Civil background checks and court records

A civil court record check provides additional insight into your candidate’s legal history beyond criminal activity, such as any claims, suits, or judgements where the candidate is listed as a respondent.

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Top reasons employers conduct civil background checks

Information revealed in a civil background check helps you:  

Make informed decisions

Understanding non-criminal lawsuits may help detect potential issues a criminal background check may miss.

Hire qualified candidates

Certain lawsuits may be relevant for positions where employees will have financial or management responsibilities.

Safeguard company assets

Civil lawsuits are filed by individuals or corporations and may identify a risk to the company as well as the safety of others.

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Why civil background checks are important 

The information reported in a civil court history search helps you understand a subject’s character and decision-making skills.

Identify lawsuits relevant to the position

Results may show tax disputes, cases involving financial institutions, or breach of contract suits.

Get insight into financial management

Civil searches may reveal tax liens and debt collection records.

Get a clearer picture of your candidate

Learn about lawsuits brought against your candidate by their former employer, or any harassment claims, and contract violations.

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Checkr’s civil background check options

Checkr helps you get a complete picture of your candidate with civil background check options at the county and federal court levels. A county civil search will show cases filed in lower courts, and a federal civil check will search all 94 federal courts for cases alleging violations of federal civil law.

County civil records check

A county civil search goes back seven years and determines if a candidate is named in any lawsuits, either as a plaintiff or as a defendant.

Federal civil records check

A federal civil search surfaces court records involving your candidate from the federal courts from the last seven years.

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Topics

Frequently asked questions

Learn more about civil court background checks

Civil records background checks may be conducted by employers to learn more about a candidate’s background. A case search of a candidate’s civil court history returns information about non-criminal cases at the county or federal level. The information revealed in a civil search enables employers to reduce risk and hire confidently, especially for trusted financial or management roles.

What is a civil background check?

A civil background check is a record of claims, judgments, and lawsuits that are filed in county or federal courts. Unlike criminal background checks, a civil court background check will not identify charges brought against a job candidate by the state and does not show cases that resulted in jail time. A civil court background check only includes cases of public record that are brought against an individual by another person or entity and may involve financial penalties or judgments.

What shows up on a civil court background check?

Results of a civil court background check include cases filed in county civil courts or federal district civil courts. In addition to the person’s name and the type of case filed, a civil records background check will also reveal information about the case, such as the relevant dates, court location, case title, and case number. It will also indicate whether the job candidate was a plaintiff or defendant in any uncovered lawsuits.  

Case searches of county court records may reveal:

  • Restraining orders
  • Liens 
  • Foreclosures
  • Breaches of contract

Case searches of federal district courts may include information about the following:

  • Interstate violations or disputes
  • Tax claims
  • Violations of federal code
  • Civil rights complaints

Depending on the value of a claim (limits for which are set by individual states), a civil case may be heard in either an upper or lower court – or circuit courts – at the state level. In some circumstances, a civil claim may be heard in one of 94 federal district courts, including claims of more than $75,000 or matters of federal law.

How long does a civil judgment stay on your record?

A civil judgment can stay in the public record for years. The number of years varies by state as each has its own laws governing the statute of limitations for non-criminal judgments. In some states, a court may order records of a case to be sealed if the case meets certain qualifications. Additionally, even when a judgment stays on the public record, its status may change to “paid,” “vacated,” or “dismissed” if the defendant has paid the specified amount, has been excused from payment for a justifiable reason, or has declared bankruptcy.

Although a judgment may remain on the public record for a longer period of time, a civil court background check will only reveal the candidate’s civil court history for the previous seven years. The federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) limits the reporting of adverse information (which includes civil suits and civil judgments) by a consumer reporting agency (CRA) to no more than seven years earlier than the report date. 

State laws may also limit the lookback period. For example, civil court history searches are limited to seven years in California, Massachusetts, Montana, and New Mexico. In other states, employers may expand the lookback period to 10 years if the position’s salary is more than $75,000 annually. 

Employers may consider reviewing the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) guidance for fair hiring practices.

What is a public record civil court action?

A public record civil court action is a non-criminal lawsuit that involves two parties and usually involves another person or entity requesting a judgment from the court. Some examples of civil court actions may include fraud, breach of contract, accidental injury, and restraining orders. A civil court action is different from a criminal court action in which charges are brought against a defendant by the state. 

Employers may conduct a civil records background check to determine a candidate’s eligibility for a particular job, such as financial roles, management positions, and jobs that require candidates to work with vulnerable populations. 

What is a civil record?

A civil record is a history of an individual’s disputes, claims, and judgments in civil court cases. These records are maintained and recorded by the court clerk in the federal, state, or county court responsible for the case. The records – or proceedings – may include court information and pertinent documents (such as court exhibits). 

Most civil records are available for public access online. However, some records are not digitized and must be requested when conducting a civil court background check. Most courts allow these requests to be ordered by a court runner or submitted by email, fax, or mail through a form available on the court’s website. 

Get a civil background check with Checkr

Civil court background checks provide insight into a candidate’s legal history beyond criminal activity. As one of many screening services offered by Checkr, a civil record check can easily be used as part of a comprehensive pre-employment screening.  Checkr’s advanced platform helps provide employers with fast, accurate results while built-in workflows help streamline compliance. Our easy-to-order packages and volume discounts enable employers of all sizes to hire efficiently–get started today.

Disclaimer

The resources provided here are for educational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. We advise you to consult your own counsel if you have legal questions related to your specific practices and compliance with applicable laws.

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