The background screening industry in the United States is a relatively unregulated multibillion-dollar sector that has no comparable foreign counterpart. U.S. based employers with screening policies designed to meet their domestic needs and the U.S. legal framework face a completely different reality when they move abroad. Particularly in the European Union and increasingly across the developing world, a job applicant’s right to privacy trumps an employer’s right to collect information about a potential employee. In many overseas locations, employers are not plagued by the same levels of employee theft and fraud, workplace violence, or even personal bankruptcy and debt that prompt high levels of screening in the United States. As a result, criminal background checks and even credit checks are limited, if allowed at all.
“The negligent hiring concept is a very U.S.-centric risk,” says Andrew Boling, partner at Baker & McKenzie, “so screening issues abroad are not as grave as in the United States.” Despite emerging background screening laws abroad, Boling sees a trend toward adopting the more restrictive approach to screening that is common in Europe rather than the more unregulated U.S. approach.