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Iowa Background Check: A Complete Guide for Employers [2023]


Iowa employers must find and hire employees quickly when they have job openings. A fast hiring process helps companies to continue operating smoothly so that they can protect their bottom line.

However, hiring the right people is also critical for businesses. Conducting thorough employment background checks in Iowa helps businesses to confirm the claims applicants have made on their resumes and screen out those who have disqualifying criminal convictions in their past.

Did you know that a former Iowa state employee was convicted of embezzling more than $430,000 and spending it on expensive vacations?

Our extensive experience conducting background checks for employers in Iowa City, Des Moines, Cedar Rapids, and more has led us to write this guide about the employment screening process that you can use as a reference.

Let’s start now.

Why do Iowa Employers Conduct Background Checks?

There are many reasons why Iowa companies conduct pre-employment background screens. A few of the most common ones are discussed below.

1. General Background Checks for All Prospective Employees

Most Iowa employers conduct pre-employment checks on applicants as a routine component of the hiring process.

They do so to verify the claims made by their candidates on their applications and resumes and confirm that the employees they hire do not have relevant criminal convictions.

2. Thorough Background Checks for Managers and Supervisors

Since people who work as managers or supervisors have greater responsibilities than entry-level staff, employers frequently conduct more thorough background screenings on people who are considered for these types of roles.

Supervisory role background checks might include additional types of background information than the background screens conducted for people applying to lower-level positions.

3. Employment Screens at Regular Intervals

Some companies in Iowa conduct background checks at regular intervals after people have been hired. For example, Iowa ranks fourth among all states for manufacturing jobs.

Manufacturing employers in the state might conduct ongoing background checks of their existing employees to ensure that nothing problematic that could threaten the safety of the workplace has come up post-hire.

A common example of the types of ongoing checks that might be conducted by manufacturers in the state is random drug screening.

Other industries in the state, including the transportation industry, are mandated by federal and state regulations to conduct ongoing checks of their employees.

4. Pre-employment Background Checks for the Caring Professions

Companies that provide services to the elderly, disabled, children, and those with mental illnesses conduct specialized screens on their job applicants and prospective volunteers.

Companies that provide services to vulnerable clients must ensure that they are safe.

Because of this, the types of background checks that are conducted by social services providers are generally much more in-depth than those conducted by other types of companies.

Iowa Employment Background Check Laws 2023

When employers in Iowa conduct background checks, they must follow all relevant laws. If you fail to follow the state and federal laws governing how background checks should be performed, you could face penalties, fines, and lawsuits.

Below are some of the most important federal and state laws.

Federal Laws on Employment Background Checks


The federal Fair Credit Reporting Act was passed and enacted in 1970 to protect consumers’ privacy rights in the information gathered, held, and reported by consumer reporting agencies.

This law governs the companies that provide background check services and the employers that receive and use the information they report.

When employers want to check the backgrounds of their applicants, they must first provide written notice that they intend to do so. They must also secure the applicants’ signed authorization before they can proceed.

If a background check report reveals problematic information, an employer must complete the adverse action process before making a final decision not to hire the applicant.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed and signed into law by former President Lyndon B. Johnson. This important law prohibits workplace discrimination based on the protected characteristics of applicants and employees.

Title VII applies to pre-employment background checks when the reports reveal that the applicants have criminal convictions. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the agency that enforces Title VII, employers should complete individual assessments of convictions as they directly relate to the job before deciding against hiring applicants.

Iowa State Laws on Employment Background Checks

Iowa employers are not restricted in their use of employment background checks under state law. However, they must ensure that they comply with the FCRA and Title VII.

The Iowa Workforce Development has issued guidance for employers about how to use background check information while avoiding discrimination.

There are some employer-specific laws governing background checks by certain types of employers, including in health care and law enforcement.

Healthcare Employers

Employers in healthcare must perform fingerprint-based criminal background checks through the Bureau of Criminal Identification and a child and dependent adult abuse and neglect background check through the Department of Human Services under Iowa Code §135C.33.

Hospital employers must also conduct criminal background checks on all prospective employees under Iowa Code 135B.34.

Law Enforcement and Security Employers

Law enforcement and security agencies must complete state and federal fingerprint-based criminal background checks under Iowa Admin. Code §501-2.1(80B).

Waterloo Ban-the-Box Law

In 2019, the City of Waterloo passed a ban-the-box ordinance that prohibited employers from asking about criminal history information on job applications and requiring employers to wait until a conditional offer for employment had been extended.

However, this ordinance also prohibited employers from making adverse employment decisions based on applicants’ criminal records.

The Iowa Supreme Court struck down this provision, but it upheld the part of the ordinance that requires employers to wait until a conditional job offer has been extended before conducting background checks.

While this ordinance only covers employers in Waterloo, other Iowa employers should watch to see if more cities in the state enact similar ordinances.

Employers Must Pay for Background Checks

Employers can conduct pre-employment background checks. However, they cannot require applicants or employees to pay for any portion of them under Iowa Code § 692.2(6)(b).

Iowa Expungement Law

Iowa passed an expungement law in 2019. Under Iowa Code § 901C.3, people with certain misdemeanor convictions on their criminal records can petition for expungement if eight years have passed since their convictions, they have no pending criminal charges, and they have paid all associated court fines and fees.

When expungement is granted, people can answer that they do not have any misdemeanor convictions if asked by prospective employers. Expunged misdemeanors will also not be reported on background checks.

What Shows up on a Background Check for Employment in Iowa?

The information that might appear on an Iowa employment background check will vary, depending on the types of background information requested by an employer.

Most companies request information about their applicants’ criminal records, past employment, education, and professional licenses.

Employers that hire people to drive as a major part of their jobs also ask for driving records checks, and most employers ask for pre-employment drug screens once they have extended conditional job offers.

Pre-employment screens in Iowa might include the following types of background information:

  • Felony convictions and non-expunged misdemeanor convictions
  • Pending criminal charges
  • Arrests resulting in convictions
  • Listing on the sex offender registry
  • Address history
  • Employment history
  • Education history
  • Listing on the Domestic Terrorist Watch List

Let’s explore what might appear on a few of these reports below.

Criminal History

Job applicants with non-expunged misdemeanors and any felony convictions will have the following information on their employment criminal background checks:

  • Offense date
  • Offense type
  • Offense level (misdemeanor or felony)
  • Disposition
  • Disposition date
  • Sentence

Expunged misdemeanors will not appear on a criminal records report.

Education History

If you request an education verification report, you will see the following types of information:

  • All schools attended
  • Dates of attendance
  • Diplomas, degrees, or certificates awarded

Asking for education verification allows employers to verify the claims applicants have made to ensure that the people they hire are honest and fully qualified for their jobs.

Employment Verification

If you request employment verification, the following types of information will appear on the report:

  • Every past employer
  • Employment dates
  • Jobs and titles held

How Far Back Does a Background Check Go in Iowa?

How far back a pre-employment background check in Iowa can go is governed by the FCRA and Iowa law. The FCRA includes a seven-year lookback provision for jobs that pay annual salaries of less than $75,000. If your open jobs pay less than this amount, the following types of information will not be reported:

  • Arrests not resulting in convictions
  • Bankruptcies
  • Civil judgments
  • Civil lawsuits
  • Liens

The lookback restriction does not apply to records of criminal convictions or jobs paying $75,000 or more per year.

Under Iowa’s expungement law, expunged misdemeanors older than eight years will also not be reported.

The lookback restrictions also do not apply to education, employment history, credentials, and other relevant background information, which can be reported no matter how old the information might be.

How Do I Get an Iowa Background Check?

Employers in Iowa can request criminal history information about applicants from the Iowa Division of Investigation by submitting the request and billing forms by fax or mail.

However, getting reports from the state will only return information about criminal records in Iowa and will not report information about convictions in other states or federal courts. These reports also do not include any information about an applicant’s employment, education, driving records, or other crucial data.

You might find an online vendor promising to conduct a free Iowa background check. You should avoid relying on this type of vendor because they might not comply with the FCRA and state law and may provide you with outdated, inaccurate information. If you make employment decisions based on this type of information, you could be exposed to legal liability.

It is better to work with a reputable pre-employment background check company like iprospectcheck. We always comply with the FCRA and quickly return comprehensive, accurate, and up-to-date background check reports to our clients.

As an Employer in Iowa, How Can I Stay Compliant?

Remaining compliant with the laws governing background checks is critical. If you fail to follow the law, you could be fined and penalized, and you might be sued by your applicants.

To make sure you comply with the laws, follow the tips below.

1. Avoid Asking About Criminal History on Your Applications.

While the only city in Iowa that currently prohibits asking about criminal history information on applications is Waterloo, an increasing number of cities and states are enacting ban-the-box laws.

Even if this law does not apply to you, it is still a good idea to refrain from asking about criminal history information until later in the hiring process.

2. Individually Assess Any Convictions.

When an applicant’s criminal background check reveals a conviction, complete an individual assessment of it as it directly relates to the position for which he or she has applied.

Don’t make an adverse job decision without conducting an individual assessment and documenting it.

3. Send a Pre-Adverse Action Notice.

If you do not want to hire someone based on a criminal record, send a pre-adverse action notice to him or her.

In the notice, identify the criminal conviction of concern and provide a copy of the report. Give the applicant a deadline for providing information to clarify the conviction, such as evidence of rehabilitation or that the record is inaccurate.

4. Send a Final Adverse Action Notice.

If you still do not want to hire the applicant after individually assessing the conviction and completing the adverse action process, send him or her a final adverse action notice. Include information about the applicant’s rights under the FCRA and state law.

What Disqualifies You from a Background Check in Iowa?

Multiple types of information on an employment background check in Iowa might be disqualifying. Some of the types of disqualifying information are described below.

Certain Criminal Convictions

Millions of Americans have criminal records. While an applicant might not be disqualified simply because he or she has a conviction, certain industries have regulations prohibiting employing people with specific types of convictions. Employers can also base an adverse job decision on a criminal conviction when it directly relates to the duties of the job.

False Claims About Past Employment

Some applicants fudge employment dates to hide gaps or lie about the positions they have held. Employment verification quickly reveals these types of lies, and people who have made false claims about their work histories will likely be turned down for employment.

False Claims About Education

Other applicants embellish their educational attainment and might claim to have attended prestigious universities that they did not or to have received degrees they never earned. Education verification reports bring these types of falsehoods to light and will likely result in a denial of employment.

Bad Driving Record

People who apply for jobs that require them to drive will likely undergo driving records checks. Those with numerous traffic violations or serious traffic convictions will likely be rejected because of safety and insurability issues.

Failing a Drug Screen

Many employers extend offers of employment that are contingent on passing pre-employment drug screens. Failing a drug test will result in a conditional offer being withdrawn.

How Much Is a Background Check in Iowa?

If you order a criminal history check from the state, you will have to pay $15 per report. However, this type of report is not comprehensive and will not include information about convictions in other jurisdictions, employment history, education, or other relevant types of data.

Some employers try to handle background checks on their own through a do-it-yourself approach. Trying to contact numerous agencies, past employers, educational institutions, and performing online searches can be time-consuming and might not reveal all of the types of information you might need.

It is best to work with a reliable background check company like iprospectcheck. We have broad access to reliable, up-to-date databases and use advanced research skills to quickly return FCRA-compliant, accurate, and current background check reports.

We also offer a broad range of different background check reports, allowing you to select only the types of information you need.

If you think that you will need to order 50 or more employment background reports annually, you can also take advantage of our steep volume discounts. Call us today for a free, no-obligation quote.

How Long Does a Background Check Take in Iowa?

How long a background check report will take to come back will vary, depending on the method you choose for conducting it. If you try to send requests to multiple agencies, former employers, and schools on your own, you could anticipate the process to last for several weeks.

Most employers simply cannot afford to leave positions open for that long. The need to make fast hiring decisions is another important reason why employers trust iprospectcheck. We can provide pre-employment background check reports to our clients in Iowa in as little as a few hours.

iprospectcheck: Your Trusted Partner for Fast, Accurate, Compliant Iowa Background Checks

Iowa background checks are a critical part of the hiring process for employers. They can help you to minimize your liability risks and protect the safety of your customers and employees.

Our extensive resources and advanced research skills allow us to quickly return fully FCRA-compliant, current, and accurate background check reports to our Iowa clients.

Contact iprospectcheck today to request a free quote and learn about the background check services we can provide.

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.