Finding qualified candidates to fill vacant roles in your business requires considering everything from their resume and job history to their personal disposition. A statewide background check in California is a valuable tool for this vetting process. This type of background screening can allow an employer to generate a more detailed snapshot of a person’s history, which can help make crucial employment decisions.
The Value of a Statewide Background Check in California
Employers start their criminal background checks at the county level in many cases. This approach makes sense because most criminal charges are filed in county court. In turn, most criminal conviction records also originate at the county level. Nevertheless, a single county criminal background search is limited by the inherent geographic boundaries of the county itself.
A statewide criminal check can help expand the scope of your pre-employment screening process. All states have a statewide criminal repository. County courts are supposed to report into these repositories regularly to reflect up-to-date criminal history information from across the state. In the Golden State, the responsibility of operating and maintaining the state repository of criminal records falls to the California Department of Justice.
The California Criminal History Repository and backgroundchecks.com
Unfortunately, state law in California prohibits backgroundchecks.com from accessing data contained within the California Department of Justice repository. As such, we are currently unable to provide a complete statewide background check for California. Instead, we recommend a powerful alternative: using instant database searches. We have instant database searches available for several major counties throughout California, including San Diego, Orange, and Riverside. The records returned by this check can include current sentencing information from the California Department of Corrections, sex offender registry entries, and filings in the local Superior Court system for both misdemeanor and felony charges. Altogether, our instant database covers 86 percent of California's population.
We also maintain our own multi-jurisdictional criminal history database, consisting of more than 600 million criminal records throughout the United States. This check, which we call US OneSEARCH, is another powerful tool and can even expand the reach of your background checks beyond California state lines.
Due to the sensitive nature of background check information, their use is regulated by both state and federal laws. California has enacted several restrictions on how employers may use this information. Below is a helpful guide to these responsibilities.
If an individual is facing trial or has been granted bail after an arrest, employers may ask about the details of these situations. However, employers are barred from inquiring into arrests that did not lead to formal charges and a conviction or led the individual to participate in a pre-trial program.
Employers may consider convictions with some exceptions. Marijuana-related convictions older than two years may not enter an employer’s consideration, for example. Misdemeanors that led the individual to successfully complete probation are also not fair game, and employers must steer clear of inquiring into sealed or expunged records. Otherwise, in accordance with ban the box laws described below, employers may consider convictions.
Ban the Box
As of October 2017, all public and private employers are required to abstain from ordering a background check and wait to inquire into an applicant's criminal history until after determining the candidate can receive a conditional offer.
Employers are tasked with considering the circumstances of each conviction—facts such as the time passed since the conviction occurred. If an employer chooses to revoke an offer based on a background check, the applicant must be granted time to argue their case. This state law supersedes a patchwork of local and county-level ban the box laws previously in place around California.
California bars employers from using credit information in making decisions outside of specific exemptions, such as for fiduciary job roles. Outside of these exceptions, employers may not require consent from applicants to conduct a credit check as a prerequisite for employment.
Due to the sensitive nature of the information that background checks provide, the use of background checks – especially for employment purposes – tends to be heavily regulated by both state and federal laws. No exception to this rule, California has enacted several restrictions on how employers may use background check information when making employment-related decisions. Below is a helpful guide to these responsibilities.
Many states throughout the country prohibit employers from using arrest records alone to inform employment decisions. The thought is that because an arrest record by itself is not proof of guilt, it should not be held against an employee or candidate without a corresponding conviction.
California laws restrict the use of arrest records in employment decisions. Specifically, if an individual is facing trial or has been granted bail after an arrest, employers may ask about the details of these situations. However, employers are barred from inquiring into arrests that did not lead to formal charges or convictions. Employers can also not ask about arrests that led the individual to participate in a pre-trial diversion program.
Employers in California are allowed to consider criminal convictions, with some exceptions.
For instance, marijuana-related convictions older than two years are off-limits; employers cannot inquire about these convictions or use them as grounds to deny a job offer. Similarly, if the candidate has a misdemeanor conviction but completed all probation requirements related to that conviction, employers should act as if that conviction doesn’t exist. Finally, employers must steer clear of inquiring into any sealed or expunged records.
Otherwise, employers may consider convictions but must do so per ban the box laws described below.
Ban the Box
As of October 2017, state law in California requires all public and private employers to delay inquiries about criminal history until after a conditional job offer has been extended. This enforcement is on the
more extreme end of the ban the box trend. Not only must employers remove questions pertaining to criminal history from all job applications, but they must also delay the background check until after they have gone through the entire interview process, selected a final candidate, and offered that person the job.
Do note that this job offer can be made conditional on the successful completion of a background check; employers in California are still allowed to vet their candidates thoroughly and may rescind a conditional job offer if they find reasonable grounds to do so.
However, when reviewing a background check report, California employers are tasked with considering the circumstances of each conviction. The simple presence of a criminal conviction on a candidate’s background check is not necessarily grounds to rescind a job offer. Instead, employers should consider factors such as how much time has passed since the conviction occurred and whether the conviction is expressly relevant to the job at hand. If an employer chooses to revoke an offer based on a background check, the applicant must be granted time to argue their case.
California’s 2017 state ban the box law supersedes a patchwork of local and county-level ban the box laws that had previously been in place around the state.
California bars employers from using credit information in making hiring decisions, apart from specific exemptions. For instance, jobs that involve fiduciary responsibilities—such as banking roles—are often exempted from this rule. Besides these exceptions, though, employers are not allowed to require credit history checks as a prerequisite for employment.