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California Background Check Laws: What Employers Need to Know

When you're screening job applicants, it's important to exclude potential hires who would pose a risk to your company and its employees. If a potential hire is disqualified from working for your company for any reason, it's best to know as much about California's background check requirements as possible.

This article covers the basics of California's background check laws, including the types of employers and positions subject to the background check requirement, the scope of a background check, and the process for submitting a request for a background check.

This article also covers the exemptions to the background check requirement, the cost of a background check, and the penalties for a false statement on a background check. If you want to avoid the hassle and potential risks of a potential hire, you should read this article and learn about your options.

What Types of Employers are Subject to Background Checks in California?

Any employer that hires employees in California is subject to background check requirements. This includes any business that hires employees, such as an employer that only has workers who are independent contractors.

Any person who has control or supervision over the hiring, firing, or any other aspect of employee management is responsible for ensuring that the employees are free of convicted felonies and have passed a federally compliant background check.

If you have employees who work remotely, as of January 1, 2020, you will also need to verify their identity using a photo ID and the last four digits of their Social Security number.

What Types of Positions are Subject to Background Checks in California?

All new or renewed security (felony- or misdemeanor-level) and key management positions are subject to a background check. This includes positions such as:

  • Security Guard

  • Dialysis Technician

  • Home Health Aide

  • Personal Care Aide

  • childcare provider

  • Food handler

  • Housekeeper

  • Janitor

  • Locksmith

  • Animal control

  • Law enforcement

  • Firefighter

  • Nuclear physicist

  • Mental health

  • Social worker

  • Therapist

  • Counselor

  • Correctional officer

  • Foster care

  • House painter

  • Taxi or limousine driver

  • Parking enforcement

  • Animal control officer

  • Social services

  • Probation/parole/supervision officer

  • Correctional officer

How Far Back Does a Background Check Go in California?

California law allows employers to perform background checks that go as far back as 7 years for certain types of positions. Non-convictions, such as cases that were dropped, dismissed or nolle prosse cannot be used to make a hiring decision.

What is the Process for Requesting a Background Check in California?

The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) administers the state's background check program. As of January 1, 2020, employers must begin conducting background checks for new hires within 72 hours of making a job offer.

To initiate a background check, employers must submit a written request to DFEH. The employer must include:

  • The position for which they are requesting a background check

  • The name, address, and telephone number of the hiring person

  • The date of the hiring process

  • A list of all job titles and descriptions for the position

  • The salary for the position

  • The type of check being requested: criminal, sex, or both

  • The anticipated start date for the new hire.

Can an employer ask a potential employee to complete a background check before making an offer?

Yes. As of January 1, 2020, employers can require potential employees to submit a written request for a background check before making an offer of employment. Global Background Screening makes it easy for potential employees to complete a background check on themselves on the Self Screen Background Check Portal

Can you conduct a Social Media Background Check in California?

Yes, you can conduct a social media background check in California on employees as long as the applicant is provided his summary of rights under the FCRA, offered a copy of his background check result, and is provided an authorization form that states this may be run on their background check.

A compliant background check company will make sure this is covered. Global Background Screening has the most robust social media background check in the market. W can easily screen for violence, bullying, images, videos, sexual deviance, political, drug related posts and likes for up to 7 years on platforms: Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Reddit, Pinterest, Linkedin and Twitter. In addition, if you're needing industry specific keywords, we can easily add that as well on our social media screening tool.

Exceptions to the California Background Check Requirement

The following individuals are not required to submit to a background check before applying for employment:

  • Applicants who are current, former, or acting employees of the California Legislature

  • Applicants who work for a public interest law firm

  • Applicants who work for a public entity

  • Applicants who work for a school district (regardless of whether they are employed by a private or public school)

  • Applicants who are members of the clergy

  • Applicants who work for an educational organization (regardless of whether the organization is nonprofit or for-profit)

  • Applicants who work for a business owned by the applicant's spouse or parent

  • Applicants who work for a business owned by the applicant

  • Applicants who are seeking employment with an employer that has fewer than five employees

  • Applicants who work for an employer that is located outside of California


When it comes to a background screening company, there are California laws that consumer reporting agencies must abide by as well. That is why it's important to hire a trustworthy, high-rated screening company like Global Background Screening. Contact us if you have any questions!