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Pennsylvania Background Checks for Employment: A Complete Guide [2023]

pennsylvania background check

If you are looking to hire new employees for your Pennsylvania company, it is time to consider your best options for running background checks.

While the hiring process includes reviewing applications, conducting interviews, and finally deciding to extend an offer, one of the most important steps is to conduct a PA background check.

Conducting a background check on a potential employee will give you a more comprehensive picture of the candidate.

You can verify their identity, review past employment history, verify their education, and check their criminal background to ensure you are hiring the best person for the job.

At iprospectcheck, we process thousands of background checks for Pennsylvania companies each month, so we are familiar with the unique laws and regulations surrounding the screening process for this state.

Discover the ins-and-outs of conducting a Pennsylvania background check in this complete guide so you can confidently run background screenings on your job candidates.

Let’s start now.

Pennsylvania Background Check Laws (2023)

One of the most important aspects of conducting a background check for employment is understanding the specific background check laws in your state. For Pennsylvania, the laws are extensive, but we have broken them down for you here.

The first regulation that must be followed when conducting a PA background check on a potential employee is in conjunction with the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). According to this federal law, an employer must notify their candidate of the employer’s intent to conduct a background check if utilizing a third-party company for the screening.

This notification must include the contact information of the background screening company through which the report will take place.

Then, once the background check report is completed, an employer must take careful consideration when reviewing the information found.

Criminal Background Information

When reviewing a candidate’s criminal history, a Pennsylvania employer may only consider felony and misdemeanor convictions to the extent that they relate to the suitability of employment.

This means you may only choose not to hire a candidate if the crime they committed is directly related to their ability to perform the job in consideration.

Pennsylvania also has a lesser category of offenses known as “summary offenses.” A conservative reading of 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. 9125 suggests that an employer in Pennsylvania should not review summary offenses in conjunction with the job offer.

Credit Information

In Philadelphia, PA, as of July 1, 2017, per the Philadelphia Code §9-1130, it is generally unlawful for an employer to obtain or use credit information in connection with the following: hiring, discharge, tenure, promotion, discipline, or conditions of employment.

This means that in Philadelphia, an employer cannot review a candidate’s credit history when determining a candidate’s employment status.

Past Salary Laws

While PA background checks include a variety of verifications and checks, they do not report past salary history. However, this information can still be uncovered during the interview process. In April 2018, the federal court, in the case of the Chamber of Commerce v. The City of Philadelphia, case no. 17-1548, ruled that the city could not ban employers from asking about salary history, but employers were still banned from using the knowledge of past salary to offer a lower salary.

However, to avoid possible litigation, it is best practice to not obtain past salary information at all.

Similarly, employers in Pittsburgh are prohibited from inquiring about an applicant’s wage history until after an offer of employment is made, pursuant to Article XI Chapter §181.13 of the City Code.

And effective on May 23, 2017, in Philadelphia, employers may not inquire about or require disclosure of a prospective employee’s wage history. An employer is forbidden to rely upon the wage history of a prospective employee obtained from a current or former employer when determining the wages for the applicant in question. This rule is in effect at any stage of the employment process, including during background checks.

These regulations are set in place to protect employees and provide employers with only the necessary information they need to make the best hiring decisions.

Adverse Action

Once you obtain and review a candidate’s background check, you must decide whether or not you will proceed with hiring them.

If you decide you no longer wish to hire the candidate based on the information found on their background check report, you must follow the FCRA’s guidelines for Adverse Action.

According to the FCRA, if an employer decides they will not hire a candidate based on information found during the background screening process, they must take these steps:

  1. Send a pre-adverse action letter to the candidate notifying them of your intent to not hire them based on their background check report;
  2. Wait a reasonable amount of time before sending an official letter, giving the candidate time to review their report and dispute any errors;
  3. Finally, if you still choose to not hire them based on their background check report, send the applicant an official adverse action letter stating your decision.

To ensure you stay compliant with these PA background check laws, consider partnering with a reputable third-party background check company, such as iprospectcheck.

We are familiar with these regulations and can help you stay compliant throughout the entire process.

Pennsylvania Background Check Laws for Schools

Under Pennsylvania law, all student teacher candidates, applicants to private and public schools, and independent contractors that contract with schools must undergo pre-employment background checks if their positions require contact with students. Additionally, all applicants must also undergo reviews of their employment histories.

The required background check reports for applicants include the following:

At iprospectcheck, we can obtain reports from each of these sources for schools and companies that contract with them.

Philadelphia’s Prohibition on Marijuana Testing

The Philadelphia City Council passed an ordinance in April 2021 that will be effective as of Jan. 1, 2022.

Under Philadelphia Code Chapter 9-4700, non-exempt businesses are prohibited from conditioning offers of employment on pre-employment marijuana tests.

Certain employers are exempted, including law enforcement agencies, those who provide services to vulnerable populations, those that require commercial driver’s licenses, and those that are otherwise required to test for marijuana by state or federal law or that are hiring for positions that could significantly affect the safety and health of the public or other employees.

Certified Marijuana Users Can Sue for Adverse Job Actions

The Superior Court of Pennsylvania issued a decision in Aug. 2021 in Palmiter v. Commonwealth Health Systems, 2021 Pa. Super. 159 (2021). The court held that certified medical marijuana users have a private right of action under the Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Act.

How to Conduct a PA Background Check

Once you become familiar with the laws and regulations for Pennsylvania, it is time to conduct a background check on your potential candidate.

First, it is important to ensure you have a background check policy in place to ensure a standard process throughout your company. This policy should be legally compliant and follow all state laws for conducting background screenings.

Once your policy is in place, you can choose a third-party background check company to partner with for all your screening needs. Companies such as iprospectcheck can ensure the process will go smoothly for you and your candidates.

Should you choose to obtain the information yourself, there are a few different ways to go about conducting a background check on a potential employee in PA.

If you are looking for free background checks in PA, you may be able to find some services on the web, but you will need to ensure they follow all FCRA and state laws and that there are no hidden fees. Unfortunately, free services oftentimes end up costing more due to misinformation.

In Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania State Police are responsible for maintaining a central repository of criminal records information for the state. Through the PSP, companies and individuals can request criminal history information online or by mail.

However, if you choose to do this, the information you receive will not be complete. The state’s repository only includes the information maintained by the repository and might not include information from other criminal justice agencies in the state. It also does not include out-of-state conviction information or federal offenses. If you choose to use the PSP criminal records check, you also will not receive relevant information about an applicant’s educational or employment background.

By contrast, the background information from iprospectcheck is accurate, current, and complete. Our pre-employment background checks include conviction records from other states, the federal government, and within Pennsylvania.

We also provide verifications of your applicants’ employment history and educational qualifications as well as other types of background reports.

We understand the importance of staying compliant throughout the entire process, which is why we offer affordable background check packages with a turnaround time of one to two days.

What Shows Up on a PA Background Check?

By conducting a background check on a potential employee, you access valuable information about them and their history. This includes:

  • Identity verification: you can verify that the applicant is who they say they are.
  • Past education and employment verification: you can ensure the applicant has the prior experience necessary to perform the job well.
  • Criminal records: you can know your candidate’s criminal background and ensure they are not on any registered offender lists.

What shows up on a Pennsylvania background check helps you make the best hiring decision for your company.

And while it is not required that every candidate undergo a background screening, there are clearances needed for certain positions, such as those in the education field. To work in such a position, a candidate must receive a Department of Human Services Child Abuse History Clearance, along with a state and federal criminal records check.

How Far Back Does a Background Check Go in PA?

In standard cases, a background check report cannot include any records of arrest that did not result in a conviction that are over seven years old.

However, for positions offering an annual salary of over $75,000 each year, the FCRA restrictions do not apply, and the background check can report back further than seven years.

There are no restrictions on convictions; all convictions, regardless of when they occurred, can be reported under the FCRA guidelines.

However, employers within the city of Philadelphia are subject to restrictions regarding the use of criminal records when employing any person within the city. Covered employers may only consider convictions within the last seven years [from date of disposition or release from confinement whichever is later], and may not consider non-convictions regardless of when they occurred.

iprospectcheck: Your Trusted Partner for Compliant PA Background Checks

Hiring new employees is an important part of growing your company. We understand the care and consideration that goes into the hiring process, including conducting background checks on all potential candidates. That is why we offer Pennsylvania background checks for employers that are simple, quick, and cost-effective.

At iprospectcheck, we have a variety of background check packages for employment, so you only pay for the information you need. Plus, we provide other valuable services you may use during the hiring process, such as drug screening and clinical services.

Contact us today to learn more about our complete background check services and to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.

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.