When Can an Employer Legally Run a Background Check in California?

California employers can conduct background checks on employees and job applicants, but there are laws that regulate when and how to do so. The law states that employers cannot investigate an applicant's criminal history until they have issued a conditional offer of employment. In addition, employers must conduct an individual evaluation of the applicant's criminal history in relation to the responsibilities and obligations of the vacant position. Applicants have separate rights under the federal background check law.

With limited exceptions, employers have no legal obligation to verify the criminal record of applicants or current employees. If a state, federal, or local law requires another entity (such as an occupational licensing board) to conduct a criminal background check, that will not be enough to exempt the employer from the law's prohibitions. If the background check fails, the California Fair Opportunity Act requires the employer to evaluate whether the applicant should continue to receive the job in light of the seriousness of the crime and the nature of the crime (for example, if the employer decides to withdraw the job offer, it must explain in writing to the job applicant why it is canceling it, provide a copy of the background check on which it was based, and give the job seeker 5 days to respond).An employer cannot refuse to accept additional evidence provided voluntarily by an applicant at any stage of the hiring process; require the applicant to submit any of the additional evidence; require the applicant to submit a specific type of documentary evidence; or require the applicant to disclose the existence of a disability or their status as a survivor of domestic violence or dating, sexual assault, stalking, or comparable status. Under Senate Bill AB 1676, employers cannot request a candidate's salary history or use the candidate's salary history as a factor in determining a) whether to offer employment or b) what salary to offer. California law is very broad with regard to the type of evidence an applicant can submit in response to an employer's notification. Employers must submit notice prior to taking adverse action to inform candidates of a specific crime or crimes that could lead to an adverse hiring decision. We offer multiple background check options and compliance features to automate key steps, such as background check workflows, the adoption of adverse actions and the collection of information for individualized evaluations required by California laws. While most checks can generally be completed within a few days, the type of background check, the information needed, the source of that information, and whether you search the records yourself or use a background check provider affect the length of the background check in California.

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