Know Your Rights: Background Checks in California

Know Your Rights: Background Checks in California

If you're getting a job in California, a law called the Investigative Consumer Reporting Agencies Act (ICRAA) provides you with more background check protections than the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act.

California law calls a background check an investigative consumer report.

Receive Notice

Before an outside screening company conducts a background check, you should receive a notice that

  • states the purpose of the report
  • provides the screening company’s name, address and telephone number or website
  • includes a summary of your rights to see and copy any report about you
  • gives you the ability to indicate that you want a copy of your report

If the employer conducts the investigation, the notice requirements are much less extensive. You also aren't entitled to notice if your employer suspects you of wrongdoing or misconduct.

Authorize a Background Check

Before employers can start the background check process through an outside screening company, they must get your authorization (in writing) and must obtain your permission each time they want to an outside company to conduct a background check.

If the employer conducts the background check, your written permission is not required.

Receive a Copy of Your Background Check

When an employer uses an outside screening company¸ you're entitled to receive a copy of your background check. If you request it (check the box), the employer must send you a copy within three business days of receiving your request. You may receive the report from the employer or the screening company.

When the employer conducts a background check, you're entitled to a copy of any public records the employer obtained either directly or from websites that collect and sell information from public records. Employers don't have to provide copies of non-public-record information like reference checks or education verification. If you don't waive your right, the employer must give you your copy within seven days after receipt.

Even if you don’t ask for one, employers have to give you a copy of your background check if they take adverse action against you (i.e. you're terminated based on something in your background check).

Dispute Incomplete or Inaccurate Information

You can dispute incomplete or inaccurate background report information with the screening company. You should file your dispute in writing with documentation showing why the information is wrong. If you do, the screening company must investigate.

If the screening company can’t verify the disputed information, it must remove the information. However, if the company decides your dispute is frivolous or irrelevant, it doesn’t have to continue the investigation. Either way, the screening company has 30 days to notify you of the results of the investigation. They must also notify you if any negative information is deleted and later reinserted. If the company won't remove the disputed information, you can include a statement in your file.

Sue for Violations

Both California and federal law allow you to sue when an employer or prospective employer violates the law. To determine whether should take legal action, talk with an attorney. The National Employment Lawyers Association and California Employment Lawyers Association maintain member directories. Most state and local bar associations also provide free or low-cost attorney referral services.