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Rhode Island Background Check: A Complete Guide [2023]


When Rhode Island employers recruit applicants to fill open positions, pre-employment background checks should be an integral part of the onboarding process.

Employment background checks allow employers to ensure that they hire competent, qualified, safe, and trustworthy employees and can help to protect them from negligent hiring liability.

Many people exaggerate or lie on their resumes about their employment history and educational qualifications. A comprehensive, current, accurate, and FCRA-compliant background check can help you confirm whether or not an applicant has been honest.

Did you know that a former dean of admissions at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology lied about having three degrees when she had none?

Pre-employment background checks in Rhode Island allow employers to feel confident that they are making sound hiring decisions while also identifying people who should be disqualified from consideration.

Based on our experience conducting background checks for employers in Providence, Cranston, Warwick, and more, we put together this comprehensive guide.

Let’s get started.

Why Should Rhode Island Employers Run Background Checks on Applicants?

There are multiple reasons why employers in Rhode Island opt to conduct background checks on prospective employees and current employees. The most common reasons are described below.

1. Pre-Employment Checks for Entry-Level Positions

Many Rhode Island employers conduct pre-employment screens on entry-level applicants as a routine step in the hiring process.

Background checks for employment in Rhode Island can help employers verify whether their applicants have the right qualifications for the positions and check to see if they have any criminal convictions that might disqualify them for the jobs for which they have applied.

2. Pre-Employment Checks for Supervisory and Executive Positions

Supervisors and executives have much greater access to their employers’ accounts and intellectual property than other employees.

The greater degree of responsibility within a company means that employers should conduct more thorough pre-employment background checks on people applying for these types of roles within the organization.

3. Regular Employment Background Checks

In some industries, employees are required to undergo background checks on an ongoing basis. For example, licensed child care facilities in Rhode Island are required to conduct comprehensive background checks on all of their staff at least once every five years.

Other industries, including trucking, also require employees to submit to employment background checks at regular intervals.

4. Specialized Background Checks for People Working With Vulnerable Populations

People whose jobs involve working with vulnerable people, including people with mental or physical disabilities, children, and the elderly, must undergo in-depth pre-employment background checks.

Employers in the caring profession must ensure that their patients and clients are safe.

Because of this, caregiver background checks for people working with vulnerable populations are usually much more in-depth than for other types of jobs.

Rhode Island Background Check Laws 2021

Rhode Island companies that conduct pre-employment background checks are required to comply with all applicable regulations and laws.

Following the laws that govern background checks helps you to avoid penalties, fines, and potential lawsuits.

The relevant federal and state laws are described below.

Federal Laws on Employment Background Checks

Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA)

Enforced by the Federal Trade Commission, the FCRA is a federal law that protects consumers’ privacy in the information that is gathered and reported by consumer reporting agencies (CRAs), including pre-employment background check providers. This law also has rules that apply to employers who request, gather, and use this information.

Before an employer can conduct a pre-employment background check, it must first notify the applicant that it intends to conduct one in writing. Employers must also get their applicants’ signed consent before they can conduct employment background checks.

Finally, the FCRA requires employers to go through the adverse action process before deciding against hiring an applicant based on information reported in a background check.

At iprospectcheck, we always fully comply with the law and return fully FCRA-compliant background check reports to our clients.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964

Enforced by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act is a comprehensive anti-discrimination law that prohibits discrimination in the workplace based on the protected characteristics of applicants and employees.

Title VII applies to the pre-employment background check process when employers discover that applicants have criminal convictions. Under EEOC guidance, employers are required to individually assess an applicant’s conviction as it specifically relates to the job the applicant would perform before deciding to make an adverse hiring decision.

Rhode Island State Laws on Employment Background Checks

In addition to Title VII and the FCRA, Rhode Island employers must also comply with several state laws that are detailed below.

Ban-the-Box Law for Private and Public Employers

Under 28 R.I. Gen. Laws § 28-5-7, employers cannot ask applicants about any prior arrests or convictions on their applications or until the applicants have had the opportunity for interviews.

However, employers in industries that have presumptive disqualifications under federal or state laws and law enforcement agencies can inquire about criminal history information on their applications.

Cannot Ask About Arrests

Under 28 R.I. Gen. Laws § 28-5-7, employers may not ask applicants about arrests that did not result in convictions either on the application or at or after an interview.

However, they can ask about convictions at or after an interview.

Use of Credit Reports

Under 6 R.I. Gen. Laws § 6-13.1-21, employers cannot request a credit report for employment purposes unless the employers first give notice of their intent to do so.

If information from a credit report is used as the basis for denying employment, the employer must send an adverse action notice to the applicant and provide the CRA’s name and address.

Social Media Passwords and Access

Under 28 R.I. § 28-56-2, employers are prohibited from asking, requiring, or coercing an applicant or employee to provide his or her social media passwords or to access his or her social media pages in the employer’s presence.

Employers are also prohibited from asking applicants or employees to disclose their social media account information unless it is necessary for an investigation.

Expunged Records

People in Rhode Island who successfully petition for an expungement of their criminal records do not have to disclose them to prospective employers. Under 12 R.I. Gen. Laws § 12-1.3-4, CRAs and other custodians of expunged records are also prohibited from disclosing them.

What Shows up on a Background Check for Employment in Rhode Island?

When you order pre-employment background checks from iprospectcheck, you can request only the specific types of information that you need. This means that what might show up on a background check in Rhode Island will depend on your requested information.

Most employers in Rhode Island request criminal history checks, employment history, education verification, and professional credentials checks. Some employers ask for driving records when they are hiring for positions that require people to drive. Many employers also conduct pre-employment drug tests.

On a pre-employment background check report, you might see the following information:

  • Non-expunged misdemeanor or felony convictions
  • Open criminal cases
  • Sex offender registry information
  • Arrests that resulted in convictions
  • Past employment
  • Education history
  • Domestic Terrorist Watch List information
  • Address history

Below are what you might see in a few of these categories.

Criminal History

If an applicant has any non-expunged criminal convictions, you will see the following information about each conviction:

  • Offense date
  • Offense type
  • Offense severity (misdemeanor/felony)
  • Disposition
  • Disposition date
  • Sentence

You will not see any information about expunged criminal convictions.

Education Verification

An education verification report will reveal the following information:

  • All schools/colleges attended
  • Dates of attendance
  • Diplomas, degrees, or certificates conferred

Education verification lets employers verify whether a candidate attended the schools that he or she claimed and earned any degrees or certificates. This can help employers ensure that their applicants are fully qualified and honest.

Employment Verification

Employment verification reports show employers whether an applicant has honestly reported his or her employment history. This type of report will show the following information:

  • All past employers
  • Dates of employment at each company
  • Positions/titles held

How Far Back Does a Background Check go in Rhode Island?

Employment background checks in Rhode Island must comply with the FCRA’s restrictions on how far back an employment background check can go. The FCRA has a seven-year lookback period that applies to any position paying less than $75,000 per year for the following information:

  • Arrests that did not result in convictions
  • Civil lawsuits
  • Civil judgments
  • Liens
  • Bankruptcies

These types of information that are older than seven years will not be reported on a pre-employment background check. In Rhode Island, arrests that did not lead to convictions within the past seven years also will not be reported under state law.

Expunged convictions will also not be reported.

The FCRA’s restrictions do not apply to jobs paying $75,000 or more per year. It also does not apply to information about an applicant’s past employment, credentials, or education.

How Do I Get a Background Check in Rhode Island?

In Rhode Island, you can get a background check either in person or by mail through the Attorney General’s Office from the Bureau of Criminal Identification. Employers must include a signed release from the applicant, a copy of a valid government-issued ID, and a check or money order if mailed or check, money order, or credit card if the request is made in-person.

The AG’s office performs both state and national checks. If you order a state background check, it will not reveal criminal convictions that occurred in other states. Even a national BCI background check might not reveal other relevant information about an applicant’s background, including his or her past employment and education.

Some employers attempt a do-it-yourself approach to pre-employment background checks. However, if you try to send requests to multiple state agencies, educational institutions, and past employers, this can return incomplete records and take a long period of time.

The best approach to getting background checks in Rhode Island is to work with a reputable and experienced background check provider like iprospectcheck. We have access to reliable databases and always comply with the FCRA and all other relevant laws.

As a Rhode Island Employer, How Can I Stay Compliant?

Remaining compliant with all federal and state laws governing background checks in Rhode Island is critical.

If you violate the laws, you can face stiff penalties and fines. You could also face lawsuits from applicants you decided not to hire or from others because of negligent hiring liability.

Here are five ways you can stay in compliance with the applicable background check laws in Rhode Island.

1. Don’t Ask About Criminal History Until an Interview

Do not ask either orally or in writing about an applicant’s past criminal convictions. Under Rhode Island law, you cannot ask for this type of information until the applicant has reported for an interview or afterward.

2. Don’t Ask About Arrests

Rhode Island prohibits asking about arrests that did not result in convictions at any time. Do not ask an applicant whether or not he or she has ever been arrested.

3. Individually Assess Convictions

If you find that an applicant has a conviction on his or her criminal record, individually assess it to determine whether or not it directly relates to the duties of the job. If it does, then you can justify denying the candidate.

4. Notify the Applicant of Potential Adverse Action

If you decide against hiring an applicant based on a criminal background check, you must send a notice to the applicant. The notice must identify the conviction in question, contain a copy of the conviction report, and a deadline for the applicant to provide you with clarifying information about it.

5. Send a Final Adverse Action Notice

If you decide not to hire the applicant, you must send him or her a final adverse action notice. You must also notify the applicant of his or her right to ask for reconsideration or to challenge the decision.

What Disqualifies You from a Background Check in Rhode Island?

There are multiple reasons why applicants might fail pre-employment background checks in Rhode Island.

Some of these issues are explained below.

Disqualifying Criminal Conviction

Millions of Americans have criminal records. While not all convictions will be disqualifying, an applicant might be denied employment when a conviction directly relates to the position for which he or she has applied. Some industries also have regulations that make certain types of convictions automatically disqualifying.

Lying About Past Employment

Some people falsify their past employment histories on their resumes. If an applicant lies about his or her employment dates, employers, or positions, an employer that requests employment verification will likely quickly deny the applicant.

Lying About Education

Similarly, some people falsely claim to have attended prestigious institutions or to have earned degrees or certificates they do not have. Lying about educational attainment will likely result in a rejection.

Bad Driving Record

Applicants applying for jobs that will require driving can be rejected if they have multiple traffic violations. This is because they might not be insurable under the employer’s insurance policy.

Failed Drug Test

Many Rhode Island employers ask prospective employees to submit to pre-employment drug tests. An employer will likely deny employment to an applicant who fails a pre-employment drug screen.

How Much Does a Background Check Cost in Rhode Island?

State background checks from the BCI cost $5 per report, while national checks from the BCI cost $35 per report. However, they will not reveal comprehensive information about your applicants’ backgrounds.

If you look online, you might find an online provider advertising a free Rhode Island background check. You should never rely on one of these types of providers for employment background checks. The information they provide is often unreliable and inaccurate, and it will be unlikely to comply with the mandates of the FCRA and state laws.

The best choice is to partner with a reputable provider like iprospectcheck. We use our extensive database access and cutting-edge research skills to quickly return reliable, FCRA-compliant, comprehensive background check reports.

You can select only the specific types of information you need, allowing you to avoid paying for extraneous information.

If your organization will need 50 or more reports each year, you can benefit from our volume discounts. Call us for a free quote today: 888-808-9997

How Long Does a Background Check Take in RI?

How much time it might take you to get an employment background check report depends on the method you choose. If you order a background check report from the BCI by mail, it can take several weeks.

When you work with iprospectcheck, we can leverage our resources to return reliable, up-to-date, and accurate information to you within as little as a few hours.

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

Most Rhode Island employers understand the importance of pre-employment background checks but might not have the resources or time needed to conduct them.

When you work with iprospectcheck, you can benefit from our in-depth training and extensive resources to quickly receive comprehensive, reliable, FCRA-compliant background check reports.

Contact us today to request a free quote and to learn more about the various services we offer.

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.