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Background investigations regarding the past of potential employees are legal in California but they have certain conditions. In this case, it is clear that an employer would conduct background check due to the nature of the future duties of an applicant. Considering the fact that driver’s license and record are the two key factors of approving or declining the candidate, a background check of the applicant conducted by the employer falls under the regulations of the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). In California, this investigation is regulated by the Investigative Consumer Reporting Agencies Act (ICRAA). (CA Civil Code §1786) (Privacy Rights Clearinghouse). According to this Act, investigative consumer report (ICR) can be conducted in California by any means. Therefore, the employer should have requested the report regarding the records of the applicant and his right to possess and use the driver’s license. In fact, a background check was supposed to be performed.
As for the ethical reasoning of the background investigation, an applicant for the driver’s position must be checked for any misconduct related to the area of potential duties. Mr. X applies for the work of the truck driver which presupposes driving a big and potentially dangerous car. His problem with license and the issue, caused by suspension of a driver’s license, is a serious matter. In this case, the law that would regulate the situations when applicants have records related to the DUI issues should be created. It would not be permissible to oblige an applicant to explain the reasons of DUI issues because it would be the invasion of privacy of an applicant. The law must clearly state that serious background investigation must be performedif DUI issue of an applicant had impact to the third parties.
In this case, the Principal did not conduct a background check. In some meaning, it can be called a background check but the official background check is conducted in a different manner. According to Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, if a background check is performed by the company (the Principal, in this case) without addressing to any ICRA, the applicant may not be informed about this process. However, the actions of the Principal cannot be considered a background check. He accidentally discovered that the applicant was the Playboy model in the past. The law is not applicable here because it was a private initiative of the Principal, not even focused on the actual check of an applicant with a questionable background. In addition, the Principal saw the girl that looked like the person he spoke to because there were no documents identifying this Playboy model as a Cristy Deweese. It was only his assumption so the law cannot be applied here and his actions regarding this matter should be considered as illegal.
The ethical side of the investigation is questionable, as well. Yet, the fact that Cristy Deweese was on these pictures and videos is not proven. In addition, being a high-school teacher and a Playboy model is not forbidden by any law. A side job or a hobby of the applicant (if it is legal) should not be the reason of the background check if it does not correlate with the future duties of the applicant. In this case, the hobby of a girl looking like Cristy Deweese has nothing to do with Cristy Deweese’s desire to apply for a position of a high-school teacher.
In thhis case, the background check is utterly important. The thing is in the reputation of the practice that is usually based on the professionalism of a dentist. The case states that Dr. L acted unethically during the last 10 years of his practice. The question arises if the comments about his actions are 10 years old or he kept doing it for 10 years in a row. The reason of this question is rather substantial: according to the Californian law “negative information usually cannot be reported after seven years” (Privacy Rights Clearinghouse), so any allegations regarding the unethical behavior of Dr. L are not suitable in case he made a mistake in the past. However, it seems that the internet comments provided by the patients of Dr. L are not that old. Internet-based background research is not solid enough to make any assumptions regarding the professionalism of the potential dentist. The law is against him, though.
As for the ethics of such an investigation, the picture is much clearer. It does not matter if those comments are real or fake – such an amount of negative feedbacks should concern any employer. A doctor must have impeccable reputation to practice as a high-paid professional. It would not be possible to post fake comments for 10 years without solid background. The law, determining the extended boundaries of background check, should be adopted to be used in such cases. Doctors are qualified professionals and should remain as such during their career. They must keep the responsibility for the reputation so background checks, even extensive, should not harm good professionals. Such law would not allow practicing dentists, for example, to continue if they conduct questionable activities. The internet sources of the background check should be supported by the personal interviews with patients.
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