Do Background Checks Show Medical History?

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Posted by: David Garcia

Topics: Background Check 101, Human Resources

Background screening is an essential part of the recruitment process, but certain types of information can sometimes feel somewhat invasive for candidates. One of those is medical history.

A person’s medical history is private, but depending on the position, it may impact the candidate’s employability. The issue is whether medical history shows up on pre-employment screening. 

If you are worried about your medical history coming up after a job interview and potentially ruining your chances, we're here to reassure you. In this post, we will be walking you through everything you need to know about your medical history when it comes to background screening. 

Are Health Records Typically Incorporated Into Background Checks?

No, they are not. Prospective employers have access to a wide range of information relating to your past, namely your credit, employment, and education history. Your healthcare, however, is entirely your private information. It is not even available during the screening process. 

That said, the protection of “health records” is not all-encompassing. It does not apply to drug screenings, which can be part of the background checking process. 

In some instances, an employer may request an applicant to consent to release their medical records as part of the screening process. It usually only comes up when the person’s medical history is directly relevant to the role they will be fulfilling. 

Even in these circumstances, an applicant is still within their rights to deny access and keep their medical history private. 

Do Mental Illnesses Appear on Background Checks?

Typically, no. Diagnosed mental illnesses are a part of a person’s medical record and, as such, are protected under law. Doctors are sworn to confidentiality and could risk losing their jobs if they expose any information without a person’s explicit consent. For mental health to be considered relevant, an additional factor would usually be involved.

For instance, suppose an applicant’s history of mental illness led to a criminal charge or conviction, or potentially even just an arrest. The charge would show up in their criminal record, but the diagnosis would not. 

What About in Professions Where the Result Might Affect Your Eligibility?

The only reason a history of mental illness would affect your eligibility for a role is if it had led you to commit a crime or some form of abuse. The incident and charge would appear either on the abuse registry or your criminal record. If no such circumstances ever occurred, your mental health should not show up in a background screening. It is considered confidential information. 

Exceptions do apply. For example, suppose you applied for a position where you would be caring for mentally ill patients or vulnerable individuals. In that case, your history of mental illness may come up in an interview. 

Similarly, if you applied for a role in law enforcement or the military, you would have to pass a mental health check as per standard protocol. The assessment will often include an in-depth look into any previous history of mental illness.

However, in general, your mental health history is largely irrelevant. It is illegal for a company to discriminate against you based on your mental health unless there is reasonable cause for concern that you may pose a threat or cannot effectively complete your role. They cannot force you to take leave or exclude you from promotion based on your mental health. 

Do You Have to Tell an Employer About Your Mental Illness?

Whether it is past or present, you are under no legal obligation to tell your employer about your mental illness unless it could compromise the working environment in some capacity. Employers cannot ask invasive medical questions regarding a candidate’s medical history or mental illness outside specific contexts. 

These contexts vary, but three of the most common situations in which you may have to decide whether to disclose your mental health diagnosis include:

  • After a job offer has been made and all other new hires have to answer the same questions because of the job’s nature;
  • While you are at work and it appears you are not able to complete your role to an acceptable standard;
  • When it is engaging in affirmative action for people with disabilities and is performing a workplace survey (it is up to you whether you wish to respond).

The only additional time questions about your medical history may be relevant are when requesting reasonable accommodation for a disability. 

Conclusion

For the most part, your medical history is entirely your own business and should not be part of a background screening. Make sure to check your state’s relevant legislation if you have any concerns about an employer asking inappropriate questions, as it is likely to be against the law. 

At ScoutLogic, we provide a wide range of pre-employment screenings that always comply with federal and state laws and respect the privacy and rights of job applicants. Contact us today for a background screening process that you can trust. 

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