The Criminal Background Check and the FCRA

A number of employers are unsure of the elements that comprise a criminal background check .

A background check company and the information it provides to the End User (the customer) is regulated by the Federal Trade Commission and the FCRA, the Fair Credit Reporting Act.  Under the FCRA, booth the background check company, also known as a Consumer Reporting Agency or CRA, and the customer have certain rules to follow.  Although many employers think the FCRA regulates only credit reporting, but that is far from the case.

As far as criminal records are concerned, the FCRA restricts reporting of any arrest that does not result in a conviction beyond seven years in the past.  Some examples of non-conviction are acquittals, nolle prossequi, withheld or deferred judgments, successfully completed first offender programs, dead dockets, and others.  Any arrest or disposition that occurs within the seven-year window may be reported to the end user.

Arrests that result in convictions, however, may be reported as far back as records are available.

But there are certain states that have reporting restrictions that are even more stringent than the Federal Government’s.  All End Users should check their local laws, or ask their background check company for the states that are more restrictive, and what restrictions apply.

A “rule of thumb” for many employment screening companies is to check the records back seven years only.  Be sure to ask your company what their policy is regarding years searched, and what you prefer for your pre employment background check program.

For further explanation and information regarding criminal background checks and the FCRA, click here, or call 770-426-0547.