As an employer in Florida, you want to hire only trustworthy, qualified and reliable employees who can help to build your business and create a safe and positive workplace culture.
Unfortunately, some applicants lie on their resumes and applications, which can lead to significant problems if you hire them.
Did you know that Florida law enforcement authorities arrested 1,086 people for embezzling funds from their employers in 2018 alone?
Pre-employment background checks in Florida can help you to find the best candidates for your business. You’ll want to make sure that you complete background checks on your prospective employees that return accurate information and that are compliant.
Based on our experience running pre-employment background checks for employers in Miami, Orlando, Tampa, Tallahassee, Jacksonville, Fort Lauderdale and more, we put together this guide on how to conduct background checks in Florida and how to remain in compliance.
Let’s get started.
Florida Employment Background Checks 101: What are the Screening Requirements?
In Florida, there are two kinds of background checks. These are as follows:
- Level 1 Checks. Level 1 checks are state-only, name-based checks. They include a dive into an applicant’s employment history, as well as state or local criminal history. They also check to see whether the applicant’s name is on the national sex offender registry. In some cases, they may include a credit check, and a local criminal records check.
- Level 2 Checks. Level 2 checks require fingerprinting and a comprehensive FBI and Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) background check. Applicants who have prohibited offenses on their record will be rejected after these checks.
The list of prohibited offenses for Level 1 and 2 checks is long. According to the Florida State Government website:
Level 1 and 2 standards provide that no persons have been arrested for and are awaiting final disposition of, have been found guilty of, regardless of adjudication, or entered a plea of nolo contendere or guilty to, or have been adjudicated delinquent and the record has not been sealed or expunged for, any offense prohibited under any of the following provisions of state law or similar law of another jurisdiction2 :
(a) Section 393.135, relating to sexual misconduct with certain developmentally disabled clients and reporting of such sexual misconduct.
(b) Section 394.4593, relating to sexual misconduct with certain mental health patients and reporting of such sexual misconduct.
(c) Section 415.111, relating to adult abuse, neglect, or exploitation of aged persons or disabled adults.
(d) Section 777.04, relating to attempts, solicitation, and conspiracy to commit an offense listed in this subsection.
(e) Section 782.04, relating to murder.
(f) Section 782.07, relating to manslaughter, aggravated manslaughter of an elderly person or disabled adult, or aggravated manslaughter of a child.
(g) Section 782.071, relating to vehicular homicide.
(h) Section 782.09, relating to killing of an unborn child by injury to the mother.
(i) Chapter 784, relating to assault, battery, and culpable negligence, if the offense was a felony. (j) Section 784.011, relating to assault, if the victim of the offense was a minor.
(k) Section 784.03, relating to battery, if the victim of the offense was a minor.
There are many other disqualifying offenses Florida employers should be aware of. Consult the government website for a comprehensive list of disqualifying charges.
What Is a Level 3 Background Check in Florida?
Level 1 and 2 background checks are statutorily defined in Ch. 435, Fla. Stat. (2021).
A level 3 background check does not exist in Florida.
However, some people refer to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) background check as a Level 3 background check as described elsewhere in this article.
What Information Does an FDLE Background Check Contain?
Frequently, employers use the term “background check” as a synonym for “criminal background check.” This causes confusion for many hiring companies. FDLE wants to set the record straight. Here’s what the organization has to say about the information contained in their background checks:
From the FDLE perspective, a background check is a criminal history record check to determine if a person has been arrested and/or convicted of a crime. Although some companies use the phrase “background check” to include driver’s record checks, credit checks, or interviews with neighbors and employers, for FDLE purposes, it includes a search of the following databases:
- The Florida Computerized Criminal History Central Repository for Florida arrests (state check).
- The Florida Computerized Criminal History Central Repository for Florida arrests AND the national criminal history database at the FBI for federal arrests and arrests from other states (state and national check).
- The Florida Crime Information Center for warrants and domestic violence injunctions (warrant files check).
The national record check is based on the submission of fingerprints. For state record checks, submissions may be based on a name (and other descriptors) or fingerprints.
While some companies utilize FBI information in their background checks, as well, the FDLE remains an essential resource for Florida employers.
Are There Limitations on What Information Employers in Florida Can Use?
Yes. Certain Florida background check records are subject to limitations under the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act or FCRA. According to the FCRA’s “7-year rule,” for example, certain criminal records must be removed from an applicant’s history after seven years.
These records include civil lawsuits, judgments against an applicant, arrest records, and paid tax liens. The FCRA also imposes a few additional restrictions on Florida employers.
Additionally, the FCRA requires employers who run background checks to ensure the information in the report is current and accurate. If it is not, an applicant has the right to dispute the background check’s contents, which will trigger an investigation by the reporting agency. If the investigation proves the report is inaccurate, the applicant and employer will both receive written notices.
If employers or background check service providers fail to follow this set of requirements, applicants may be entitled to file a claim under the FCRA.
As a Florida Employer, How Do I Stay Compliant With the FCRA?
You must remain compliant with the FCRA, Title VII, and state and local laws when you conduct background checks.
If you violate the background check laws, you can face fines, penalties, and litigation.
Here are some tips to ensure you stay compliant.
1. Conduct Your Background Check at the Right Time.
If you are a public sector employer in a city or county that has enacted a ban-the-box law, pay attention to the rules on when you can conduct a background check in your area.
Some cities and counties mandate waiting until after you have interviewed an applicant.
2. Notify Your Applicants in Writing
You must notify your applicants that you intend to conduct background checks.
Provide this notice in writing on a standalone form.
3. Obtain Written Consent
After notifying your applicants, you must obtain their written consent before you conduct background checks.
4. Individually Assess Convictions
If you learn that an applicant has a criminal conviction, you must individually assess it to determine whether it directly relates to the job before making a hiring decision.
The EEOC requires employers to consider the following:
- The severity of the offense in question.
- The amount of time that has passed since the conviction.
- How the offense relates to the job.
Additionally, employers are encouraged to give the applicant a chance to explain the criminal conviction and the circumstances under which it took place.
In some cases, regulations may bar an employer from considering arrests in an applicant’s criminal history and encourage them to focus on actual convictions, instead.
5. Send a Pre-Adverse Action Notice
If you decide not to hire an applicant based on information in a background check report, you must send a pre-adverse action notice. This notice should identify the problematic information and include a copy of the report.
You must then give the applicant a short time to provide mitigating evidence or correct inaccurate information.
6. Send a Final Adverse Action Notice
If you still decide against hiring the applicant after completing the adverse action process, you must send a final adverse action notice.
Provide the name and contact information of the CRA that provided the report along with a statement that the CRA did not make the hiring decision.
Include a copy of the applicant’s rights under the FCRA.
Florida Background Check Laws for 2022
Employers must comply with federal and state laws when they conduct pre-employment background checks.
Below are the most important federal and state laws.
Federal Background Check Laws
Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA)
The FCRA is a comprehensive consumer privacy law.
This law is enforced by the Federal Trade Commission and protects the privacy of consumers in the information gathered by, held, and reported by consumer reporting agencies (CRAs), including companies that conduct background checks for employers.
The FCRA also regulates how employers can use the information they obtain from employment background checks.
You must notify your applicants in writing that you intend to conduct background checks and obtain their written consent.
If you decide not to hire an applicant based on a background check, you must complete the adverse action process before making a final adverse hiring decision.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employment discrimination based on an applicant’s or employee’s protected characteristics.
Under this law, you must individually assess convictions as they directly relate to your jobs before deciding not to hire an applicant based on his or her criminal record.
Florida State Background Check Laws
Disqualification of Public Employees Based on Criminal Convictions
Under §112.011, Fla. Stat. (2021), public employers cannot deny employment to applicants solely based on a low-level criminal conviction.
However, applicants for jobs in the public sector can be denied employment based on felony or first-degree misdemeanor convictions that directly relate to their jobs.
Applicants for Public Employment With Certain Drug Offenses
Under §775.16, Fla. Stat. (2021), people with felony drug convictions involving sales or trafficking are disqualified from employment at state agencies.
However, people can overcome this disqualification if they complete all of the terms and conditions of their sentences and complete state-approved drug rehabilitation programs.
Florida does not have a statewide ban-the-box law. However, multiple cities and counties have passed local ban-the-box laws.
The City of Lakeland passed a ban-the-box law in January 2021 that prohibits city employers from asking about conviction information on their applications.
Orange County similarly enacted a ban-the-box law for public employees in Oct. 2021. Public employers in Orlando are prohibited from asking about criminal convictions on their applications.
Multiple other cities in Florida have passed ban-the-box laws for public sector employers, including Tampa, Sarasota, Tallahassee, Orlando, Jacksonville, and Gainesville.
However, these laws do not apply to private-sector employers.
In response to the tragic murder of a 19-year-old college student by an apartment complex maintenance worker in 2021, Florida passed Miya’s Law.
This law mandates all landlords and property managers to conduct in-depth background checks on applicants, including criminal records checks and sex offender registry checks in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
Miya’s law applies to property management companies and landlords of complexes with transient and non-transient apartments.
What Shows up on a Florida Background Check?
Most employers who complete pre-employment background checks through iprospectcheck ask for criminal history information, employment verification, and information about their applicants’ education and credentials.
Depending on the particular position for which you are hiring, you might also ask for other types of relevant information.
If any of your candidates have criminal records, your Florida pre-employment background check might include the following types of information:
- Charging information
- Date the case was filed
- Disposition of the case
- Disposition date
- Level of the offense (misdemeanor or felony)
- Sentencing information
Past employment verification
Verifying your applicants’ employment history is an essential part of a pre-employment background check. It is an unfortunate fact that some applicants will lie about their past employment histories on their applications or resumes.
When you request an employment verification, you will receive the dates of employment at each job as well as the different positions that your applicant held at each one. This type of information can help you to make sure that your applicants are qualified and trustworthy while also protecting you from liability.
Education and credentials verifications
Finding applicants who hold the degrees, certifications, and credentials your positions require is important for protecting your company against negligent hiring claims.
When you request verification of an applicant’s claimed education and credentials, you will receive information about each institution he or she received and whether the applicant earned the degrees and credentials that your positions require.
Sample Florida Background Check Policy
Your company should create a background check policy to ensure your screening and hiring process remains consistent and doesn’t violate relevant employment laws.
For your reference, here’s a sample Florida background screening policy.
BACKGROUND CHECK POLICY FOR [COMPANY NAME]
[COMPANY NAME] strives to identify, hire, and promote the best-qualified applicants and prioritizes employment background checks as a key component of the hiring and promotion processes. Whenever [COMPANY NAME] conducts employment background checks to make employment decisions, the information revealed will be used in a manner that complies with all relevant state, local, and federal laws.
Background Check Scope
Background checks will be performed on each applicant under consideration and employees when the company makes other types of employment decisions.
Background Check Procedures
At [COMPANY NAME], all employment background checks are conducted in compliance with all relevant state and federal laws, including the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII), and any local laws that might apply to specific business locations as follows:
Before [COMPANY NAME] conducts background checks, it will provide each applicant or employee with a written notice that the company intends to conduct a background check. The applicant or employee will have the ability to obtain a free copy of any background check reports completed. After giving the applicant or employee notice of the background check requirement, the company will not conduct the check until it obtains a signed authorization from the applicant or employee through which they consent to the background check.
Consumer Credit Reports
[COMPANY NAME] only requests consumer credit reports in limited cases but does not request them for most positions. For example, a consumer credit report might be requested when an employee or applicant is under consideration for a supervisory role that involves accessing the company’s bank account or company credit card account information. If the company requires a consumer credit report, it follows all federal and state laws.
Use of Information/Confidentiality
Information revealed on background checks conducted by [COMPANY NAME] is only used for employment purposes. All information obtained on background checks is confidential and is maintained in compliance with all relevant laws. Only designated, authorized individuals can access or review background check reports upon the approval of Human Resources. Background check information will not be disseminated to employees or the public.
To learn more about the background check policy at [COMPANY NAME], contact the Human Resources department.
How to Obtain a Background Check in Florida for Employment
To conduct a background check in Florida, employers can use two different methods, including trying a do-it-yourself approach or working with a reliable third-party background check company like iprospectcheck.
1. DIY Background Check
Some employers complete DIY background checks. They might submit requests to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s Division of Criminal Justice Information Services, an applicant’s former employers and educational institutions, and check the state’s sex offender registry.
Employers attempting a DIY background check might also search online for information about applicants and try to find information in other ways.
Checking an applicant’s social media history or completing name searches on Google can also return inaccurate information.
In some cases, you might end up with negative information that could cause you to violate the law if you use it to make an adverse employment decision.
A DIY background check can take weeks to complete, and it might return information that is incorrect, outdated, or that returns information for the wrong person.
In some cases, information received through these types of searches might not comply with the FCRA and other relevant laws, potentially exposing you to liability.
Some Florida employers mistakenly believe that one site, StateofFlorida.com, is an official state government website.
However, this site is not affiliated with the government of Florida and includes a disclaimer at the bottom of its page stating that it is not owned, operated, endorsed, or approved by the state.
While this site advertises that it offers background checks, it is unclear what types of background checks it provides or how accurate and up to date they might be. The site also does not indicate whether its reports comply with the FCRA.
Since these pieces of information are unknown, it is a better idea for employers to work with a reputable background check provider that provides accurate, FCRA-compliant, and up-to-date employment background checks like iprospectcheck.
2. Partner With a Third-Party Background Check Provider
We use advanced research methodologies and leverage our access to reliable information databases to quickly return background check reports to our clients.
When you work with us, you can select the types of information that you need for a comprehensive pre-employment background check that will fully comply with the FCRA and other important state and local laws.
How Far Back Do Background Checks Go in Florida?
The FCRA has rules for how far back pre-employment background checks can go in Florida and elsewhere.
Under this law, CRAs are forbidden from reporting arrest records that did not result in a conviction to be used for hiring decisions that are more than seven years old.
Employers are likewise not allowed to rely on this type of information to make adverse employment decisions.
A CRA cannot report the following types of information for employment purposes unless the position pays a salary of $75,000 or more:
- Civil lawsuits older than seven years or past the statute of limitations
- Civil judgments older than seven years or past the statute of limitations
- Arrests older than seven years
Before 1998, the FCRA also prohibited Consumer Reporting Agencies from reporting criminal convictions that were more than seven years old. That restriction has since been eliminated. The FCRA’s time limits also do not apply to education or employment information.
This means that your pre-employment background check can include these types of information no matter how old it might be.
How Much Does a Florida Background Check for Employment Cost?
If you decide to get a criminal history report from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, it will cost $24. However, it will not include all the different types of background information that you might need for your applicants.
Some providers online claim to offer free Florida background checks. However, you should avoid these providers. They frequently provide inaccurate or incomplete information. Relying on that type of information when making hiring decisions could expose you to liability.
At iprospectcheck, we offer several different packages and add-ons, depending on the number of reports you anticipate ordering each year and the types of information you require.
If you will need to order 25 to 50 background checks annually, we offer three packages.
If you will need to order more than 50 background checks per year, contact us for a customized quote.
How Long Do Background Checks Take in Florida?
How long it might take for you to receive your pre-employment background checks will vary, depending on how you complete them.
If you only get criminal history information from the state, it can take around seven days. If you try to search through local court records, the process can be very lengthy and take several weeks.
Pre-employment background checks from iprospectcheck can take several hours or up to two days, depending on the types of information you request.
However, it is important to note that COVID-19 has caused some delays due to court closures. If your reports will take longer, we will notify you immediately so that you can understand what to expect.
iprospectcheck: Your Trusted Partner for Fast, Accurate, Compliant Florida Background Checks
Conducting pre-employment background checks as a regular part of your hiring process can help to protect your business.
However, you will need to make sure that your background checks comply with all the laws governing pre-employment background checks.
When you work with iprospectcheck, our background checks are fully compliant with these laws. Our staff undergoes training to ensure that they understand how to find the types of information that our clients require.
By using the latest technology, we can find all of the information you might require quickly so that you can move forward with the onboarding process.
To learn more about how we can help your company with its pre-employment background checks, schedule a free consultation with iprospectcheck today.
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.