What is Adjudication and How Can You Optimize Your Processes?

June 14, 2023
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Checkr Editor

Learn how you can review and optimize your adjudication process for fair, efficient hiring.

Justice-impacted individuals are often overlooked for job opportunities due to the history found on their record. This challenge can be exacerbated if a company has adjudication practices that dismiss candidates because of bias, rather than role-critical criteria. Additionally, because “adjudication” is not a role in itself but one of the many tasks for which recruiters, HR coordinators, or hiring managers are responsible, it can be a delicate operation. That’s why it’s so important to review and optimize your adjudication process.

What does adjudication mean?

Adjudication is the process in which a company reviews background checks against the company’s hiring policies to make an assessment on whether to hire a candidate.

For example, a candidate applies for a stockroom role at a clothing store. A marijuana possession charge is shown on the background check. As part of  the adjudication process, the recruiter reviews the charge and sees that it’s from over 3 years ago, which according to their company policy, the candidate remains eligible and the hiring process continues.

This may seem straightforward, but each adjudication action can significantly delay the hiring process, and talent acquisition teams who depend entirely on manual adjudication run a greater risk of not aligning with company protocols as they need to seek out guidelines for each case. Systems that surface a company’s adjudication rules within the platform generally help keep adjudication more consistent. At Checkr, our suite of adjudication tools help your team make informed decisions with speed without sacrificing safety and compliance.

What is adverse action?

In terms of adjudication, adverse action is the process employers must follow when an individual may be disqualified from consideration for a position based on the results of a background check. This includes hiring a candidate or denying a promotion or transfer to a current employee. If your team chooses to initiate adverse action, you are required by the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) to provide the candidate with written pre- and post-adverse action notices and allow an opportunity for the candidate to dispute any incorrect or outdated information.

Adjudication steps like adverse action are a potential risk area in manual adjudication, if busy adjudicators don’t properly initiate the adverse action process. Checkr’s built-in adverse action workflow improves efficiency and supports compliance by generating candidate notifications and managing mandatory waiting periods automatically.

What are some adjudication best practices?

To create a fair adjudication process you may consider the following best practices:

  • Review company adjudication policies: It can be helpful to have adjudication rules that align with applicable state and local laws, as well as industry best practices. Ban the Box laws, which can vary by state, county, and city, may also apply. These laws may impact when employers are permitted to ask about a candidate’s criminal history or run a criminal background check during the hiring process.
  • Filter irrelevant information: Consider whether you want to filter irrelevant information for your adjudicators to reduce unconscious bias. Using the same example as before, if the company decides to filter out marijuana possession charges, the adjudicator would see the candidate’s background check as not requiring further action as the charge was made irrelevant by the company policy. This saves recruiters time and prevents hiring delays.
  • Checkr’s Assess Standard product enables employers to filter background check results based on the guidelines they choose. Using Assess, customers can set up state-specific rules and follow prompts within the system to create thoughtful and fair adjudication policies. This optimizes the manual adjudication process with a much faster and consistent lens, reducing bias by up to 90%.
  • Be mindful of disparate impact discrimination: If you automatically disqualify candidates with criminal convictions, for example, this could be disadvantageous to individuals of a certain race, color, national origin, sex, or religion which are protected classes under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. A blanket policy against certain records may create a disparate impact to those in protected classes and expose your organization to legal liability.
  • Educate your adjudicators: Make sure your adjudicators understand the language and terms used in criminal background checks so they don’t rely on vague notions or incomplete information. It’s also important to communicate your company policies to ensure consistency in why you do or do not disqualify candidates for certain records.
  • Consider Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) guidelines: The EEOC suggests employers make hiring decisions based on an individualized assessment that takes into account the Green Factors, also called the “nature-time-nature” test: The nature and gravity of the offense, the time elapsed since the offense, and the nature of the job being sought.  The last factor of role relevance is often overlooked–challenge your team to consider this question with every policy to minimize bias.
  • Give candidates a voice: Consider empowering candidates with an opportunity to provide additional context for records. Checkr’s Candidate Stories feature enables candidates to share context and circumstances around their records and rehabilitation efforts to support fair chance hiring.

Optimized adjudication boosts your recruiting process

Adjudication is a key part of the hiring process, but it doesn’t have to be a burden. When executed properly, it can actually improve the recruitment process for both your talent acquisitions team and candidates.

Adjudication best practices boost your hiring process through:

  • Efficiency: A faster, easier recruiting workflow for your hiring team and a shorter time-to-hire for candidates.
  • Compliance: Pre-defined, role-relevant adjudication policies that account for applicable laws can help mitigate risk
  • Fairness: Consistent and relevant policies make hiring decisions more equitable.
  • Budget: Faster time-to-hire and an expanded candidate pool means improved ROI on your hiring budget.

Checkr streamlines your adjudication process

Checkr helps companies hire faster with less risk with modern adjudication tools to streamline the hiring process. In fact, you can spend as little as one hour per week on adjudication, while getting more consistent, compliant results across more candidates. Our tools support responsible reporting to reduce bias and human error, take the guesswork out of the adverse action process, and help manage the adjudication process for efficient hiring. Get started.


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Nothing in Checkr’s Blog should be construed as legal advice, guidance, or counsel. Companies should consult their own legal counsel about their compliance responsibilities under the FCRA and applicable state and local laws. Checkr expressly disclaims any warranties or responsibility or damages associated with or arising out of information provided.

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