Employers often perform various background checks on applicants prior to offering them employment. These checks can include a criminal background check to learn whether an applicant has criminal records. However, there are background check limitations and mixed reports on how far back the information on a criminal background check can go. While the federal government, through the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), allows reporting of criminal convictions without any time limits, some states follow the seven-year rule. Time restraints on criminal background information varies between states and many state’s regulations are more restrictive than federal laws. Employers and background screening consumer reporting agencies must abide by these state laws when performing criminal checks.
Understand Reporting Limitations Imposed by State Laws
Applicable state laws limit what a consumer reporting agency can report. Under the FCRA, there aren’t any background check limitations when reporting any convictions. However, agencies are generally limited to seven years when reporting other adverse information. These time restraints are sometimes null, however, when the applicant’s salary exceeds $75,000 annually. Some states prohibit arrest information or pending arrest information from being reported.
State Background Check Limitations Based on Job Relation
Federal law doesn’t forbid employers from making hiring decisions based on an applicant’s criminal history in regards to how it relates to the job, however some state laws do impose restrictions. In these states, an employer can’t disqualify an applicant with a conviction record unless the crime is directly related to the job he/she will be performing. When disqualifying an applicant, employers may be required to provide proof his/her criminal record was relevant to the position he would have received.
State Background Check Limitations on Arrests Without Convictions
Federal law also doesn’t prohibit all employers from using arrest records in employment decisions, but state laws pose limitations. If an arrest didn’t lead to a conviction, many states don’t allow employers to use this data.
State Background Check Limitations on Pending Arrests
Arrest records are further broken down into pending and non-pending arrests. In some states, employers can consider pending arrests in the hiring process, but not non-pending arrests.
Comprehensive background checks are important business investments when compared to the potential losses the business could suffer, if it hired an unsuitable candidate. For each of the highlighted background check limitations, employers can typically go back seven years on criminal background checks for employment purposes. Besides various state and city laws, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) also protects applicants against discrimination.