Can Employers Run Background Checks in California?

By Gregory Thyberg on February 14, 2021


working at a computerIndividuals seeking employment may be asked to submit to a background check at some point in the hiring process. It has become increasingly common for employers to look at an applicant’s criminal background. 

While employers can legally run background checks in California, there are some restrictions regarding when the check can be run and what can be looked at. Employment law attorney Gregory Thyberg helps prospective employees in Sacramento, CA, and surrounding areas understand the guidelines for background checks, and the protections that are provided to job applicants.

When Can an Employer Run a Background Check?

Many prospective employees are asked about their criminal background when they first apply for a job. It is not unusual for an application to have a box asking applicants to check if they have ever been convicted of a crime. As of January 1, 2018, this is no longer allowed in the state of California. Under extensions to California’s Fair Housing and Employment Act, the “ban the box” law requires employers to remove this question from job applications.

The law further dictates that job applicants cannot be asked about nor can an applicant’s criminal history be considered at all during the initial application process. This limitation extends to background checks. Under these guidelines, an employer can only run a background check after a conditional offer of employment has been made.

How Far Back Can A Background Check Go?

If a Sacramento job applicant has a conviction in their past, they may wonder if it will show up on their background check. California employment laws limit employer background checks to the previous seven years. Any convictions that are more than seven years old will not show up on a criminal background check.

Is Any Information Off Limits?

Based on limitations, an employer background check will not contain any information that extends beyond the previous seven years. Additionally, there are other restrictions regarding the type of information that can be included in a background check. Restricted information includes:

  • Arrests that did not lead to conviction
  • Participation in pre- or post-trial diversion programs
  • Sealed records
  • Juvenile records
  • Non-felony marijuana convictions that are more than two years old

Can An Employer Deny Employment Based On a Background Check?

Technically, Sacramento job applicants can be denied employment based on the findings of their background check. However, before denying employment an employer must conduct an individualized assessment. They need to consider the nature and severity of the offense, how long ago the offense was made, and whether it is relative to the type of job being applied for.

If an employer chooses not to offer employment based on a background check, they are required to notify the job applicant in writing. They must specify why the decision was made and provide applicants with a copy of the obtained conviction record. After receiving notification, applicants have the right to challenge the accuracy of the report or provide evidence that lessens the impact of the conviction (for example, someone with a past drug conviction could provide evidence that they’ve completed a rehabilitation program).

Contact Us

If you have questions about employer background checks or your rights after being denied employment due to a past conviction, employment law attorney Gregory Thyberg would be happy to help. To schedule a personal consultation, send us a message online or call (916) 204-9173.

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