The labor market continues to be difficult for some employers as top talent explore new opportunities or additional education to expand skill sets. As a result, many employers are turning to minor employees to fill gaps in entry-level and service positions. A recent Wall Street Journal article reported that the share of working teens has hit a 13-year high.
However, employers considering hiring minors should be cautious of how it could impact one aspect of their hiring process – background screening. The background check has become a standard process for most employers and their HR departments as a risk mitigation tool. Verifying credentials like criminal records, education, and credit are important for hiring quality candidates and avoiding pitfalls.
The potential benefit of background screening for minor employees is different and involves an additional requirement. Before ordering a background check of a prospective minor employee, consider the information presented below.
Prior to background screening, employers generally obtain consent from the applicant to comply with various state and federal laws.
In the context of hiring minors, one issue arises because minors are not capable of entering into agreements or consenting to various activities like a background check. This is because the law recognizes that minors lack the capacity to fully understand the consequences of agreements or waivers of rights. Therefore, approval from a minor’s parent or other legal guardian is best practice if you want to run a background check.
Aside from issues with consent, background screening of a minor also won’t provide the same level of information you normally receive with adult applicants.
A primary purpose of a background check is to screen for an applicant’s criminal record. However, most states have laws that either require or otherwise allow courts to seal juvenile criminal records, which prevent the records from appearing in standard background checks. Some exceptions exist for criminal records of proceedings where the state charged the minor as an adult.
Other information you typically find in a background check such as past employment, education, and credit history could also be brief or nonexistent. Minors likely don’t have much prior employment, if any, and they also lack extensive education history because they are still in high school.
Finding anything noteworthy from a minor applicant’s credit report is also uncommon. Most minors do not have credit or debts because they can’t enter loan agreements due to the same legal consent issues that prevent minors from agreeing to background checks without a parent.
Despite the likelihood of limited findings, background screening of a minor can still be a valuable procedure to avoid applicants with serious criminal records or other issues (e.g., school expulsions, identity verification, etc.).
Hiring minors can be a valuable approach to filling short-term gaps for entry-level positions. However, nuances in background check procedures show the need for a unique policy when screening and hiring minors. The value of a background check for a minor applicant will vary based on the employer, the nature of the open position, and the industry. Employers should work closely with legal counsel and other HR professionals for compliance with applicable regulations or state law related to hiring minors.
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