The Impact of LA Superior Court’s New Ruling on Criminal Background Checks

The latest LA Superior Court ruling has introduced pivotal changes to conducting an LA County background check. This decision significantly revises the traditional mechanisms employers have relied on for conducting criminal background checks. Key modifications include:

  • Restriction on Search Criteria: The ruling dictates removing birth date as a search criterion to protect individuals’ privacy and minimize identity theft risks.
  • Implementation of Electronic Indexes: An electronic criminal case index is now integral to the process, changing how employers access records and potentially impacting their comprehensiveness.

For employers, these adjustments are not merely procedural but strike at the core of their hiring practices.

Understanding the Changes in LA County’s Criminal Record Search Process

The landmark case, All of Us or None v. Hamrick, significantly changed how Riverside Superior Court deals with criminal records. The court’s decision, resulting from a lawsuit claiming privacy rights violation, effectively prohibited using birth dates or driver’s license numbers when searching the electronic criminal case index. This ruling has profoundly impacted conducting criminal record checks, especially in LA County.

In light of this ruling, LA County implemented an electronic criminal case index. This system made employee background checks more efficient by digitizing records for easy retrieval. However, it also presented new challenges for employers and Consumer Reporting Agencies (CRAs). Here are some important aspects:

  • The electronic index, while effective, is prone to mistakes due to incomplete or incorrect data entry.
  • The absence of birth dates in the search criteria can lead to ‘unperformable search’ results unless there is legislative action.
  • There is a possibility of delays in background checks, which can significantly impact hiring decisions.
  • The adoption of this system underscores the ongoing conflict between safeguarding privacy rights and maintaining a thorough background check process. Importantly, this delicate balance is under scrutiny as employers and CRAs navigate the complexities of adapting their practices to satisfy compliance changes.

The Removal of Birth Date Search Criteria: Rationale and Concerns

The decision made by the LA Superior Court to remove birth dates as a search criteria in criminal record searches is a significant change. This move is primarily driven by two factors:

  • Privacy Protection: The court aims to safeguard individuals’ privacy rights by limiting access to personal information.
  • Identity Theft Prevention: The court hopes to minimize identity theft risk by redacting birth dates from search criteria.

Potential Issues With the Removal of Birth Date Search Criteria

While the intentions behind this ruling are noble, it has received criticism due to several concerns:

  • Impact on Background Check Accuracy: Background check companies have traditionally relied on full birth dates to ensure accurate results. Without this crucial data, there is a possibility that matches in background check reports may become less precise.
  • Compliance with Fair Credit Reporting Laws: If background check results are based solely on name matches without birth dates, it could violate fair credit reporting laws.
  • Rise in ‘Unperformable Search’ Results: Without legislative action, background checks that cannot be completed may increase due to insufficient identifying information.

Employers rely on accurate background check reports to make informed hiring decisions. The removal of birth date search criteria may affect the reliability and comprehensiveness of these reports.

Balancing Privacy and Efficiency in Background Checks

While the court’s decision aims to enhance privacy protections, it also introduces new challenges for companies conducting thorough background checks. Striking a balance between privacy concerns and the need for accurate information remains crucial in this evolving landscape.

To comply with the new ruling while still conducting comprehensive background checks, employers can consider the following strategies:

  • Implement Alternative Search Criteria: Even though birth dates are no longer allowed, employers can still use other personal identifiers such as full names or social security numbers (if the law permits) to conduct searches.
  • Expand Sources for Background Checks: Employers could explore using multiple sources for criminal record searches to ensure a more thorough check. This expansion might involve reviewing county court records, state law enforcement agencies, or federal records.

By adopting these strategies, employers can address potential challenges caused by the ruling and continue to make well-informed hiring decisions.

Adapting to the New Landscape: Recommendations for Employers

  • Conducting Risk Assessment

Identify the levels of risk associated with different positions within the organization and tailor the background screening process accordingly. High-risk roles may warrant more in-depth searches or alternative vetting processes.

  • Implement Reliable Screening Methods

Beyond criminal records, consider education verifications, past employment checks, and professional license validations to form a comprehensive view of an applicant’s background.

  • Use Multiple Data Points

Apply different search criteria to maintain accuracy. This method could combine full name, address history, and social security number traces.

Employers must stay informed about the ongoing changes in the legal landscape concerning background checks. Staying abreast of new guidance or legal developments is vital for adapting to search changes. Balancing a fair and inclusive hiring process while maintaining workplace safety and security is essential. Companies should prioritize compliance with legal standards and fairness in their employment practices to ensure a robust and fair work environment.


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Michael Klazema

About Michael Klazema The author

Michael Klazema is the lead author and editor for Dallas-based with a focus on human resource and employment screening developments

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