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I have found that many are not aware of the 7 year rule when running a background check so I wanted to be sure you are all fully informed. The 7-year rule states that all civil suits/ judgments, non-conviction arrest records, and paid tax liens can’t be reported in a background investigation after 7 years. This rule applies to every state in the U.S., some instances, states chose to take it even further with their regulations, such as in California, New York, and Kentucky, where non-convictions can’t be reported at all, except for pending charges.

Most criminal convictions are not governed by the 7-year rule. (see this chart for some of the exceptions) Since the 7-year rule is a federal guideline it applies to all states for non-criminal convictions and to many states for criminal convictions, you may find that your background check provider will only provide information according to those parameters.

People earning over $75,000 annually may see arrest information longer than seven years in the past included on their background reports due to a Salary Exception, but this also depends on the state. Before requesting the report from the agencies, employers are required to provide the applicant with a clear disclaimer of disclosure and obtain the applicant’s written consent of the query.

The employer is also required to inform the applicant about the types of information that will be requested in the report. If the employer decides to take adverse action as a result of the report, they are required to conduct the complete pre-adverse/adverse action process.  Also, bear in mind that an employer can only take adverse action if the conviction or arrest correlates to the job they are applying for, ie:  if the arrest is for embezzlement but the job is for a driver then the employer will most likely not be able to deny them the job.

Overall, it is important for employers and landlords to understand the guidelines as outlined by the Fair Credit Reporting Acct regarding criminal arrest records.  By choosing an appropriate screening company that understands these regulations you can have a valuable resource at your disposal.


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