A Discussion on Background Checks—and LA’s Push to Use Them

Los Angeles County is discussing a proposal that would require ice cream truck vendors and operators of other businesses that cater to unsupervised children. The city is currently exploring regulations that would require fingerprinting and running a criminal history report for those who run businesses that serve children.

While the county already mandates background checks for a variety of businesses, (i.e. to use explosives or weapons on the job) this measure would allow vendors who sell products to unchaperoned children to be screened for criminal records that include molestation, sex offenses, pornography, or abuse.

So here’s the question: how legal are background checks in the employee-to-hire process? In California, employers have the power to conduct a background check themselves or to hire a third party investigating agency. The report obtained is called an “investigative consumer report” but does not include a credit report

An employer can only request your credit report in certain applicable positions. If a credit report can be obtained as per the position, then the employer must give notice that a credit check will be conducted and an explanation as to why the credit check was permitted/necessary.

An employee may request a copy of the report received. The employer must also disclose the website address or telephone number of the screening company used.  Additionally, an employee must also give authorization in writing before an employer can run the check through a third party. However, if the employer themselves conduct the check, an employee’s consent is not necessary, however, they still have the right to get a copy of the documents.