Last updated: June 21, 2018

Consent is an individual's agreement to allow a certain action to take place. In the workplace setting, an employer may need an employee or prospective employees permission to perform certain actions such as conducting a background check or disclosing confidential information. In many instances, employee consent is legally required for the employer to act.


Consent is one factor at play in the delicate balance between employer needs and employee rights. State or federal law often protects employees and prospective employees from investigation or disclosure of their private information by employers. In these cases, the employer must first obtain the individual's consent before soliciting or sharing the information. Employers who fail to obtain necessary consents may face fines and other penalties.

For example, except under limited circumstances, a medical professional cannot share confidential health information with a person's employer without the person's consent. A prospective employer must also obtain an individual's consent before checking his or her credit report. The requirement of consent is not a fail safe protection for or prospective employees. A person applying for a job may refuse to grant permission for the employer to obtain information, but the employer may then refuse to hire the person. Additionally, if an existing employee subject to mandatory drug testing refuses to consent to the disclosure of test results to his or her employer, that refusal may be deemed a failure to test under DOT guidelines.


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