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October 6, 2021

Background Check California: Guide to Performing Checks

Checkr Editorial

Background checks are a critical part of the hiring process, no matter what state you live in. When conducting a background check in California, the laws can be complex and challenging to understand. Businesses need to know they are abiding by the law, and candidates need to know their rights. We believe all candidates deserve a fair chance at work and an understanding of the background check laws in the Golden State. At Checkr, we remove the friction from your hiring operations and streamline the process of conducting a California state background check.

California Criminal Background Checks: A Look at the Laws 

It’s easy to get confused regarding which California criminal background check law applies to you. Rather than a single law, there are multiple that pertain to employers. Here’s a quick summary of the California background check laws you should know.

The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA)

The FCRA is the national benchmark for fair background checks carried out by a third party. Applicants have the right to obtain a copy of their background checks and file disputes if any information is inaccurate or incomplete. Compliance with FCRA means obtaining the candidate’s written permission to carry out the check, providing written notice to the candidate, and notifying the candidate if obtaining character references from family, friends, and associates.

The Investigative Consumer Reporting Agency Act (ICRAA)

According to the ICRAA, convictions older than seven years may not be reported on any employee background check in California. Also, any arrest that didn’t lead to a conviction cannot be reported, as well as offenses that received a full pardon. It’s important to note that pending criminal charges may be reported.

CA Labor Code 432.7

The CA Labor Code 432.7 states that public and private employers may not ask a job applicant about or determine an employment decision based on:

  • Criminal charges not resulting in a conviction
  • Pre-trial or post-trial diversion programs
  • Dismissed or sealed convictions

CA Labor Code 222.5

According to the CA Labor Code 222.5, employers may not charge the candidate for the costs of a pre-employment drug screening, medical or physical examination. All associated costs must be borne by the employer.

CA Labor Code 1024.5

If using a credit report as part of your hiring process, the CA Labor Code 1024.5 is a California criminal background check law that prohibits their use in hiring decisions unless the position is:

  • Managerial
  • Law enforcement
  • State Department of Justice
  • Any position where the candidate works with sensitive personal information
  • Positions where the employee will handle the company’s finances
  • Roles where the employee will have access to trade secrets

Health and Safety Code 11361.5

Since the legalization of recreational marijuana, the Golden State has also amended how marijuana misdemeanor convictions can be used in a pre-employment background check in California. Based on the HSC section 11361.5, misdemeanor marijuana convictions from more than two years ago are no longer considered current charges and therefore won’t be included on a background check.

Senate Bill AB 1676

Under this California background check law, employers can no longer use salary history as a way to determine someone’s suitability for employment or to decide the salary they’ll offer. In other words, salary history is prohibited from being a factor in hiring decisions by the Senate Bill AB 1676.

Ban-the-Box laws

Ban-the-Box laws seek to remove the requirement for candidates to “check the box” confirming a criminal record on hiring applications. This helps reduce discrimination against applicants with prior convictions and ensure they have a fair shot at employment, which is why this law is also referred to as the Fair Chance Act. It states that California employers may not inquire about a candidate’s conviction history until the job offer has been made and they may only conduct a background check after ensuring that the candidate is qualified for the position.

How far back does a background check go in California?

A California 7-year rule for background checks has been authorized by the California civil code. Any form of misdemeanor, arrests, indictments, and convictions cannot be reported on a background check if they are more than seven years old, except in limited circumstances. According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, employers must save their background checks for a minimum of two years for compliance purposes.

How to request pre-employment background checks in California?

Trying to tackle an employment background check in California independently is time-consuming and labor-intensive. Without a third-party partner, you must apply to become an authorized applicant agency with the Department of Justice (DoJ) and then submit a request from the California Department of Justice. Even then, you’ll only be able to see any criminal records if they exist. If you’re doing this for the first time, it can take weeks just to get all your company’s documentation in order.

Confirming education, credentials, and other aspects of a candidate’s application means tracking various organizations down and getting in touch. For the modern business, not only does the employer need to do all this on their own, but they also need to stay in compliance with California background check laws. Do you have the time and the resources to dedicate to conducting manual checks yourself? 

Choose Checkr

Checkr specializes in getting accurate, complete information on behalf of businesses that need to conduct a background check in California. We’re building a better future for everyone by making hiring better, fairer, and more efficient. We take the weight off your shoulders to make the process as frictionless as possible. As the leading technology company in the background check industry, we can get the information you need by leveraging the power of artificial intelligence and machine learning to deliver background checks with accuracy and fairness. Moreover, we take the confusion out of state background check compliance. Our experts assist you in complying with Federal and state laws to help you build a better future with fair hiring practices. Get the best talent and give candidates the fairness they deserve with Checkr.

Contact us to learn more about streamlining your hiring processes now.

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