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Must All Employers Check Applicants Against a Terrorist List Before Hiring?

While the short answer is no, there is a bit more to this question that employers should consider. Under the U.S. Treasury Department, the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) administers and enforces economic sanctions against certain countries and certain individuals, such as drug traffickers and terrorists. To help enforce these sanctions, the OFAC publishes a frequently updated list called the “Specially Designated Nationals” or the SDN list, which lists individuals, companies and other entities that U.S. persons are prohibited from dealing with. Compliance with these sanctions means all U.S. persons (which, by definition, includes employers) cannot engage in any dealings with these countries or individuals, including hiring individuals on the list. Therefore, while checking the list is not specifically required, hiring someone on the list is prohibited. So, shouldn’t all employers check the list? Not necessarily. While this decision should be made with the guidance of legal counsel, the employers must address the following concerns. Many background checking companies offer an add-on service to check not only the SDN but various other lists, such as those compiled by the United Nations, Interpol and the FBI. Employers should know what lists will be checked and how best to use that information in their hiring practices.

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Post By Barry Nixon (262 Posts)

W. Barry Nixon is the COO, the leading background screening information portal and online worldwide directory of professional background screening firms and Suppliers to the background screening industry. He co-authored the landmark book, Background Screening & Investigations: Managing Hiring Risk from the HR and Security Perspective. He also is the publisher of award winning newsletters, The Background Buzz and The Global Background Screener, and the author of the Background Checks column in PI Magazine.

In addition, Barry is a past recipient of the elite ‘Top 25 Influential People in Security’ by Security Magazine and past Co-Chair, International Committee for the National Association for Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS). He currently serves as a Global Ambassador for NAPBS.

You can contact Barry at 1-949-770-5264 or online at