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How far back do background checks go?

By on August 6, 2019

The FCRA dictates how far background checks go. Employers, among other institutions that carry out background checks for purposes of pre-employment screening must follow strict rules. Some of the FCRA limits placed on background reports include:

  • Tax liens, accounts in collection, civil suits and judgments can’t be reported if they are 7 or more years old 
  • Bankruptcies that are 10 years or more can’t be reported 
  • Expunged felonies/criminal cases can’t be reported/revealed unless by court order. 

How far back does a criminal background check go? 

Criminal background checks aren’t restricted by a federal act. For this reason, criminal convictions that took place decades ago can be seen in criminal background checks. This information can be beneficial to an employer but creates a bias against a job seeker even if they have reformed and proven themselves. Luckily FCRA rules safeguard discrimination and encourage making hiring decisions based on eligibility for existing role. 

Salary caps 

Generally, there are no limitations on criminal checks, although some states have laws limiting how far background checks go. Existing laws put limits depending on the salary of the position in question. Current limits prevent criminal checks from checking for convictions past 7 years old. In New Hampshire, Washington, Massachusetts, Maryland and Kansas, criminal background checks can’t surpass 7 years for positions offering salaries up to  $20,000 per year. The salary cap for New York is $25,000, while that of Colorado and Texas is $75,000. If salaries exceed the above limitations, criminal background checks can be conducted beyond 7 years. [1] 

Permission to run background checks 

Employers can’t run background checks for employment purposes without getting a job applicant’s permission to do so. This requirement must be observed as per FCRA rules. Employers must offer you a notification and explanation as to why they want to conduct a background check, and the check can’t proceed without your consent. The importance of familiarizing yourself with the requirements for running legal background checks can’t be overlooked for obvious reasons. 

Employer obligations under the FCRA 

Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, applicants must complete as well as sign release forms provided by employers via background screening companies. Background screening companies must have releases before conduction any background investigations. 

Employers must also provide applicants with forms advising job applicants on their rights under the FCRA when background checks are requested about them. If the jurisdiction is California, a state statement of consumer rights should be provided. Lastly, employers are tasked with maintain information collected in your records confidentially for at least five years. 



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