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How Long Is an Employment Background Check Good For?


If you’re like most employers, you probably conduct pre-employment background checks on prospective employees during your hiring process.

Pre-employment background screens help to reduce risks to their employees, customers, and business operations.

But, how long is a background check good for?

You might assume that a person’s background check will predict what he or she will do in the future.

However, some applicants pass background checks only to commit crimes after they’re hired.

Does a background check remain valid for a specific time? Read on to learn more.

How Long is an Employment Background Check Valid?

When you perform a pre-employment background check, it provides you with a snapshot of the candidate’s background at that moment in time.

If you hire the applicant, he or she might later commit a crime or do something else that is problematic and disqualifying.

A pre-employment background check will reveal if an applicant has the skills, education, and abilities to enable him or her to safely perform the tasks of the job.

However, things can change after you hire an employee. If you don’t conduct additional screenings, you run the risk of negligent retention lawsuits.

Do Employment Background Checks Expire?

While background checks don’t technically expire, there are some types of checks that will only remain valid for a short period.

For example, the information on a criminal employment background check can change quite often, necessitating regular rescreening.

Depending on your business, other background checks that might need to be performed on an ongoing basis include professional license verifications, driving record checks, and drug screens.

For example, a licensed professional might fail to renew his or her license or be disciplined by the licensing board, disqualifying him or her from continuing to perform his or her job.

Similarly, a truck driver might be convicted of a DUI, making him or her ineligible to continue driving.

Can I Reuse a Background Check?

You shouldn’t reuse the information obtained as a part of a pre-employment background check for other purposes as doing so could violate the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and other privacy laws.

You can only use information from a background check for the purpose for which you gathered it.

How Often Should I Screen Employees?

Since people constantly go through life changes, the information you obtain on a pre-employment background check can grow stale and outdated.

Conducting background checks at regular intervals is the best way to keep up with events that might have occurred and that disqualify your employees from continued employment.

Most employers should consider conducting background checks every two to five years.

However, background checks might need to be conducted more frequently in certain industries, and all employees should consider conducting background checks when certain changes occur.

How often should you run background checks on your employees? Read on below.

Industries in Which Ongoing Background Checks Are Common

Here are some examples of industries that require more frequent background checks:

• Transportation

Under 49 CFR Part 40 and 49 CFR Part 391.25, trucking carriers must conduct driving records checks and random drug screens on their drivers at least once per year.

If a driver is involved in an accident, drug tests must be performed even if a year has not passed.

The FMCSA requires trucking carriers to disqualify any driver with a positive drug screen or certain driving violations.

It might also be a good idea for transportation companies to perform criminal records checks on their drivers to protect the public’s safety and avoid potential negligent supervision and retention liability.

Checking drivers’ criminal records each year can help to expose drivers who could pose a danger to others.

• Aviation

In 2014, federal agents busted a gun-smuggling ring using airplanes. One of the smugglers was a baggage handler for Delta Airlines who had access to secure areas and could bypass regular checks.

Following this incident, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) tightened the background screening rules for aviation employees.

Now, aviation employees must undergo criminal background checks at least every two years.

• Healthcare

Healthcare background checks frequently include state and federal criminal background checks, license verifications, sex offender registry checks, abuse and neglect registry checks, and more.

Many healthcare agencies complete additional checks of existing employees every two years. Healthcare background checks help to protect patients and prevent healthcare fraud.

• Caring professions

In addition to healthcare facilities, agencies that provide social services to vulnerable populations, including children, the elderly, and people with disabilities, also require comprehensive pre-employment background checks.

Because of the risks of abuse, many agencies providing services to vulnerable populations require additional screens every two years.

Employment Changes That Should Prompt Background Checks

The following employment changes should prompt additional background checks:

• Promotions

When an applicant applies for a promotion, it is a good idea to conduct new background checks.

People who are promoted frequently have greater authority and access to their employers’ sensitive information, so re-screening is a good idea.

• Seasonal employees and volunteers

While seasonal employees and volunteers might have undergone initial background checks at the time that they were hired, conducting additional background checks when they return is a good idea.

For example, if a person is employed as a camp counselor each summer, it’s important to re-screen him or her to check for disqualifying convictions that might have occurred.

Why Should I Screen Employees on an Ongoing Basis?

If you only conduct pre-employment background checks and do not rescreen your existing employees, you might not learn about crimes they commit or other disqualifying factors that arise after they are hired.

Here are some important reasons why you should conduct ongoing employment screens:

What Types of Background Checks Should I Conduct on an Ongoing Basis?

While employment and education verification checks typically don’t change too frequently, other types of information on background checks can change quite often and should be checked at regular intervals.

Here are four examples of the types of checks that should be performed on an ongoing basis.

1. Criminal Records Checks

Employees might be convicted of disqualifying offenses after they have been hired.

For example, imagine that you hired a bookkeeper for your company. At the time that she was hired, she had a spotless criminal record.

However, two years later, your bookkeeper was convicted of felony theft. If you did not rescreen her, your company could be at risk for substantial losses caused by employee theft or fraud your bookkeeper might commit.

2. Driving Records Checks

If you hire employees who are required to drive as a part of their jobs, it’s critical to regularly rescreen their driving records.

For example, imagine that you hire someone who drives a company vehicle as a part of his job. Two years later, the employee is convicted of a DUI and loses his license.

If you do not rescreen the employee, you might be unaware that he no longer has a driver’s license. Imagine that the employee then causes an injury accident while driving your company vehicle. In this situation, your company could face a lawsuit and significant liability.

3. Sex Offender Registry Checks

If employees at your company have direct access to vulnerable clients, you should perform sex offender registry checks regularly.

For example, imagine if you hire an employee who provides home healthcare services to elderly adults. Three years later, your employee is convicted of sexual assault.

If you do not rescreen him or her, you might be unaware of the danger he or she poses to your vulnerable clients.

If he or she subsequently assaults one of your home health clients, your company could face significant penalties, fines, litigation, and reputational damage.

4. Credit History Checks

If you hire employees who serve in fiduciary roles, rescreening their credit at regular intervals can help to avoid problems.

For example, an applicant might have excellent credit at the time of his or her initial screening but later encounter serious financial setbacks.

How Often Are Background Check Details Updated?

Different databases containing background information are updated at different times. For example, an applicant’s employment history will change whenever he or she changes jobs.

New credit information might be reported by creditors to the credit reporting bureaus every 30 days. How often criminal records might be reported will vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.

Because background information might be updated at different times, iprospectcheck obtains information about applicants and employees directly from the source to ensure the information is accurate and up to date.

Turn to iprospectcheck for Fast, Accurate, Compliant Background Checks

While pre-employment background checks can help you to weed out unqualified applicants, they are not enough.

Events can occur after your employees are hired that could pose risks to your company, employees, and customers. You can reduce your risks by conducting additional background checks on your existing employees.

At iprospectcheck, we perform FCRA-compliant background checks for employers across the U.S and Canada.

We can help you implement an ongoing screening program within your company that meets your needs and complies with the FCRA and other relevant laws.

Contact iprospectcheck today to request a free quote: 888-808-9997

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.

Know Before You Hire

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.