Pre-employment background checks in Maryland are a crucial part of most companies’ hiring processes in the state. Business owners and human resources professionals recognize how critical it is to find qualified, competent employees.
However, conducting comprehensive and accurate Maryland employment background checks requires more than simply checking the references provided by an applicant or conducting searches online.
Instead, employers must comply with the Fair Credit Reporting Act and other relevant state and federal laws when they conduct background checks for employment purposes in Maryland.
To follow the applicable laws and regulations when you complete Maryland employment background checks, you will have to stay current with all changes in the laws as they occur and have access to the right types of resources to gather the information you need.
At iprospectcheck, we know all of the important laws and rules that govern the pre-employment screening process in Maryland and have conducted background checks for companies located in Baltimore, Annapolis, Columbia, Silver Spring, and more.
To help you understand the requirements for a Maryland background check for employment, we have written this overview of the Maryland pre-employment screening process that can serve as a resource for your hiring process.
Maryland Background Check Laws in 2021
Consumer reporting agencies (CRAs) and employers in Maryland are required to adhere to the federal, state, and local laws governing Maryland background checks.
These laws cover the types of information that CRAs like iprospectcheck can gather and report and how employers can use background screening information for employment purposes.
Employers that fail to follow these laws can face substantial penalties and potential lawsuits.
The primary laws that Maryland employers need to know when they conduct pre-employment background checks in Maryland are outlined below.
Federal Laws on Employment Background Checks
The two most important federal laws governing pre-employment background checks are the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which are discussed below.
Passed in 1970, the FCRA is a comprehensive law meant to protect consumers’ private information, including information that is gathered, reported, and used during the Maryland pre-employment background screening process.
The types of information CRAs can collect and report are restricted. Employers are also limited in how they use the information they receive to make hiring decisions.
The FCRA contains a seven-year lookback period. CRAs may not report information about judgment liens, civil lawsuits, bankruptcies, and collection accounts that are seven or more years old. They also cannot report information about arrests seven or more years old that did not lead to convictions.
An exception to the seven-year lookback period exists for jobs paying salaries of at least $75,000. The time restriction does not apply to criminal convictions.
Employers that want to conduct pre-employment background checks in Maryland must inform their candidates in writing of their intentions before conducting employment background checks. The applicants must provide signed consent before the process can be initiated.
If a Maryland background check reveals negative information about a candidate, an employer must adhere to the FCRA’s adverse action process before a final hiring decision can be made. Failing to follow these requirements can result in substantial liability, fines, and other penalties.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is the agency responsible for creating and enforcing regulations under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VII is the most important federal anti-discrimination law that prohibits workplace discrimination based on the protected statuses of applicants and employees.
Employers must follow the provisions of Title VII when they hire people. If a pre-employment background check in Maryland reveals that an applicant has a criminal record, the employer must complete an individual assessment of whether the criminal conviction relates to the specific job before deciding not to hire the applicant based on this information.
Maryland State Laws on Employment Background Checks
Under COMAR § 09.03.07 and Md. Code Ann. § 14-1201 et seq., CRAs must register with the Maryland Department of Labor by Jan. 1 of each year before conducting pre-employment background checks in the state. Re-registrations are only required when the information changes from the previous registration.
Under Md. Code Ann. § 14-1203, CRAs may not report bankruptcies older than 10 years. They also cannot report civil judgments, civil lawsuits, paid tax liens, arrests, or convictions that are older than seven years. However, there is a $20,000 salary exception, meaning that positions paying salaries of $20,000 or more are not subject to these time limitations.
Under Md. Code Ann. § 14-1204, consumers can request a file disclosure in writing. The employer must then provide a notice of rights and a disclosure of the investigation in writing to the applicant within five days. The notice of rights must include the name, contact information, and telephone number of the Commissioner of the Department of Labor.
Under Md. Lab. & Emp. Code § 3-711, employers may not use an applicant’s credit report to deny employment, make compensation determinations, or discharge an employee. However, an employer can ask for a credit report after making an offer of employment.
This statute contains exceptions for employers to use credit reports for bona fide purposes that substantially relate to the positions when the employer discloses it to the applicant in writing.
Employers that obtain credit reports as required under state or federal law, banks, credit unions, and organizations that are registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission are exempted from these requirements.
Positions that are considered to have bona fide purposes include the following:
- Managerial positions
- Positions for which an employee will have a corporate credit or debit card or access to the company’s accounts
- Positions for which an employee will have access to a company’s trade secrets and other intellectual property
- Positions for which an employee will have access to a business’s other confidential information
Maryland’s Ban the Box Law
Maryland has a ban-the-box law that applies to public sector employers passed in 2013 as 2012 SB 671. Under this law, state employers may not ask about an applicant’s criminal history until the first interview or when an opportunity to interview has been provided.
In 2020, the Maryland senate overcame Gov. Hogan’s veto of a state ban-the-box law for private employers. This law, SB 839, forbids employers with 15 or more employees from inquiring about an applicant’s criminal history before a first in-person interview.
Montgomery County passed Bill 36-14 in 2014, which is a ban-the-box law that applies to private and public sector employers with 15 or more employees. This law prohibits employers from asking about criminal history information until after the first interview.
In Dec. 2020, the county passed Bill 35-20. This local rule expanded the ban-the-box provisions of Bill 36-14 to include any employer with one or more employees. Employers in the county may also not ask about first misdemeanor convictions that are three or more years old, first convictions for trespass, disturbing the peace, or second-degree assault, arrests not leading to a conviction, or expunged or confidential records.
Maryland’s Social Media Law
Maryland employers are prohibited from asking applicants or employees to disclose their social media passwords or usernames or to provide them with access to their social media sites under Md. Lab. & Emp. Code § 3-712.
What Shows Up on a Maryland Background Check?
What might appear on a Maryland pre-employment background check will vary, depending on the reports that are requested. Employers can select from a variety of different types of reports when they partner with iprospectcheck for tailored information.
While the requested types of information will vary, most companies in Maryland ask for criminal history information, employment history information, and educational information when they conduct pre-employment screenings.
Here is what might appear in each of these types of reports.
When a candidate has a criminal record, the following information will appear on a pre-employment criminal history report:
- Case number
- Date of arrest
- Date of disposition
- Whether the charge was a misdemeanor or felony
If you request employment verification for the employment history information reported by your applicants, you will be able to confirm their employment dates for each employer, the employers for whom the applicants worked, and the positions they held.
Verifying your candidates’ employment information can help you to confirm that they are trustworthy and qualified. This can help you to lessen your risk of negligent hiring lawsuits.
Education verification reveals the certificates, diplomas, and degrees earned by job applicants. When you request education verification, you will see the following types of information on your Maryland background check for employment:
- Each educational institution attended
- Dates of attendance
- Degrees, diplomas, and credentials conferred
Completing an education verification allows you to make sure that your candidates are honest and fully qualified for your positions.
How Far Back Does a Background Check Go in Maryland?
The time period covered by a background check in Maryland is governed by the lookback periods of both the FCRA and Maryland’s state law. Specific types of information older than seven years will not appear on a pre-employment background check.
You will not see information about arrest records, lawsuits, paid tax liens, civil judgments, or collection accounts that are seven or more years old. Under Maryland law, bankruptcies that predate the background check by 10 or more years will not be reported.
Maryland also forbids CRAs from reporting arrest records, indictments, or convictions that are older than seven years. However, there is a $20,000 salary cap. If the position for which you are hiring pays more than $20,000, these types of information can be reported.
The FCRA’s salary cap is $75,000. The types of information that cannot be reported for positions paying less than $75,000 include arrests not resulting in convictions, civil judgments, liens, or collection accounts that are older than seven years. The FCRA does not include a restriction on the reporting of conviction records. However, if a position pays less than $20,000 per year, employers must comply with the restrictions provided by Maryland’s law.
Other types of relevant information for pre-employment screenings are also unrestricted. The FCRA and Maryland’s state law do not provide a time limitation for how far back information about an applicant’s education, employment, or credentials can be reported. On a background check for employment in Maryland, you can see these types of information regardless of how old it might be.
How to Get a Background Check in Maryland
The Maryland Department of Public Safety & Correctional Services is responsible for maintaining a central repository of state criminal records. To complete a criminal history background check on an applicant in Maryland, an employer will first need to complete and submit a private petition packet to the DPSCS and wait for the approval.
If approved, the employer will then need to have the applicant submit fingerprints to the state for the background check report. However, this report will only reveal criminal history information in Maryland and will not include information about education, employment, driving records, or other important screening reports.
Some online providers promise free Maryland background checks. You should never rely on the information provided by these vendors.
In most cases, the information provided by online vendors promising free reports will be inaccurate, outdated, and not FCRA-compliant. If you rely on information gathered in this way, your company can be exposed to potential liability and fines.
The best way to conduct a Maryland background check for employment is to work with a reputable, full-service, FCRA-compliant employment background check provider like iprospectcheck.
The reports we provide are comprehensive, up-to-date, and accurate, and we always comply with the FCRA and other applicable laws.
How Much Does a Background Check Cost in Maryland?
If you request an employment background check from the DPSCS in Maryland, you will have to pay a fee of $18 for the background report.
Fingerprinting will cost an additional $20 fee. This type of report will not include other important background check information that you need for employment purposes, however.
If you try to submit requests to multiple institutions, companies, and agencies on your own, conducting a background check for an applicant can be costly and time-consuming.
It is better for you to work with an FCRA-compliant and reliable background check provider like iprospectcheck.
We offer customized pre-employment background checks in Maryland so you can choose the specific types of background information you need for your open jobs.
At iprospectcheck, you can select from several different packages at varying price levels. We also offer multiple other types of clinical services and reports, including pre-employment drug testing services.
Companies that order more than 50 employment background checks per year can benefit from steep volume discounts. Call us today to learn about our services and obtain a free quote.
How Long Does it Take to Get a Background Check Completed in Maryland?
The length of time it might take for a background check report will depend on how you conduct your employment screening process.
If you submit a request through the state, you will first have to wait for the approval of your private party petition package. Once you are approved, the report can take up to 10 business days after the agency receives the fingerprint card and your request.
If you try to conduct a background check on your own, the process can be even more time-consuming and take multiple weeks.
Since the hiring process depends on your ability to make faster hiring decisions, you should consider partnering with a reputable third-party provider like iprospectcheck. We offer very fast turnaround times and can often return reports within a few hours.
iprospectcheck: Your Trusted Partner for Fast, Accurate, Compliant Maryland Background Checks
Conducting accurate, current, and FCRA-compliant pre-employment background checks is critical for the success of Maryland businesses. You will need to have great access to the relevant records for each applicant’s employment, credentials, education, criminal history, and other important background information.
When you work with iprospectcheck, you will benefit from our extensive access to current databases and other resources. Our employees are fully trained and know how to quickly gather and assess critical employment screening information for applicants in Maryland.
At iprospectcheck, customer service is a priority. We are USA-based and never offshore our services. This helps us to maintain the confidentiality and privacy of the sensitive information we handle for our clients. Whenever you have questions or concerns, we are available to help.
Call iprospectcheck today to request a no-obligation, free consultation, and learn more about how we can help your company to improve its hiring process.
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.