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North Carolina Background Checks: A Complete Guide [2023]


The pre-employment screening process plays a critical role in how your North Carolina business hires qualified and responsible employees, protects your reputation, complies with NC state and federal laws, maintains a safe working environment, and serves your clients.

Following up with references and searching a candidate’s name online is not sufficient to avoid hiring pitfalls, including liability for negligence in hiring.

Each day, we successfully conduct NC background checks for companies in Charlotte, Greensboro, Durham, Raleigh, Wilmington, Roxboro, and other vicinities across the state.

Based on our extensive experience with producing compliant and comprehensive background checks, we’ve compiled this complete guide on how to properly conduct a North Carolina background check.

Let’s dive in.

North Carolina Background Check Laws

Above all, you should ensure compliance with all federal, state, and local laws and regulations that apply to NC employers conducting employee screening to avoid fines, penalties, litigation, and costly interruptions to the hiring process.

The interplay of federal, state, and local requirements for employee background checks can be complex to navigate and requires constant due diligence to ensure that you are aware of the most recent updates.

Federal Laws and Regulations on Background Checks

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) oversees the enforcement of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), which addresses how you as an employer can access personal information on a job applicant.

The FCRA requires that you obtain consent from a candidate before conducting a check. You must also provide the applicant an opportunity to review and potentially correct any negative information that appears on the report.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) oversees enforcement of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. When you use information obtained from a criminal background to disqualify a candidate, you must make an individual assessment of the incident in question to ensure that the criminal history is relevant to the position.

North Carolina State Laws and Regulations on Background Checks

In North Carolina, certain employers are required to conduct background checks on applicants under state law. For example, businesses that provide certain child and health care services, mental health service providers, substance abuse treatment providers and companies that serve disabled individuals are all required to perform background checks on new hires.

As of November 1, 2020, NC state agencies are prohibited from conducting a criminal history check on applicants for state jobs until at least after the initial interview. NC Executive Order No. 158 effectively imposes “fair chance” or “ban-the-box” restrictions on state employers from seeking out the criminal history on an applicant until they are deemed qualified and unless the information is relevant to the position.

Although there is currently no “ban-the-box” law on NC background checks for private employers, Governor Roy Cooper’s Executive Order No. 158 signed in August 2020 indicates a trend towards increased regulation of how employers access and consider criminal history in hiring decisions.

Under Executive Order 158, state agencies must remove any questions about criminal history from their applications and are not allowed to ask questions about criminal records during the initial stages of the application process.

They are also prohibited from considering pardoned or expunged records, arrests that did not result in convictions, charges that do not relate to the available positions, and charges for which people were adjudged not guilty or charges that were dismissed. Background checks cannot be conducted before an applicant’s initial interview, and state agencies are required to give applicants the opportunity to explain any relevant circumstances surrounding convictions.

While this executive order currently only applies to state agencies, private employers in North Carolina might anticipate that a similar law might soon be passed for them

North Carolina Municipal Laws and Regulations on Background Checks

Certain municipalities within North Carolina have enacted additional restrictions on the process and scope of employee background checks.

The major restrictions imposed by North Carolina counties and municipalities relate to “ban-the-box” laws. The background check compliance experts at iprospectcheck stay informed on the constant changes enacted by localities across North Carolina to ensure that all our reports are fully compliant.

What Appears in an North Carolina Background Check?

Depending on the industry and specific needs of your business, an NC background check may include different categories of information on a candidate as detailed further below.

Work and Professional History

Verify the professional experience and professional credentials of a candidate through by confirming their past employers, dates of employment, and job titles.

Identify Information

Using basic identifying information provided by the candidate, an NC background check can verify their identity, which is crucial to making sure that all of the information collected on the candidate is accurate.

Employment Eligibility

You can verify that an applicant is eligible to work in the U.S. by using a North Carolina background check to complete an electronic form I9 to confirm an applicant’s eligibility to work.

Criminal History Information

A comprehensive NC background check on a job candidate will include a nationwide database search and North Carolina county and statewide search of their criminal records.

This includes criminal information maintained by individual counties or municipalities in NC and any can extend to any other states in which the candidate has resided.

What Information Am I Prohibited from Seeking in a North Carolina Background Check?

Perhaps just as important as knowing what details you can learn about a job candidate from an NC background check is the information that may not be collected or used in your hiring decisions by law.

Expunged Criminal History

North Carolina law bans employers from inquiring about an applicant’s expunged criminal history, including arrests, charges and convictions. A job applicant in North Carolina also does not have to disclose any expunged criminal history in answering questions on a pre-employment screening questionnaire.

Sealed Juvenile Records

For any criminal offense committed by a minor, North Carolina courts typically seal all related records. You generally will be prohibited from accessing sealed North Carolina records for hiring purposes.

How Far Back Does a Background Check Go in North Carolina?

Several states impose a seven-year retrospective limit for an applicant’s criminal history, which means you could only view criminal information on the candidate from the past seven years. North Carolina does not impose a limit on the “lookback period” for an applicant’s criminal history. As such, you can view the accessible criminal history information on an applicant in NC for as far back as your screening needs require.

Of course, you will want to be observant of the federal FCRA and its limitations when you determine the scope of searches for your background checks.

Do Pending Charges Show Up on Background Checks in North Carolina?

Unless the criminal records for an incident have been expunged, a NC background check will include pending criminal charges. You are not prohibited under North Carolina law from considering the pendency of criminal charges in making hiring decisions if you do not otherwise run afoul of the applicable EEOC restrictions.

How Do I Get a Background Check in North Carolina?

Conducting a North Carolina background check on a prospective employee is quite involved if your objective is to compile a complete, accurate candidate profile.

Given that important records are maintained by various agencies and are subject to their own request protocols, a NC background check would not be comprehensive without accessing federal, state and local records for a candidate, including within all the jurisdiction where the candidate previously resided.

The North Carolina Judicial Branch maintains court information and records for the 100 counties across the state. To review a record, you must determine which NC county in which the case was heard and then contact the Clerk of the Court for that county to request the record. In addition to the time-consuming nature of this approach to screening a candidate, there is a $25 fee for each separate request.

The police department of each North Carolina jurisdiction may also provide access to an individual’s arrest and criminal charges history. Many NC police departments require that you show up in person with the applicant’s information to request a search of their files. The typical fee per record is $25, and the records that you receive will not be certified copies nor complete disposition records for any offenses.

Without the caliber of in-depth information that iprospectcheck can gather on a candidate, it is highly unlikely that an inexperienced researcher could determine all of the jurisdictions that must be searched.

For example, a candidate could have resided in one county and been convicted of an offense in another. Similarly, a candidate could have resided in multiple states, which all require unique background searches and compliance with a multitude of applicable laws and regulations.

Without knowing exactly where an arrest occurred and attempting to screen a candidate on your own, you risk omitting an essential jurisdiction from your criminal background search.

How Long Does an NC Background Check Take?

Once you have identified a qualified candidate and are looking ahead to wrapping up the hiring process, delays in receiving a thorough background report can cost you time, money and interested candidates. At iprospectcheck, we understand the urgency of background screening requests and can process reports in as little time as one hour.

You can easily bypass the delays, difficulties, and expenses in attempting to track down NC records for an applicant by relying on the innovative and thorough research tool and expertise used by iprospectcheck for background screenings.

We pride ourselves on providing full and accurate background reports within a tight timeframe to assist you in making informed, responsible hiring decisions.

How Can I Check My Own Criminal Record in North Carolina?

Per the North Carolina Department of Public Safety, the state allows individuals to review their NC criminal history by requesting a report from the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigations. This is a fingerprint-based criminal background report for a $14 fee and requires that you submit a request form, which is available online.

The FBI provides Identity History Summary Checks to individuals for an $18 fee. You must submit an order form along with a fingerprint card to review a report of the information that various law enforcement and other judicial agencies may have submitted to the FBI. Keep in mind that this report is only as comprehensive as the criminal information that local agencies elect to report to the FBI.

How Much Do Background Checks in NC Cost?

A quick online search yields a long list of unvetted and unreliable vendors offering free NC background checks. You should exercise caution before relying on any of these vendors because you are highly unlikely to receive a report that is comprehensive, current, accurate, legally compliant, usable, or customized to your specific needs.

In addition to purportedly free NC online background reports, some companies attempt to perform their candidate screening in-house by requesting records from municipal, county and state court records websites. This approach is time-consuming and unlikely to produce the results you need. It is also nearly impossible to determine if you have reviewed all of the relevant county and state records.

The most cost-effective and productive alternative is to partner with a trusted and resourceful background check company like iprospectcheck. We have developed cutting-edge research strategies and comprehensive data collection methods that are proven to provide accurate results across all categories of information requested by our clients.

The affordable NC background check pricing packages from iprospectcheck offer discounts for high-volume orders and customization options. When you request a background check through iprospectcheck, you can manage costs easily and effectively by tailoring the request to include only the categories of information that are useful in your hiring process.

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

Pre-employment screening for your NC business can be convenient, informative, and legally compliant when you work with a trustworthy and dedicated background check company. iprospectcheck is the reliable provider of pre-employment screening services throughout North Carolina for very good reasons.

Customer satisfaction is our top priority for every order, which is why iprospectcheck’s team of trained and knowledgeable background check specialists, who are based in the U.S., respond directly to any customer inquiries. Our compliance team ensures that all screening reports abide by all applicable laws and regulations.

To learn more about the comprehensive, accurate and prompt NC background checks performed by iprospectcheck, contact us today.

Call 888-808-9997 to request a free, no-risk consultation with one of our NC screening specialists to discuss your company’s specific needs.

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.