Employers conduct a background check on employees to check and verify information on areas such as criminal history, credit history, education background and employment history. Although many industries conduct a background check, for some fields such as healthcare, financial and education it is vital due to their sensitive nature and may be required by federal law.

The question is how many years back should the background check go? Well, this depends on various factors such as the information being sought, who is conducting the check and the laws in the jurisdiction. For instance, education background can go back to when the applicant was in school, criminal convictions may not have time limits in some states while background checks by agencies have time limits set by FCRA(Fair Credit Reporting Act).

FCRA limits

FCRA applies to time limits on background checks by consumer reporting agencies for employees earning an annual salary less than $75,000. The employer needs to get written permission from an employee before an agency conducts the background check.

Bankruptcies of more than 10 years should not be reported. Paid tax liens cannot be reported after 7 years. Civil suits and judgments cannot be reported after 7 years. Accounts for collection cannot be reported after 7 years. Records of arrests of more than 7 years must not be reported. Criminal convictions do not have time limits.


California law adds to the FCRA limit of 7 years including on criminal convictions, except on jobs such as in residential care. The limits set also apply to employers who run their own checks without using agencies. A conviction that ends up in full pardon should not be reported. Employers should also give employees notice if background checks are conducted by third parties but they do not need to do so if the check is conducted internally.


Third party employee background checks are subject to FCRA. However, the state law provides that the information should not date above 7 years for employees earning less than $75,000 annually including in criminal background checks on arrests, convictions, and indictments. Criminal activities must not be reported 7 years after release, parole or disposition.

For those applying for jobs in insurance companies or earning more than $75,000, the background check can be done from when one was 18 years. For home services such as plumbers, cable installers, painters, FedEx drivers, the check is for 10 years on deferred adjudication or misdemeanor convictions, theft, public indecency and family violence while a felony is 20 years. There is no time limit when an employer conducts the background check.

These articles may interest you