How Thorough is a Criminal Background Check?

Criminal history is part of a pre employment background check, and a criminal background check is a background investigation of criminal history in multiple locations.

     The criminal portions of a background check examine your criminal records in your current state, other states, and in the counties you have lived in over the past seven to ten years. For all locations, the three pieces of information that are accessed are arrest records, criminal court records, and corrections records. Criminal court records are a compilation of court records from local, state, and federal courts, while a corrects record lists anytime you spent in jail, be it one night or more than five years. In addition, many criminal background checks have section for state criminal repository records, which lists all arrests, criminal court records, and corrections records on a state level.

     While not all states are available for criminal records of an individual, a background check will access criminal information in all available states. Similarly, a background check lists the counties of residence for an individual from the past seven to ten years. An individual’s criminal history will be examined in all locations he or she lived over seven to ten years.

     The typical crimes that appear in a criminal background check include felonies, misdemeanors, warrants, sex offender listings, civil high court charges, and civil low court charges. Out of these charges, more specific charges include drug traffic violations, embezzlements, fraud violations, theft, grand theft, child abuse, domestic violence, assault and battery, and divorce records.

     In applying for a job, an individual should be honest about his or her past record, and lying on a job application can always be verified by a background check. In some cases, lying about a past criminal record is considered a crime. In terms of an expunged record, an employer is not allowed to research or find out about any charges that were dropped. A charge is considered dropped when it is dismissed, nullified, if you were found not guilty, or if you completed an accelerated rehabilitation program. When you have multiple charges for the same offense, not all similar charges will be dropped.

Credit Reports as Part of a Pre-Employment Background Check

A background check involves a credit history report, but pre employment background checks include more information than just credit for employment.

     Part of any background check may involve a credit check, but, in order to obtain and use this information, employers need to comply with the Fair Credit Reporting Act, particularly sections 604, 606, and 615. As a background check is used for pre-employment screening and then later for promotions during employment, an employer obtaining this information must first make sure such a report is prepared by a consumer reporting agency (CRA). This report will have a list of credit payment records, driving records, and criminal history. In some cases, a more thorough report will be done, called an investigative consumer report. An investigative report will involve a CRA interviewing an individual’s family, friends, neighbors, and associates.

     But before a consumer report is prepared, the individual must be notified in writing and that individual must give written authorization. If the individual does not give written authorization for an employer or potential employer to conduct a consumer report, obtaining a report is illegal.

     Once the individual gives his or her signature and a report is obtained and reviewed, an employer can deny an individual based on the information found in the report. However, in denying an individual for adverse action that individual must be given a pre-adverse action disclosure including a copy of the report and a copy of “A Summary of Your Rights Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act.” In addition, the individual must be given notice that the action taken has been in adverse action.

     Before giving a consumer report, a CRA will require that you, an employer, certify you are in compliance with FCRA and that you will not misuse any information enclosed in the report. In the case of non-compliance, an individual can sue in federal court for damages and seek punitive damages for deliberate violations.

How to Make Sure You Comply with FCRA

A credit check is standard for a background check, but certain rules complying with FCRA need to be followed for a pre-employment screening.

     Part of any background check involves a credit check, but, in order to obtain and use this information, employers need to comply with the Fair Credit Reporting Act, particularly sections 604, 606, and 615. As a background check is used for pre-employment screening and then later for promotions during employment, an employer obtaining this information must first make sure such a report is prepared by a consumer reporting agency (CRA). This report will have a list of credit payment records, driving records, and criminal history. In some cases, a more thorough report will be done, called an investigative consumer report. An investigative report will involve a CRA interviewing an individual’s family, friends, neighbors, and associates.

     But before a consumer report is prepared, the individual must be notified in writing and that individual must give written authorization. If the individual does not give written authorization for an employer or potential employer to conduct a consumer report, obtaining a report is illegal.

     Once the individual gives his or her signature and a report is obtained and reviewed, an employer can deny an individual based on the information found in the report. However, in denying an individual for adverse action that individual must be given a pre-adverse action disclosure including a copy of the report and a copy of “A Summary of Your Rights Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act.” In addition, the individual must be given notice that the action taken has been in adverse action.

     Before giving a consumer report, a CRA will require that you, an employer, certify you are in compliance with FCRA and that you will not misuse any information enclosed in the report. In the case of non-compliance, an individual can sue in federal court for damages and seek punitive damages for deliberate violations.

Pre-Employment Drug Tests

A drug test is part of a pre-employment background check, although an employer may order a basic or thorough pre-employment drug test.

     In addition to a background check, a drug test is often another standard pre-employment screening a candidate will go through. For most drug tests, a candidate will need to go offsite to a drug testing facility with paperwork for a test, although some drug test manufacturers carry on-the-spot drug tests that can have results within five minutes for up to ten substances. A worker who is a habitual drug user can bring down the morale of a work place, but more serious repercussions from hiring a drug user as a worker can be stealing, filing large amounts of workers compensation claims, and decreased productivity.

All standard drug tests involve testing urine at a lab facility. The three types of drug testing include:

  • DOT (Department of Transportation) 5 Panel Drug Test, a basic drug test that tests for cannabinoids (marijuana), cocaine, amphetamines, phencyclidine (PCP), and opiates.
  • Non-DOT 8 or 10-Panel Drug Test, a more thorough drug test that tests a candidate for all the substances in a DOT 5 Panel test, as well as methaqualone, barbiturates, benzodiazepines, methadone, and propoxphene.
  • Adulterant checking, an on-the-spot drug test that can test up to the ten substances in a Non-DOT test. The benefits of this test include showing results in up to five minutes. While getting a drug test at a facility is typical for a pre-employment drug screening, an adulterant check can be used by an employer for instant results, especially if a worker appears to be under the influence of a substance while on the job.

     Urine drug testing is a standard procedure, although other types of drug tests can include testing hair and saliva for drugs. Hair drug testing can test for drugs used over the past three to six months, while saliva can yield the same time period of results as a urine drug test.

Parts of a Pre-Employment Background Screening

A pre-employment background check is a background investigation that touches on criminal, work, and education history, driving records, credit scores, and references.

     What goes into a pre-employment background screening? Whether a background check is done online or over the phone, every background check consists of ten parts – some of which may be more relevant to a particular position than others. While almost all parts are used to verify the information given by the candidate during the interview and on his or her resume, other parts are to investigate if a candidate has a criminal background or a history of bad credit. While poor credit doesn’t necessarily determine whether all candidates are hired, it can be a determining factor for those applying for financial, executive, and government positions. The parts of a standard pre-employment background check include:

  • AIM, or Address Information Manager. This part of a background check is to verify the residence of the candidate, as well as other past addresses he or she has had, although the report only produces the cities of his or her residence, not the actual addresses.
  • Court Search Record. To see whether a candidate has a criminal background, including misdemeanors, this part of the background check produces a list of all the court cases, charges, and outcomes for this candidate.
  • COPS, or Criminal Offender Profile Summary. While different from a court search record, this aspect of a background check narrows down any locations and courts for other criminal offenses that the candidate has had in his or her past.
  • Sex Offender Search. A background check can determine if this candidate is on the list of registered sex offenders.
  • Employment History. A list is produced in a background check of all the places a candidate has worked, as well as the position held, dates of employment, and salary.
  • Education. Similar to employment history, an educational check verifies the school attended, major, if a candidate graduated, and type of degree earned, as well as years of study.
  • Driving Record. This section of a background check has all license information and if the candidate has had any violations, such as a DUI or other driving offense.
  • Social Security Number Verification. If any changes were done to your security number, that information would show up in this section of a background check.
  • Credit Report. Aside from your credit report, this section of a background check would list your credit history, including bankruptcy, loan payments, amount of outstanding loan or credit card debt, and any other negative influences on your credit report.
  • Professional Reference Check. As submitting a list of three references is standard for a job application, all information from checking a reference and asking questions would be listed in this last section.
  •      While employment can be denied due certain aspects in a background check, such as a criminal background or inaccurate education history, other aspects, such as credit history, can be disputed if denial of employment is solely based on this section of a background check.