How far Back Does an Employee Background Check Look?


In most cases, companies that initiate an employee background check will want it to go seven years back. However, reporting information up to a decade old is allowed in some states. In California, a credit reporting agency could go a decade back if a candidate would be offered $125,000.00 or more a year. If they were to be offered less than that, the agency couldn’t go more than seven years back.

There are ten states apart from California that limit conviction reporting to seven years from release from prison, the end of parole, or the date of the disposition. They are Colorado, Maryland, Kansas, Massachusetts, Nevada, Montana, New York, New Mexico, Texas, Washington, and New Hampshire. Income exceptions apply in some cases.


Knowledge is Safety

Companies should be aware of how far back different types of background checks can go in order to make the best employment decisions. This will make sure candidates are qualified for the job, and that risk to clients, volunteers, and other employees is reduced.

It is important to understand that the state and even the county can impact the period of time checked in an applicant’s background. Compliance regulations in some cities and states can affect this period of time.

You also need to know what specific background checks entail. General pre-employment screenings are very different from criminal record checks or employee credit checks.


Pre-Employment Screenings

Employers typically use these when performing an assessment. They usually cover seven years of court and criminal records. Depending on what you’re looking for and on state compliance laws, they can go back further.


Bankruptcy Checks     

These can go as far as a decade back.


Criminal Felonies

Depending on the state where the applicant works or lives, one can report felonies for an indefinite period of time or restrict them to seven years or a decade.


Credit History

Employee credit checks generally go seven years back. Depending on specific state laws and expected salary, they might go a decade back. In addition, some state laws restrict how long you can report certain types of credit data.


Minor Infractions and Misdemeanors

Depending on the state where the applicant works or lives, you can report these indefinitely or for five years, seven years, or a decade.

Educational history, employment history, and professional license information is subject to verification over a candidate’s lifetime. Driving record checks can extend from three years to a decade back. Again, it depends on the state where someone works or lives.


Limitations and Regulations

When it comes to screening tools, HR departments have lots of options. However, this doesn’t exempt companies from obeying local laws, state laws, and federal compliance regulations when doing background checks to make hiring decisions.

It is challenging to stay current on all the details that may apply to your applicants’ jurisdiction, which can limit how far back you’re allowed to look into their background. For instance, some local and state “ban the box” and fair hiring laws restrict the extent of a criminal history check. Ban the box refers to removing the check box on applications that refers to the existence of a criminal record. A few states also impose limitations on how companies can use employment credit checks to make recruitment decisions.


FCRA Guidelines 

Specific regulations exist in terms of how far back a screening can go into an applicant or current employee’s history according to the FCRA. Background check services and CRAs are not allowed to report bankruptcies filed more than a decade from the report date, tax liens paid seven years from the report date, and arrest records, civil judgments, and civil suits that are older than seven years. In addition, they cannot report any adverse information that is more than seven years old with the exception of criminal convictions. Finally, they cannot include collections more than seven years old in any reports they make available to their clients.