Background checks serve many purposes. Today, they’re a critical tool for landlords, hiring organizations, and other companies, and are a common element of housing or employment approval.
Are you wondering how to conduct background checks in Texas? This blog breaks down what you need to know about the process.
Let’s get started.
Why Do Employers Run Background Checks in Texas?
As an employer, there are many reasons you might conduct a background check on your applicants. Here are a few of the most common ones:
1. General Employment Screening
Many companies in Texas conduct employment background checks as part of the standard onboarding process.
This helps a company verify an applicant’s employment history and certify that there are no criminal convictions in a person’s background
2. Screening for Managerial Positions
Managers have a higher level of responsibility than standard employees, so it’s common for companies to background check anyone applying for a managerial position.
The background check requirements for a manager may be stricter than those for an entry-level employee.
3. Screening for People in the Caring Professions
EMS personnel, first responders, caregivers, and similar professionals all care for and spend time with vulnerable populations, such as children and elderly adults.
To ensure the safety of their patients and clients, companies screen these applicants thoroughly. It’s common for these prospects to undergo a background check, criminal records check, credit check, and any other kind of background screening an employer deems valid.
What Shows up on a Texas Background Check?
The information revealed on a Texas background check for employment depends on the searches employers request.
Commonly, employers request the following types of searches:
- Criminal history search
- Employment verification
- Education verification
- Social Security Number (SSN) trace
- Professional license verification
- Sex offender registry search
- Pre-employment drug test
Employers that hire for jobs involving driving also might request motor vehicle records checks.
Let’s take a look at what might appear on some of these searches.
Criminal History Search
A criminal background check for employment reveals whether an applicant has any criminal convictions or pending criminal cases.
On a criminal history report, the following types of information will be reported about a conviction or pending criminal matter:
- Offense date
- Type of offense
- Severity level of the offense (felony or misdemeanor)
- Disposition (if available)
- Date of disposition (if available)
- Sentence information (if available)
Employers can use this information to see whether an applicant has a potentially disqualifying record in relation to the duties of the job and their company’s workplace safety requirements.
Employment verification confirms whether the information an applicant has included about their past employment on an application is accurate and complete.
An employment verification report shows the following information about each past job the applicant has held:
- Name, address, and contact information for the employer
- Dates of employment
- Job title/position held
This type of information can reveal gaps in employment, omissions of employers, or fudged employment dates and help employers confirm whether the applicant has been honest.
Education verification checks the information applicants have reported about their educational attainment and the institutions they have attended.
An education verification report reveals the following information about each of the applicant’s past schools:
- Name, address, and contact information for each educational institution
- Dates of attendance
- Any diplomas, degrees, or certificates awarded to the applicant
Education verification confirms whether an applicant has been honest about their education and if they have enough education to qualify them for the job.
An SSN trace shows the following information about an applicant’s reported Social Security number:
- Date the Social Security Administration (SSA) issued the number
- State in which the SSN was issued
- All names and aliases that have been associated with the SSN
- All addresses that have been associated with the SSN
- Whether the SSN is valid
- The individual’s date of birth as associated with the SSN
This report can help confirm the applicant’s number is valid and belongs to them.
Professional License Verification
For jobs requiring a professional license, employers often request professional license verification.
A professional license verification reveals the following data about an applicant’s professional license:
- Issuance date
- License type
- Expiration date
- Sanctions or discipline against the license
- License validity
Confirming an applicant’s professional license helps employers ensure their candidates are qualified and minimize potential negligent hiring claims.
Sex Offender Registry Search
A sex offender registry check will show whether an applicant is currently registered as a sex offender and might be necessary for jobs in which the applicant will have contact with vulnerable populations.
If an applicant is a registered sex offender, a sex offender background check discloses the following information:
- Aliases and names used by the offender
- Address at which the offender is registered
- The state of conviction for the sex offense
- Distingishing marks, including scars, tattoos, and others
Pre-Employment Drug Test
Many employers opt to require pre-employment drug tests as a part of their drug-free workplace policies.
Most pre-employment drug tests are urine screens that check for the presence of the following five substances in the applicant’s system:
- Marijuana (THC)
- Opiates (heroin, hydrocodone, oxycodone, etc.)
- Amphetamines (amphetamines, methamphetamines)
- Phencyclidine (PCP)
It’s important to note that pre-employment drug screens show a picture in time of an applicant’s recent drug use and do not indicate whether an applicant has used substances in the past or might in the future.
Motor Vehicle Records Check
Employers that hire people to drive as a part of their jobs often ask for motor vehicle records (MVR) checks.
An MVR check reports the following information:
- Driver’s license number
- License type
- Issuance date
- Expiration date
- Driver’s full legal name
- Driver’s address
- Date of birth
- Physical descriptors, including photo, weight, height, sex, eye color, and others
- Traffic violations
- Traffic crimes
- Assessed points
- License suspensions
An MVR check allows employers to verify their applicants’ driving records, ensure they are safe drivers, check they have the right type of driver’s license, and make certain they are insurable.
How to Get a Background Check in Texas
In the state of Texas, the Texas Department of Public Safety (or TxDPS) manages all background checks. This government agency operates the state’s Conviction Database, which serves as a central catch-all for public criminal records pulled from the Computerized Criminal History (CCH) system.
CCH is a unique database. It contains all the state’s criminal records from both public and private sources, but only authorized law enforcement and criminal justice agencies can access it.
Public records, such as criminal histories, court records, vital records, and more, meanwhile, are easy to locate in Texas. The Texas Department of Public Safety or the Texas Office of Court Administration oversees these records, and organizations can request copies by going through the appropriate channels.
While your company can run its own background checks, it’s wise to partner with a third-party background check company like iprospectcheck instead. On your own, you’ll only have access to public records. Although public records can be informative, they don’t paint the full picture of an applicant’s background and may omit important information about arrests and convictions from private sources.
When you work with a third-party background check company, however, you get access to all essential records and documents, including those that pertain to criminal histories and convictions.
Employment Background Check Laws
Texas has no laws restricting the use of criminal records in background checks, but two federal laws still apply.
Fair Credit Reporting Act
The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) is a federal law that is enforced by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and protects consumer privacy in the information collected, retained, and reported by consumer reporting agencies (CRAs).
This law applies to background check providers that collect and report information to employers for employment background checks.
Under the FCRA, CRAs can’t report the following information when it is seven or more years old for jobs paying less than $75,000 annually:
- Arrests not leading to convictions
- Civil lawsuits
These restrictions don’t apply to jobs paying salaries of $75,000 or more.
They also don’t restrict CRAs from reporting other important background information about an applicant’s employment, education, professional license status, and others.
The FCRA also governs what employers should do when they discover negative information on an applicant’s employment background check.
Before an employer can decide not to hire an applicant based on a background report, they must complete the steps of the adverse action process and provide the applicant with a copy of their FCRA rights.
Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act
Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII), employers can’t discriminate against applicants or employees on the basis of their protected characteristics.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces Title VII and has issued employer guidance about the treatment of arrest and conviction information obtained by employers on background checks.
Under the EEOC’s guidance, employers must individually assess a criminal record by comparing it to the duties of the position before deciding not to hire the applicant based on that information.
Fair Chance to Compete for Jobs Act
The Fair Chance to Compete for Jobs Act is a federal ban-the-box law that was effective as of Dec. 20, 2021.
Federal agencies and federal contractors are covered by this law and are prohibited from asking about criminal history on applications.
Covered federal contractors and agencies also can’t inquire about a candidate’s criminal history until they have made a conditional employment offer.
Covered employers that are hiring for positions that require criminal records checks under federal or state law are exempted.
Texas follows the EEOC and FCRA but otherwise does not have any state employment background check laws. However, several local jurisdictions have enacted ban-the-box laws.
These laws restrict when in the onboarding process an employer can ask about criminal history information. An increasing number of counties and cities around the nation continue to add ban-the-box laws.
To learn whether your county or local government has enacted a ban-the-box law, you should consult your legal counsel.
Here are a few of the counties and cities with current ban-the-box laws.
City of Austin Ban-the-Box Ordinance
Austin was the first Texas city to pass a ban-the-box ordinance in 2016.
Austin Ordinance 20160234-019 applies to both public and private employers in the city and prohibits them from inquiring about an applicant’s criminal record until after they have made a conditional offer of employment.
Employers must individually assess criminal records and can’t refuse to hire an applicant based on that information unless the employer has determined it makes them unsuitable for the job based on the job’s duties in relation to the offense.
The ordinance applies to private-sector employers with 15 or more employees.
Harris County’s Fair Chance Policy
Harris County adopted a fair chance policy that applies to most county jobs on Jan. 4, 2022.
Under this policy, county employers can’t ask about criminal history on their applications and can only conduct criminal records checks after they have extended a conditional offer of employment.
The policy doesn’t apply to private-sector employers operating within the county or to elected officials.
City of DeSoto Ban-the-Box Ordinance
The City of DeSoto passed a ban-the-box ordinance in June 2021 that was effective on Jan. 1, 2022.
Like Austin’s ordinance, DeSoto Ordinance 2231-21 applies to both public employers and private-sector companies with 15 or more employees.
Companies that are 501(c)(3) organizations and those that are hiring for positions that are required to exclude individuals with certain criminal convictions under state or federal law are exempted from the ordinance.
Covered employers must not inquire about criminal history information on their applications and can’t conduct criminal background checks until after they have extended a conditional offer of employment.
How Can I Run Compliant Background Checks in Texas?
If you want to keep your background checks compliant, you must focus on equity and communication. Under EEOC guidelines, it is illegal to check the background of an applicant when that decision is based on a person’s national origin, color, sex, race, religion, disability, age, or genetic information.
Before you collect background information through a third-party background check company, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires that you do the following:
- Tell the applicant or employee you might use the information to make decisions about his or her employment. This notice must be in writing and in a stand-alone format. The advice can’t be in an employment application. You can include some minor additional information in the notice (such as a brief description of the nature of consumer reports), but only if it doesn’t confuse or detract from the notice.
- If you are asking a company to provide an “investigative report” – a report based on personal interviews concerning a person’s character, general reputation, personal characteristics, and lifestyle – you must also notify the applicant or employee of his or her right to a description of the nature and scope of the investigation.
- Get the applicant’s or employee’s written permission to do the background check. This can be part of the document you use to notify the person that you will receive the report. If you want the authorization to allow you to obtain background reports throughout the person’s employment, make sure you say so clearly and conspicuously.
- Certify to the company from which you are obtaining the report that you:
- notified the applicant and got their permission to obtain a background report;
- complied with all of the FCRA requirements; and
- won’t discriminate against the applicant or employee, or otherwise misuse the information in violation of federal or state equal opportunity laws or regulations.
If a background check reveals past convictions that entitle you to take adverse action (for example, refusing to hire the applicant or hiring the applicant for a lesser position), the FCRA issues these guidelines:
- Before you take an adverse employment action, you must give the applicant or employee:
- a notice that includes a copy of the consumer report you relied on to make your decision; and
- a copy of “A Summary of Your Rights Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act,” which you should have received from the company that sold you the report.
- By giving the person the notice in advance, the person has an opportunity to review the report and explain any negative information.
- After you take an adverse employment action, you must tell the applicant or employee (orally, in writing, or electronically):
- that he or she was rejected because of information in the report;
- the name, address, and phone number of the company that sold the report;
- that the company selling the report didn’t make the hiring decision, and can’t give specific reasons for it; and
- that he or she has a right to dispute the accuracy or completeness of the report, and to obtain an additional, free report from the reporting company within 60 days.
How Many Years Back Does a Background Check Go in Texas?
In the state of Texas, criminal background checks generated by an employer can go back seven years into an applicant’s criminal and personal history. There are, however, some exceptions to this rule.
Under Texas law (TX Bus. Code Sec. 20.05), the seven-year check is applicable unless the salary for the open position exceeds $75,000 annually. If the prospect is applying for a job that pays more than $75,000 annually, the employer is entitled to evaluate the applicant’s records from the point the applicant turned eighteen.
The seven-year rule also applies when a company hires a third party to conduct its background checks, as consumer reporting agencies are subject to both federal and state regulations and limitations.
Finally, employers should know that the courts typically seal the criminal records of minors. This means that employers will likely not see any criminal convictions an applicant incurred before he or she turned eighteen.
Arrests Without Conviction
What happens when a prospect was arrested for a crime but never charged?
In the state of Texas, arrests without a conviction should never solely be grounds for making an employment decision. The state believes that people are innocent until proven guilty, and The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) asserts and upholds federal anti-discrimination laws.
These laws prohibit the use of Texas arrest records in employment decisions, which is critical to know as you learn how to run a criminal background check in Texas.
To remain compliant, employers should limit themselves to convictions, guilty pleas, and pleas of no contest when making hiring decisions.
Need Fast, Accurate, Compliant Texas Background Checks? Turn to iprospectcheck
As you can see, background check compliance guidelines are complicated, and it’s easy for companies to take the wrong step. Fortunately, you can streamline the process by partnering with iprospectcheck.
As an industry leader in compliant background checks for Texas and many other states, we provide rapid, accurate, and reliable background check services you can rely on.
Contact us today to request a free 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.