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Washington State Background Checks for Employment [2023]

washington state background check

If you are an employer in Washington State looking to hire reliable employees for your company, it’s important to know how to implement a comprehensive background checking program that is compliant with local, State and Federal laws.

Running Washington State employment background checks allows you to gather a full picture of your job candidates so that you can determine if the candidate is the right fit for the type of jobs you are recruiting for.

Did you know that a former employee of the Washington Employment Security Department was arrested for embezzling $130,000 of unemployment funds?

At iprospectcheck, we have a large number of  satisfied clients in Washington State, so we know a thing or two about how to conduct quick, compliant background checks.

Discover some interesting facts that you may need to know about Washington State background checks in this helpful guide.

Let’s get started.

Washington State Criminal Background Check Laws 2023

Washington employers must comply with state and federal laws when conducting background checks.

Federal Background Check Laws

Fair Credit Reporting Act

The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) is a federal law that protects consumers’ privacy in the information collected, held, and reported by consumer reporting agencies(CRAs). This law also regulates employers that conduct background checks.

You must provide written notices to applicants and employees that you will conduct background checks. You must also secure their written consent before you conduct background checks.

If you decide against hiring an applicant based on information contained in a background check report, you must complete the two-step adverse action process under the FCRA before making a final hiring decision.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 bans employment discrimination based on applicants’ and employees’ protected characteristics. This law is enforced by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Title VII covers the background check process when employers learn that applicants have criminal records. Before you decide not to hire an applicant based on a conviction, you must individually assess the conviction as it directly relates to the job.

State Background Check Laws

Statewide Ban-the-Box Law

Under RCW 49.94.010, Washington has a statewide ban-the-box law. Under this law, public employers and private employers are prohibited from asking questions about criminal convictions on their applications.

You can complete a criminal background check and consider the information only after you have otherwise determined that the applicant is qualified for the job.

Seattle Fair Chance Employment Law

Seattle passed its own ban-the-box law in 2013.

Under this law, private and public employers cannot ask about or consider criminal history information until after they have completed initial screening and have determined they are otherwise qualified.

Use of Arrest Information

According to the Washington Human Rights Commission, employers should not use information about arrests not resulting in convictions to make hiring decisions.

However, employers can consider arrests that resulted in convictions and for pending criminal cases.

Credit Reports for Employment Restricted

Under RCW 19.182.020, employers cannot request applicants’ credit reports unless one of the following exceptions apply:

  • The need for the credit report is directly related to the requirements of the job.
  • Requesting a credit report is otherwise required by state or federal law.

Social Media Law

Under RCW 49.44.200, employers are prohibited from asking, coercing, or requiring applicants or employees to provide their social media account login information.

You also cannot ask an applicant or employee to open their social media accounts in your presence, add you to their contact lists, or change their privacy settings to allow you to view their social media pages.

However, you can ask an employee to share this type of information if it is necessary for an investigation after receiving reports about an employee’s activities on social media.

How to Stay Compliant with the FCRA

Moreover, you will also need to follow Federal laws in regards to conducting a background check, such as those set out by the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), including the Adverse Action Notification Process.

According to the FCRA, an employer must notify an applicant of the employer’s intent to run a background check on them prior to the screening taking place.

In addition, the employer must also share with the candidate, in writing, the name and contact information of the third-party background check company that will be conducting the screening.

Once the background check is conducted, employers must follow the Adverse Action Notification Process if they choose to not hire the qualified candidate after reviewing their background report.

When you take adverse action, follow these steps to stay compliant during the process: 

  1. Provide a pre-adverse action letter to the applicant stating your intent to not hire them based on specific information found on their background check report;
  2. Allow time for the candidate to correct or change any false or incorrect information found on their background check report;
  3. Review the updated report and make your final hiring decision; and
  4. Send the applicant an official adverse action letter if you still decide to no longer hire them for the position.

You should also understand and implement procedures to comply with the last guidance from the EEOC on the use of background checks for employment purposes.

These are vital steps to follow when conducting a background check in Washington State. By working with a third party background check company that can help you to expertly navigate these complex laws, such as iprospectcheck, you can ensure that you stay compliant throughout the background screening process.

What Shows Up on a Washington State Background Check?

What you can expect to see on a Washington State background check from iprospectcheck will depend on the types of information you request.

While Washington employers might request different types of job-specific information, most employers ask for information about their applicants’ criminal history, education and credentials, and employment history.

Here is what you might expect to see on a background report in each of these areas.

Criminal History

If one of your applicants has reportable criminal history information in his or her background, you should see the following types of data:

  • Case number
  • Date of arrest
  • Charge or charges
  • Level of charge or charges
  • Disposition of the case
  • Date of disposition
  • Sentence information

Employment History

Checking the employment history of your applicants is important. Some applicants make misrepresentations on their applications and resumes about their past employment experience.

When you request an employment verification, you will receive information about each company for which the applicant has worked, the dates of employment, and the job titles he or she had for the positions held.

This type of information can help you ensure you are hiring honest and qualified employees. Finally, verifying your applicants’ employment histories can protect you from potential liability in negligent hiring lawsuits.

How Do I get a Background Check in Washington State?

Now that you have become familiar with the state and federal background check laws, it is time to determine where to get a background check in Washington State.

There are a few options, but not all background checks are created equal.

You can request a criminal history report from the Washington State Department of Health and Human Services, as well as the Washington State Patrol Criminal History Division.

Though, according to their website, while the public may request and obtain records, the information provided may be limited.

Moreover, the government’s background checks can take two weeks to receive. When you have an open position to fill, you do not have time to wait for background checks.

A more effective way to conduct a background check on a potential employee is to partner with a third-party background screening company.

At iprospectcheck, we provide comprehensive background checks with a typical average turnaround time of one to two days.

We understand the hiring and budgetary needs of employers, which is why we are quick and cost-efficient.

We provide employers with reliable information that free services simply cannot offer. Plus, we accomplish this quickly -while staying compliant.

How Far Back Does a Background Check Go in Washington State?

Washington State has specific guidelines for how far back a background check can go and what can be reported on a background check.

According to the Washington State Human Rights Commission, the use of arrest records for employment purposes is considered an unfair employment practice. However, pending charges may be appropriate for review.

When using a professional background screening company, conviction records are only reportable for seven years if the salary of the person being hired is $19,999.99 or less.

Washington State background checks can also provide other important information, including verifying candidate’s identity, employment history, and whether they appear on any national sex offender or government watch lists.

With this information, employers will gain a better understanding as to whether the applicant is the right person for the job.

How Much Does a Washington State Background Check Cost?

If you choose to request background check information from the Washington State Patrol by mail or in person, you will have to pay a $32 fee.

The information that you will receive will be limited, however. The information will only include conviction records and sex offender registry information.

It will not include information about criminal records from other states or the federal government. Information from the state will also not include other types of background information that you might need, including information about your applicants’ employment records and education.

Some employers are tempted to rely on free background check services that they find online. However, these providers are not vetted.

In many cases, the information they provide is not up-to-date and may contain multiple errors. Relying on this type of information when making hiring decisions can expose you to risks of liability.

Working with iprospectcheck is the smarter choice. You can select from several packages and add-ons to receive the information you need.

If you intend to order between 25 to 50 background check reports per year, you can choose from the following three packages:

  • $19.95 per report – Basic reports that include national criminal history search, sex offender search, and identity verification
  • $39.95 per report – Standard report that includes all of the information in the basic report plus searches of the Global Terrorist Watchlist and a seven-year county criminal records search
  • $69.95 per report – Premium report that includes all of the information in the basic and standard reports plus an employment verification and an education verification

If your company plans on ordering more than 50 reports each year, we offer discounts for volume pricing. Call us for a free quote to learn how we can meet your needs.

How Long Does a Background Check Take in Washington State?

How long it might take to conduct a background check will depend on the method you use.

If you send requests to multiple state agencies, former employers, and educational institutions, the process could take weeks.

This is another reason why you should work with a reliable background check provider like iprospectcheck.

Because of our extensive resources and training, we can provide background check reports in as little as a few hours.

iprospectcheck: Your Trusted Partner for Washington State Employment Background Checks

Washington State has many specific laws employers must follow when conducting background checks for employment purposes.

The easiest way to conduct a background check on a qualified candidate in this state is to partner with a third-party background check company like iprospectcheck.

We are a 100%  USA-based service team dedicated to providing the absolute best customer service. Our mission is to make the background screening process go smoothly for you, while ensuring your needs are met in a timely manner.

Contact us today to learn more about our comprehensive, compliant Washington State background checks, or request a free quote.

DISCLAIMER: The resources provided here are for educational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. Consult your counsel if you have legal questions related to your specific practices and compliance with applicable laws.

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About the Author
Matthew J. Rodgers

Matthew J. Rodgers

Matthew J. Rodgers is a highly accomplished business executive with over 30 years of experience providing strategic vision and leadership to companies ranging from the fortune 500 to iprospectcheck, a company which he co-founded over a decade ago. Matthew is a valued consultant who is dedicated to helping companies create and implement efficient, cost effective and compliant employment screening programs. Matt has been a member of the Professional Background Screeners Association since 2009 . When not focused on iprospectcheck, he can be found spending time with his family, fly fishing, or occasionally running the wild rivers of the American west. A lifetime member of American Whitewater, Matt is passionate about protecting and restoring America’s whitewater rivers.