Background Checks in the Golden State of California: What Employers Should Know

Nick Fishman

California

A background check is a background check, right? Regardless of city or state? One could argue, yes, aside from a few variations, the basics are the same from one location to another. However, due to the fact that there are both State and Federal screening laws, employers must comply with both sets of laws when conducting employment background checks. Specifically, several states have laws and considerations for background checks, and employers should be aware of these.

One example is the state of California, where there are some unique laws and guidelines that employers should know in relation to background screening.

What are some of the restrictions and requirements?

  • When conducting a criminal record background check in California, employers can only consider convictions that occurred within the past 7 years. Any records outside of this restriction cannot be reported or used when making a hiring decision.
  • Generally, the state of California does not allow credit reports, but depending on the situation, there may be some exemptions.
  • In any state, when a company asks an applicant permission to conduct an employment background check, the applicant can request a free copy of their report. The difference in California is that they must be given this opportunity in writing on the consent form, as opposed to other states where applicants can always request it, but it’s not a required.
  • In addition to providing applicants with a Summary of Your Rights Under the FCRA, employers in California must also provide a Notice Regarding Background Investigation Pursuant to California Law.
CA release

Notice Regarding Background Investigation Pursuant to California Law

And if that isn’t enough:

  • Employers cannot seek information nor inquire about an arrest that did not lead to conviction.
  • Employers cannot seek information nor inquire about pre or post-trial diversion programs.
  • Employers may inquire about convictions where no sentence has been imposed.
  • Employers cannot inquire about a marijuana conviction greater than 2 years old

Another emerging trend to keep in mind when conducting background checks in California is an increase in court delays. Court delays can happen anywhere for any number of reasons, but EmployeeScreenIQ has pinpointed a couple areas of concern which are unique to the state:

1. Court furloughs-due to layoffs and mandatory furloughs, courts may be closed periodically for certain amounts of time, which could be a couple weeks or more. Because of this background screening companies and their court researchers cannot access criminal record information during these times.
2. In some courts, only a small percentage of conviction records are housed in the actual court house. The rest of the records (usually older records) are stored off site, which can cause a turnaround time of 2-3 weeks. Crazy, right? But that’s what employers have to plan for (as much as you can) for criminal background checks.
3. Clerk Run Searches- While not really unique to the state of California, there are some counties do not allow an independent researcher to perform the search.  Therefore, you are at the mercy of court personnel to conduct the search.  And with the aforementioned layoffs and furloughs, this can take some time.

Interested in learning more about employment background checks in California? Visit our State-Specific Considerations for California Background Checks page for more information.

Ever wonder how accurate your criminal background checks are? Download our guide to find out if your background checks are giving you a false sense of security:








Nick Fishman
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Nick Fishman

Nick Fishman is the co-founder of EmployeeScreenIQ, a leading, global employment background screening provider, and serves as the company’s executive vice president and chief marketing officer. He pioneered the creation of EmployeeScreen University, the #1 educational resource on employment background checks for human resources, security and risk management professionals. A recognized industry expert, Nick is a frequent author, presenter and contributor to the news media. Nick is also a licensed private investigator in the states of Ohio and Texas.
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