How To Screen Underage Employees

August 9, 2018
Robert Sanders
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 Estimated Read Time: 6 Minutes

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  • Generally speaking, background-screenings for minors does fall under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) just like it would for any other applicant or employee who’s an adult. The difference that employers have to understand is that minors are generally not able to legally provide consent for a background check
  • If you’re an employer that wants to conduct pre-employment screening and background checks on minors, while ensuring you’re legally protected, it may be wise to acquire consent from the applicant’s parents or legal guardian
  • A common issue when conducting background checks on minors is the accessibility of information. A minor with a criminal record, or adults with records from when they were minors, are difficult to report on. They don’t make it easy for you, and this is because many of the institutions that hold the records will not release them to public inquiry.

Whenever you’re at your local grocery store (Hy-Vee is my personal go to), do you ever get amazed with how young the cashier or the bagger looks? I swear, it sometimes looks like they’re 10 years old, no kidding! So my next thought is always, “what was their screening process like? Did they have to go through a background check?” Alright, it’s probably pretty weird that one of my first thoughts was whether or not  the young workers had gone through a background check, but give me a break, I work for a background screening company. If you’re like me and you’re also curious to know what the screening/background check process was like for the young workers, then you’re in luck. I’m about to go over all of that. So lets do it!

 

Wait! You Can Screen Minors?      

It’ll probably be best if we clear this up, now. Yes, you can screen minors. But the process will be different as opposed to screening adults.

 

Generally speaking, background screenings for minors does fall under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) just like it would for any other applicant or employee who’s an adult. The difference that employers must understand is that minors are generally not able to legally provide consent for a background check. Applicants under the age of 18 (in some states even younger) are unable to enter legally binding agreements. It’s not expected for minors to have the maturity necessary to fully understand the terms and obligations of a legal agreement or background check. So even though an employer may require a minor to sign a disclosure and authorization for a pre-employment screening, it may actually not be binding in the event of litigation. Which means the employer is left unprotected.

 

So what do you do? You call their parents!

 

 

 

Parental Consent Will Be Needed  

Parents or legal guardians have the legal authority over minors. That means they have the ability to give consent to the screening and the applicant undergoing the background check. This will safeguard you, the company, from any potential legal risk. If you’re an employer that wants to conduct pre-employment screening and background checks on minors, while ensuring you’re legally protected, be sure you’re acquiring consent from the applicant’s parents or legal guardian.  

 

Are There Any Risks?  

Other than the common compliance considerations when screening applicants and employees  there aren’t any unique risks to performing background screenings on minors-as long as you have that parental/ legal guardian consent. To elaborate more on what was said before, minors are considered to lack the legal ability or “capacity” to contract when it comes to legally binding agreements. As a legal matter, they are presumed to not know what they are doing.

Under common law, if a minor signed a contract agreeing to a background check or pre-employment screening the contract is voidable. When a minor enters a contract with another party, without consent from a parent or legal guardian, the minor could disaffirm the contract. Meaning that the minor could assert a defense of infancy, and argue that they lacked the capacity to enter into the agreement, thus, they cannot be forced to go through with a contract that takes advantage of their lack of knowledge.

 

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Therefore, a minor who signs a contract can either honor the deal or void the contract. See why it’s so important to get that parental consent? The minor could sign a disclosure and authorization for pre-employment screenings and it may not even be binding.

 

But…What If They Do Have A Record (Accessibility)?

A common issue when conducting background checks on minors is the accessibility of information. A minor with a criminal record, or adults with records from when they were minors, are difficult to report on. They don’t make it easy for you, and it’s because many of the institutions that hold the records will not release them to public inquiry.

In general, the public does not have access to juvenile records. When conducting background checks, you might be able to see that there is a case in the system, but there won’t be very many details on the case. Sometimes the case won’t even be reported, and guess what? The same situation applies to sex offender registries.

A minor could be on a state sex offender registry, and that information might only be accessible to government agencies. In other cases, the minor may not even be required to register to the sex offender registry until they’re adults. Like I said before, they don’t make it easy for you. The laws are setup to protect minors and their information.

 

Making Sure It’s In Your Policy  

Hopefully I haven’t scared you away from wanting to conduct background checks on minors. It’s still very much possible to do, and truly not that bad-as long as you’re making sure you’re protected. So before you abandon the idea completely, consider risk management. If risk management is a big reason to why you want to run background checks, stick with the idea, just stay legally protected and consistent!

 

Consistency is probably the most important thing to running background checks. That goes for any age. If you decide to start conducting background checks on minors you must conduct them on all applicants that are minors or on none. Plain and simple. So be sure to update your policy so that it will reflect that. Running background checks on minors can be difficult, but as long as you’re getting consent from a parent or legal guardian and ensuring that you’re policy is updated…it doesn’t have to be tough at all.  

 

Closing Thoughts 

We’d love to know what you think, or answer any questions you may have. Please leave a comment below to tell us your thoughts. To learn more, or if you have any questions, please email me at rsanders@validityscreening.com. For more great blogs and content please subscribe to our blogs here.



Robert Sanders

Written by Robert Sanders

Robert is our Marketing Executive. He is innovative, a creative thinker, and very good at digging into a problem to find the right answer for every topic. Robert speaks on various topics and brings about a lot of interesting points in different areas of business development and human resources. Robert loves to push the envelope and bring awareness to different issues and is also the voice of our podcast "The Water Cooler Podcast" .