Georgia has numerous laws on the books that regulate the use of criminal background checks in employment situations. Employers should be aware of these laws before ordering Georgia background checks.
Employers in Georgia are not permitted to ask about or consider arrest records that have been expunged, pertain to charges that have been dropped or dismissed, or did not lead to conviction. All criminal history reports from backgroundchecks.com—including this Georgia background check—omit arrest history information.
Ban the Box
Georgia has several laws and ordinance—both statewide and jurisdictional—that bar employers from asking questions about criminal history on their job applications. In February 2015, the governor signed an executive order banning the box from all applications for state employment. Several cities and counties throughout the state have passed similar legislation, including Albany, Atlanta, Augusta, Cherokee County, Columbus, Fulton County, Macon-Bibb County. Like the state, these counties only ban the box for government jobs. Two local jurisdictions (Augusta and Columbus) require public employers to wait to run a background check until after they have made a conditional offer of employment.
Employers in Georgia cannot ask candidates about criminal conduct that has been expunged. Employers must be wary of crimes expunged under Georgia’s first-time offenders law (see below).
Under Georgia’s First Time Offenders Act, a person being sentenced for the first time may be able to avoid having a conviction on his or her record. The Act does not automatically apply to every first offender: the judge for the case must decide whether to sentence the defendant as a first offender. Even if an offender is classified thusly, they must 1) plead guilty or no contest to the crime for which they are accused and 2) complete all terms of the sentence without committing a second crime. If the terms of the sentencing are met without issue, all records about the offender’s case will be sealed and that person will not have a criminal conviction. Employers cannot inquire about or consider arrests or convictions that have been discharged under the Georgia First Time Offenders Act.
Georgia laws require employers to follow several steps for notifying candidates if their criminal histories lead to adverse hiring decisions. Specifically, employers must inform candidates they obtained criminal records, where those records were obtained (in this case, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s Georgia Crime Information Center), the contents discovered in those records, and what impact the findings had on the employment decision. This law echoes the Fair Credit Reporting Act, which all employers must follow nationwide.