CanI refuse to sign an “authorization for release” form with a prospective employer?

I interviewed for a position. The prospective employer asked me to agree to a background check. I was okay with it until I found out their own police department will be conducting the investigation. I was asked to sign a form which waives all my legal rights to sue anyone they contact. The thing that bothers me most is that the inquiry will not be confidential. It states that I am seeking employment with the city agency and their police department has the right to search all my employment and personal information and background to determine if I am suitable for the job. I demanded they not contact my current employer but this form will give anyone contacted information that I am seeking new employment. I would prefer it to be more anonymous especially to my last employer. I contacted third party firms and they said that their standard practice is not to divulge the reason for background check or who has requested it.

Asked on September 11, 2010 under Employment Labor Law, New York


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

Yes, you *can* refuse to sign the form--and the  prospective employer can refuse to hire you, or to even continue the interview process. Employers have near total discretion to set terms and conditions of employment, as long as they are not discriminating against a protected category (e.g. against a race, religion, sex, age over 40, or disability status); that includes that an employer may require employees to consent to any kind of background check they like. While they can't "force" you to agree to the check--i.e.. it's not as if they can sue you or otherwise use legal process to make you do it--it's within their rights to simply not consider you fo the job, since you refuse to comply with their requirements. So you need to weigh you desire for great anonymity vs. your desire for the job.

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