need to know the reason for the delay.

Posted 01-15-2016

Information here is correct at the time it is posted. Case decisions cited here may be reversed. Please do not rely on this information without consulting an attorney first.


About the Author:

Rita M. Risser Chai is the founder of Fair Measures. An attorney in California for 20 years and now an attorney in Hawaii, she authored the Prentice Hall book, Stay Out of Court! The Manager’s Guide to Preventing Employee Lawsuits. She developed most of the curriculum used by Fair Measures, created the firm’s first website praised in HR Magazine, and wrote numerous articles on employment law including one on best practice harassment prevention training published in the magazine of the American Society for Training and Development (now ATD). She taught Law and Human Resources at the University of California, Santa Cruz, for eight years, and has presented four times at the annual conventions of the Hawaii Society of Human Resource Management.