Background Checks in California: Special Rules

When it comes to many aspects of human resources, including background checks, the rules in the independent Republic of California are completely different then the other 49 states.  Background checks in California can present many traps for the unwary that simply assume that national forms and procedures will work in California.  This becomes a problem particularly for California employers that utilize out of state background firms.  Some businesses that are owned by an out of state company  that has a national contract for screening services can find themselves  potentially in violation of California law since the out of state screening firm may have insufficient knowledge of California laws.  The real problem: Under the California Investigative Consumer reporting Agencies Act, Section 1786.50, an employer can potentially liable for $10,000 per violation of California law.  Although there are no cases on that section, not understanding California law can cost an employer.

ESR President Lester Rosen had the opportunity of working with the California legislature 2002 and helped to draft the current California law regulating background checks. and to testify before the state legislature. 

Some of the  areas where California is different includes the certification form a client must sign, special wording on the first page of the background report, special wording that MUST be in the disclosure provided to the consumer, a special check-of box for a free report, a required Spanish version  form of rights that must be made available to all consumers if they object to the report, special procedures to assist consumers with questions, and a number of limitations on what can and cannot be reported.  An article about some of these requirements can be found at: