Do people in California have special rights related to background checks?

California law is very protective of employees’ and applicants’ rights with regard to background checks. In addition to all the protections provided by the Fair Credit Reporting Act, California law also provides several additional protections, including, but not limited to:

• An employer can only request your credit report (different than a background check) for certain categories of positions;
• A more extensive notice is required to be provided to you prior to a background screening company running a background check on you (it must state the purpose of the report, the contact info for the screening company, a summary of your rights, and a simple check box to say if you want a copy of your report – which if checked, must be sent to you within 3 business days of the date the employer gets it);
• If the background check is being run in-house by the employer, the job application, or similar form, must include a check box to indicate you want a copy of any public records obtained in the employer’s investigation;
• An employer has to get your permission every time they run a report, unlike under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, where you just give permission once and an employer can run future checks on you without getting authorization again;
• Much more restrictive reporting: criminal convictions can only be reported for 7 years unless another law specifically requires an employer to look deeper; cannot include public record info unless the screening company has verified its accuracy within 30 days prior to report being issued; and arrests, indictment, misdemeanors cannot be reported unless they resulted in a conviction or a judgment has not yet been entered.
• There is a “ban the box” law in place which restricts employers from asking about arrests or detentions that did not result in convictions, any arrest for which pretrial diversion has been completed, expunged, sealed or dismissed criminal records, and any marijuana convictions that are more than 2 years old; and
• Higher damages are available – actual damages, or $10,000, whichever is greater.

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