Background checks are conducted by employers as a part of the pre-employment screening process. They are a source of information for employers, presumably so that employers can better protect their resources, reputation, and assets. Sometimes, the use and scope of background checks have been mandated by company policy while other times background checks are mandated by industry compliance boards or associations.
To conduct a background investigation, an employer must notify applicants and get their consent. Be warned, however, that this notification can easily be overlooked while completing applications. It is up to the applicant to always read the fine print. If a background investigation results in the disqualification of an applicant, a copy of that report should be offered to the applicant.
The seven-year standard remains the general rule for most employers and can be used as a basis for record disclosure in most cases. Look carefully at the information that is provided by the employer when signing a background check consent form—there may be language that reveals the scope and timeframe of the investigation.
It is important to note, however, that background checks may go back farther. This depends, in part, on industry or regulation compliance and, in part, on employer preference. While Maryland and Washington D.C. have limited the scope of background investigations to seven and ten years, Virginia has not, leaving the length of time to the discretion of the employer. Consider also public records and the possibility that anyone, including a potential employer, can access them with relative ease to view any charge on an adult record.