The COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting devastating economic impact it has had on the U.S. (and global) economies, resulted in many employers having to furlough employees. The nation sheltered in place in an attempt to curtail the spread of the Coronavirus. Many businesses literally closed overnight – some temporarily, but sadly some permanently.

However, the CARES Act and the monetary actions of the Federal Reserve Bank has pumped trillions of dollars into the U.S. economy. This has helped to stave off a total economic collapse as occurred during the “Great Depression.”

As the U.S. economy begins to reopen, employers are beginning to call back furloughed employees. Many of these employees had background checks performed when they were originally hired. Employers are asking if furloughed employees should undergo another background check, as they are recalled to active employment.

Furloughed has a legal distinction when compared to being terminated from a job. The furloughed individual is still considered an employee, simply an unpaid one. Whether an updated background check (or drug test) is required with a furloughed employee is likely a matter of choice, that may however, be mandated by one or more of the following:
  • Employer’s policy regarding amount of consecutive extended time off employee has had off of the job
  • Agreements with clients regarding Employer’s employees with consecutive extended time off, and whether updated background or drug tests are necessitated
  • Local, state or federal laws relative to employee position.
If the decision to re-screen is made, employers should be careful to ensure that proper employee screening disclosure and authorization forms are on file. It is probably best to obtain new up-to-date compliant forms to avoid issues from states and localities that require updated authorizations, or the possibility of an individual having actually lapsed from employment which would absolutely mandate a new authorization form. Employers should also be certain that all recalled furloughed individuals within the same job classification undergo the same type of background check to avoid any discrimination lawsuits.
Posted by: Rudy Troisi, L.P.I., President and CEO, Reliable Background Screening
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