How far back do background checks go? If you have ever been convicted of a felony and you are in the process of looking for a job or an apartment, it's important for you to understand what a background check is and what it shows.
The information in your background check could play a role in determining whether an employer will want to hire you or a landlord will be willing to rent you an apartment.
In some states, background checks can reveal your education, driving and arrest record covering your entire life.
In 12 states, only a 7 year background check is allowed. It's important for you to know your rights related to background checks.
What Is A Background Check?
A background check is the act of reviewing your history by looking at archived confidential and public information on you.
Employers and landlords commonly perform background checks to determine if you have a criminal history or other bad acts in your past.
They also use the checks to verify you are who you say you are. Employers also use background checks to confirm the information you put on your application.
Bottom Line: an extensive background checks can take a lot of time and effort and reveal every item in your history. That type of background check can be very expensive.
What Shows Up On a Background Check?
The information that shows up on your background check depends the type of background screening that's performed and the purpose for which it's to be used.
Some of the types of information the background checks include are:
- Criminal Records
- Driving Records
- Credit Report
- Sex Offender Registry
- SSN Validation
- Additional Records
A criminal background check that is reporting on your criminal record will show:
- Convictions (both misdemeanors and felonies)
- Court Records
- Incarceration Records
- Sex Offenses
The Fair Credit Reporting Act restricts criminal background checks from showing records of your arrests or civil suits that are more than seven years old.
While criminal convictions remain on your record indefinitely, California law doesn't allow convictions that are over seven years old to be shown to employers for most jobs.
The rules and regulations governing your driving records vary from one state to another.
Some states only allow employers, volunteer organization and schools to check your driving records going back three years. Others allow information from 10 years ago to be shown.
For employers to access your credit report, they must have your explicit, written, permission.
While employers are not allowed to see your credit score, they can see information on bankruptcy, loan information and accounts placed for collection.
Bottom Line: under the FCRA, your bankruptcies that took place 10 or more years ago and your accounts that were placed for collection more than 7 years ago cannot be seen by employers.
Sex Offender Registry
All states must maintain an accurate sex offender registry. Plus, there's also a nationwide database that contains sex offender registry information from every state, tribe and territory. This is public information.
Your sex offenses show up on both criminal background checks and the sex offender registry.
Employers use your social security number validation to confirm whether or not you can legally work in the United States.
This type of report shows all the names and addresses associated with your social security number.
It's possible for employers, universities, volunteer organizations and other entities doing background checks to see your military records, educational records, drug test records, workers' compensation records and character references.
Bottom Line: however, each state has laws governing how much of your information third parties are allowed to see.
What Background Checks Show?
The information your background check shows depends on what entity is checking and why.
For example, some employers may want to check all the information in every record to which they have access. Others may only do a criminal background check.
Bottom Line: some FCRA reporting restrictions don't apply if the job you are seeking pays over $75,000 a year.
If an employer uses a consumer reporting agency in order to obtain your background information, the FCRA restrictions apply.
However, the FCRA restrictions don't apply should the background check be conducted by the employer's Human Resources department.
How Far Back Do Background Checks Go
If you are wondering how far back do background checks go, the answer is usually between 7 to 10 years.
However, federal and state governments maintain files that are based on your birth certificate, tax filings and housing records and cover your entire life.
However, the Fair Credit Reporting Act gives you the power to dispute errors you find on your credit report and the Federal Bankruptcy Act provides you with protection during background checks. The FBI maintains lifelong criminal records on people nationwide.
In many industries, running background checks have become standard practice.
The 7 Year Background Check
The 7-year rule is a federal law which prohibits all arrest records, paid tax liens, civil suits and civil judgments that took place over 7 years ago from being included in a background investigation. All states must adhere to this rule.
Background check regulations in California, Kentucky and New York go even further.
Bottom Line: they state that except for pending charges, non-convictions are not to appear on your background checks at all. The 7-year rule does not cover criminal convictions in many states.
Nationally, the FCRA regulations governs how and when background checks can be used in hiring decisions.
Some states may also have additional guidelines and requirements related to the 7-year rule.
A Closer Look At The 7-Year Rule
It's essential for employers to follow the regulations of the Fair Credit Reporting Act 7-year rule when they conduct criminal history background screening.
FCRA regulations requires agencies to only report adverse information on convictions that took place within the last seven years on background checks.
The U.S. Department of Justice has stepped in on several occasions to protect the FCRA regulation's constitutionality and ensure both reporting agencies and employers are complying with FCRA's 7-year regulations regarding criminal history.
Background Checks And Workplace Violence
Some employers point to increasing rates of workplace violence as a major reason they need to be able to properly vet potential employees by doing background checks.
They say negligent hiring practices can contribute to making the workplace more dangerous.
Bottom Line: their challenge is to ensure they create a safe work environment while remaining in FCRA compliance.
Prohibitions Under The FCRA 7-Year Rule
FCRA regulations prohibit consumer reporting agencies from including certain types of information on the background checks for employers. The agencies may not provide the following:
- Information about your arrests that took place over seven years before the report was requested.
- Personal medical information without a signed consent form.
- Your information over 7 years old that's not covered by the $75,000 Salary
- Any background report without your written consent to do the query and proof you received a clear disclaimer disclosure.
- Any of your background information without proof you were informed of what type of information the employer will be requesting.
States With 7-Year Background Check Requirement
Although a felony conviction can remain on your record for life, some states follow the FCRA 7-year background check requirement and restrict employers from requesting your background check data from more than 7 years ago.
There are 12 states that require employers to adhere to this requirement and limit the type of criminal, credit and employment data that can be part of a background check unless the job exceeds a set salary amount or is 'highly sensitive'.
These states and the salary cap for background check information disclosure are:
- California – No salary cap
- Colorado – $75k
- Kansas – $20k
- Maryland – $20k
- Massachusetts – $20k
- Montana – No salary cap
- Nevada – No salary cap
- New Hampshire – $20k
- New Mexico – No salary cap
- New York – $25k
- Texas – $75k
- Washington – $20k
All other states have no limit on background checks.
Online Background Checks
You can do an online background check for free. Once you understand what is a background check and what shows up on a background check, you will realize how important it is to do one on potential roommates or romantic partners to get to know them better.
Bottom Line: to do a thorough online background check on yourself, a romantic partner or a roommate, you need the first, middle and last name and date of birth.
The background check could provide you with revealing, worrying or dangerous details about someone's past, habits or character that can help you to make a better decision about who you let into your life and your home.