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Public Record Information Background Check and Privacy: What is Public Info?

These days, criminal background checks are just a fact of life for both job seekers and employers. The simple truth is that there are significant liabilities associated with employing someone, especially in safety-sensitive positions.

If a person with a serious criminal history record is hired and becomes responsible for an injury, accident, assault, theft, or fraud at work, that person’s employer can potentially be sued for hiring him or her, thereby enabling them to cause the problem in the first place. That’s why criminal background checks are a standard operating procedure for a majority of employers in the U.S.

What’s often less well understood are the privacy issues surrounding criminal history background checks. What’s often less well understood are the privacy issues surrounding the criminal background check process. Is the information contained in them public, or private?

As the experts on pre-employment screening services, KRESS receives this question a lot! Here is what we tell people.

Criminal records are public information.

KRESS and other criminal background check providers conduct our checks using various government records and databases. This is why we cannot perform a criminal record search using only a social security number.

Criminal history background check searches are conducted using name and date of birth, with the SSN as an additional identifier. The SSN is often excluded from criminal history records because it is a matter of public record.

A criminal history background check provides an applicant's full criminal history to employers.

Because so many employers must comply with state laws and federal laws and mitigate risks surrounding the employment of candidates with criminal records, KRESS fields many questions regarding what is actually covered by criminal history record information.

The answer is pretty simple: A pre-employment criminal history background check will reveal a job applicant's criminal history if they have one. Criminal background checks generally return felony, misdemeanor, and certain traffic offenses (such as DUIs) and infractions that occurred within the reporting window allowed under state and federal law.

When it comes to arrests without conviction, the rules can vary significantly depending on the state. In most states, arrest records that did not lead to a conviction should not appear on standard employment background checks after a certain time period, often seven years.

However, there are exceptions; some states allow these records to be reported regardless of the case's final disposition. Employers must comply with state-specific laws on using arrest information, as failing to do so could lead to legal complications. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) advises against considering arrest records when making hiring decisions because it can have a discriminatory impact on minorities, who statistically face higher arrest rates.

Sometimes, public records include mistakes or inaccuracies.

Although KRESS takes every precaution to ensure that the criminal justice information we report is accurate and belongs to the subject in question, there is still the possibility that errors can occur due to the human element involved with filing and retrieving court records.

It's possible that someone with a criminal history has the same name, date of birth, or other identifiers as a job candidate completely unconnected to them, which may occasionally result in a false hit. Additionally, identity theft can result in surprise criminal charges on a job seeker's record.

Public records information can also be outdated or incomplete, especially if an individual has changed their name or moved to another state. In such cases, it's crucial for employers to verify the accuracy of the information provided on a background check before making any employment decisions based on it.

If errors are found in an applicant's public records, it is the job applicant's responsibility to correct them. The job applicant should be sure to call the relevant parties to fix those issues as soon as possible. All job candidates are guaranteed the right to dispute information included in a background report conducted by KRESS or any other provider under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).

Get in touch

If you have any questions about how KRESS works to ensure thorough, accurate, and compliant criminal background checks for our clients, please contact us today and ask away. That's what we're here for! We take pride in offering premium background check services to businesses and organizations of all sizes in many different industries.

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