How far back can a background check go?

Is it true that employers can only look back 7 years?

It is an unfortunate myth that employers are only allowed to do a background check going back for seven years. In reality, employers can look as far back into someone’s history as they choose. However, under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, background check companies (or “consumer reporting agencies”) are not allowed to report negative (“adverse”) information on a consumer which is older than seven years, except for criminal convictions.

If you have a criminal conviction in your past, your employer can probably find out about it by running a criminal background check on you, even if the conviction is more than seven years old.

Non-convictions can only be reported for seven years. Arrests, indictments, dismissed charges, most traffic charges, and other criminal justice system contacts that are not convictions of crimes, cannot be reported for longer than seven years.

If you are applying for a job and an employer asks you questions about your criminal background, you should answer truthfully. If you have received an expungement, or if you had an alternative resolution such as a deferred adjudication, deferred sentence, or a withheld adjudication or sentence, you should seek legal advice on how to answer questions about your criminal background.

Many states, including Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, Pennsylvania, Washington, and Wisconsin, forbid employment discrimination against people who have criminal backgrounds.

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