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Wisconsin Background Check: A Complete Guide [2023]


For Wisconsin employers, making the right hiring decisions is crucial for the success of their companies. Hiring the wrong employees can result in reduced safety, lowered productivity, losses, and potential liability.

To facilitate good decision-making in hiring, many employers rely on pre-employment background checks in Wisconsin.

These screenings can play an important role in helping companies find competent, qualified, and trustworthy employees.

How Wisconsin background checks are conducted and how employers use the information they receive involves complying with multiple federal and state laws that govern employment background checks in Wisconsin.

We routinely conduct pre-employment background checks for employers throughout the state, including in Milwaukee, Madison, Kenosha, Green Bay, and more.

We’ve written this guide to Wisconsin background checks for employment to provide employers with a resource to understand the requirements that govern the pre-employment screening process in hiring.

Let’s dive in.

Wisconsin Employment Background Check Laws 2023: A Complete Overview

In Wisconsin, employers and consumer reporting agencies that gather, report, and use background check information in the hiring process must comply with all relevant local, state, and federal laws that govern the pre-employment screening process.

Several laws apply to the information that CRAs like iprospectcheck are allowed to collect and report. There are also laws that control how employers are allowed to use background information to make employment decisions.

If you do not adhere to these laws, your business could face significant penalties and potential for legal liability.

The key laws that Wisconsin employers should know when conducting Wisconsin pre-employment background checks are outlined below.

Federal Laws on Employment Background Checks

There are two important federal laws employers should know when they rely on information from pre-employment background checks during the hiring process, including the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.


The FCRA is a comprehensive law that was first passed in 1970 for the purpose of protecting the privacy rights of consumers in their sensitive information that is gathered, held, and reported by CRAs and used by employers in Wisconsin during the hiring process.

The FCRA limits the types of information that CRAs are allowed to gather and report. This law also restricts employers in how they can use background screening information to make employment decisions.

Under the FCRA, there is a seven-year lookback period for certain types of negative information. CRAs cannot report information that is older than seven years about civil lawsuits, civil judgments, liens, collection accounts, bankruptcies, or arrests that did not result in convictions.

There is an exception to the FCRA’s seven-year lookback period for positions paying salaries of $75,000 or more. The lookback period’s restrictions also do not cover criminal convictions, which can be reported regardless of age.

Employers in Wisconsin that want to complete pre-employment background screenings are required to inform their applicants in writing that they intend to complete background checks. Before the employment background checks in Wisconsin can be conducted, employers must also secure written consent from the applicants.

If a Wisconsin background check for employment returns negative information on an applicant, the employer must follow the adverse action process under the FCRA before making a final hiring decision. If you fail to follow the provisions of the FCRA, you could face substantial fines, penalties, and legal liability.

Title VII

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 is the most important federal anti-discrimination law in the U.S. Title VII of this law covers discrimination in employment and prohibits it in all aspects of employment. Under this law, employers cannot discriminate against applicants or employees based on their protected characteristics, including race, color, national origin, color, sex, age, disability, and others.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces Title VII and its regulations. Since certain minority groups are likelier to have interactions with the criminal justice system, Title VII covers criminal history information that might be reported on pre-employment background checks in Wisconsin.

According to guidance from the EEOC, employers should individually assess criminal convictions as they relate to the specific positions for which they are hiring before they decide against hiring applicants based on that information.

Wisconsin State Laws on Employment Background Checks

Employers in Wisconsin must comply with several state laws when they conduct employment background checks and use the information to make hiring decisions.

Under 2015 AB 373, public sector employers are not allowed to ask about an applicant’s criminal history information on their applications. They cannot ask about this type of information until the interview stage.

Under Wis. Stat. § 50.065(1)(ag)1, employers who hire caregivers must complete caregiver background checks before hiring applicants and every four years after a person has been hired.

Under Wis. Stat. § 111.335, employers are prohibited from discriminating against applicants based on criminal history information. Employers are also not allowed to rely on arrests for which there is no conviction information. Employers must conduct individual assessments of any information revealed as it relates to the specific jobs before making an adverse employment decision.

Dane and Milwaukee Counties and the cities of Milwaukee and Madison each have ban-the-box laws that apply to public sector employers. These laws require employers to individually assess criminal history information before deciding against hiring candidates.

Under Wisconsin’s social media law, employers are not allowed to ask applicants or employees for their social media passwords. They also cannot ask applicants or employees to open their social media accounts in their presence or request that they be added as friends on their pages.

What Shows Up on a Wisconsin Background Check?

The information you might see on a Wisconsin employment background check will depend on the specific types of reports you request. At iprospectcheck, employers can choose from a menu of many different types of reports so that they can tailor the types of information they receive.

While the types of information requested might vary, most Wisconsin employers ask for information about their applicants’ criminal history, employment background, and educational qualifications when completing pre-employment background checks.

Here is the type of information you might see when you request each of these reports on your employment background checks in Wisconsin.

Criminal History

If an applicant has a criminal record, you will see the following types of information on a criminal history report included in the pre-employment background check:

  • Criminal case number
  • Arrest date
  • Charge(s)
  • Offense level (misdemeanor or felony)
  • Disposition
  • Disposition date
  • Sentence

Employment Verification

Employment verification allows you to confirm whether your applicants have been honest about their past employment and the positions they have held. On this type of report, you will see each employer for whom an applicant has worked, the dates of employment at each employer, and the positions they have held.

This type of information can help you to determine whether your applicants are honest and qualified, reducing your risk of negligent hiring liability.

Education Verification

Requesting education verification on your background checks for employment allows you to see the diplomas, certificates, and degrees earned by your applicants and the institutions they have attended. You will also see the dates they attended each educational institution.

Education verification reports allow you to confirm your candidates’ honesty and their qualifications for their jobs.

How Far Back Does a Background Check Go in Wisconsin?

The seven-year lookback period under the FCRA governs how far back an employment background check can go in Wisconsin. Certain types of negative information that is older than seven years will not be reported on a Wisconsin pre-employment background check.

The following types of information will not be reported if they are more than seven years old:

  • Arrests not leading to convictions
  • Civil lawsuits
  • Civil judgments
  • Paid tax liens
  • Collection accounts
  • Bankruptcies

There is a salary cap of $75,000 under the FCRA for reporting negative information that is older than seven years. The FCRA also does not restrict CRAs from reporting conviction records regardless of age.

Other types of information are not covered by the seven-year lookback period, including information about an applicant’s employment history, education, and credentials. You can see these types of information and rely on them no matter how old they might be.

How to Get a Background Check in Wisconsin

In Wisconsin, individuals and employers can submit requests for criminal history information by submitting them to the Wisconsin Department of Justice’s Wisconsin Online Record Check System. This system requires people to register for a user account and submit their applicants’ exact names, dates of birth, and Social Security numbers.

Individuals can challenge criminal history information that is returned on a state criminal history report by submitting a challenge together with a full set of fingerprints.

Employers who hire employees to work as caregivers must complete Wisconsin caregiver background checks with the Wisconsin Department of Health Services. These checks must be completed before hiring an applicant and every four years after an applicant is hired.

Going through the state for criminal history reports will not reveal other types of important information you need for hiring purposes. These reports might not show information about convictions and arrests in other jurisdictions and will not show information about your applicants’ employment, education, credentials, and other relevant data.

Some providers online also promise free Wisconsin employment background checks. However, you should not rely on these types of vendors for conducting pre-employment background checks.

Most vendors that promise free reports return outdated, inaccurate information that does not comply with the requirements of the FCRA. if you rely on this type of information, your company could be at risk of potential liability.

The best approach when conducting Wisconsin background checks for employment is to work with a full-service, reputable, FCRA-compliant pre-employment background check provider like iprospectcheck.

Remaining in compliance with all the applicable regulations and laws when completing Wisconsin background checks requires you to stay up to date with the laws as they change. You must also have extensive access to reliable and current information databases to gather the background information needed to make sound hiring decisions.

Working with a third-party employment background check company like iprospectcheck allows you to benefit from the extensive resources we use to complete FCRA-compliant, comprehensive, and current employment background checks in Wisconsin.

Our reports are up-to-date, comprehensive, and accurate, and we comply with the FCRA and all other relevant laws.

How Much Does a Background Check Cost in Wisconsin?

If you submit a request to the WORCs system in Wisconsin online, you will have to submit a fee of $10 per person to the Department of Justice. If you submit your requests by mail, the fee will be $15 per person.

However, these reports will return limited information and will not include information about convictions in other jurisdictions, employment information, educational attainment, credentials, and other relevant data.

If you try to complete a free Wisconsin background check through online vendors, the information you might receive should not be used for employment purposes. This type of information is frequently inaccurate and outdated, and it might not comply with the FCRA. This could expose you to lawsuits by your applicants.

Trying to submit requests on your own to multiple agencies, companies, and institutions can be time-consuming and costly.

It is a better idea to partner with a reliable and FCRA-compliant employment background check provider like iprospectcheck.

We offer customized Wisconsin employment background checks, allowing you to choose only the types of reports you need for your positions.

You can choose from several packages at different price points. We also offer a menu of clinical reports and services, including pre-employment drug tests.

If you will require 50 or more employment background checks each year, you can take advantage of the volume discounts we offer. Call iprospectcheck today to obtain a free quote.

How Long Does a Background Check Take in Wisconsin?

How long it might take for you to receive your background check reports for employment purposes will depend on how you choose to conduct your reports.

If you try to gather the information you need on your own by submitting requests to various state agencies, it might take a longer time for you to compile a comprehensive report for an individual applicant. This process could take several weeks to gather all the information you need.

Partnering with iprospectcheck can save you significant money and time. When you order pre-employment background checks from us, we can return the information you need in as little as a few hours.

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

For employers in Wisconsin, it is critical to conduct comprehensive, accurate, and up-to-date pre-employment background checks that fully comply with the FCRA and other relevant laws. To conduct these types of checks, you will have to have extensive access to all the relevant records for your candidates’ background information.

When you partner with iprospectcheck, you will benefit from our extensive resources and access to reliable information databases. Our employees understand how to quickly collect and analyze crucial background screening information for job applicants in Wisconsin.

We prioritize customer service and are USA-based. We never offshore our services, helping us to protect the privacy and confidentiality of our clients’ sensitive information. We are also available to answer your questions whenever they arise.

Contact iprospectcheck to receive a free, no-obligation consultation so that you can learn more about the 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.

Know Before You Hire

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.