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While the nation’s unemployment rate has been skyrocketing in recent years, Pennsylvania has enjoyed its lowest unemployment rate (currently 4.2%) since June of 2000. There’s a good reason for this healthy standing in Pennsylvania’s workforce. Most notably, PA has some of the most plentiful job opportunities in the education and health services industries, with transportation and utility industries ranking second in Pennsylvania’s job market.
Because Pennsylvania holds so much promise for employment, more and more workers are migrating to the Keystone state to seek ideal jobs. Consequently, if you are an employer, hiring manager, or volunteer administrator in PA, you have a largesse of choices when selecting qualified workers.
But which candidate is the right fit for your vacancy? That’s a question that can only be answered by a comprehensive Pennsylvania background check. As an employer in PA, a background check is crucial in hiring trustworthy, qualified workers in Pennsylvania. To prove this point, please read further for more information about Pennsylvania background check requirements, laws, and why this pre-hire step is critical for the success of your organization.
What is a Background Check?
A Pennsylvania background check is valuable for both company employees and potential employees because it can help to uncover a person’s past attributes or blemishes. Companies will often use a background check to confirm a person’s validity when trying to make informed decisions about hiring them, such as for a new job.
PreSearch is an accredited and FCRA-compliant background screener. If you are an employer, hiring manager, or volunteer administrator, you can trust our accurate and thorough background screening services so that you can make informed hiring and employment decisions.
Are Background Checks Necessary?
Not only are background checks necessary, but they are also essential to getting the information you need to hire the right candidate. If you think about it, you know very little about a candidate outside of what is presented on his or her resume or application. Considering this, it becomes painfully clear that gathering more data and history is key to your business’s success and peace of mind.
Now consider this: Up to 75% of employees have been known to commit theft while on the job, according to the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners. This equates to over $50 billion dollars in business losses each year.
Faced with these staggering statistics, your business or organization can’t afford to take chances when hiring new employees. This is why extensive pre-screenings and a Pennsylvania criminal background check are necessary for your organization’s success.
How to Get a Criminal Background Check in Pennsylvania
As we’ve already discussed, conducting a background check in Pennsylvania is essential when screening the best candidate for your organization. It’s also important to adhere to federal and Pennsylvania background check laws when conducting pre-screen checks.
The first thing you’ll want to do is ensure that your company has a background screening policy in place. This will ensure a uniform process and make sure everyone in your company is legally screened.
Once you have your background screening policy in place, you can choose third-party services for background checks to partner with for all of your screening needs, such as PreSearch. This will ensure the process is easy and straightforward for you.
If you should happen to do your own background check, there are a few different methods. A common way to gain background data is to use an online service that can get information from the Department of State and Social Security Administration.
In Pennsylvania, the PSP (Pennsylvania State Police) is in charge of maintaining a central repository of criminal records information, which they provide through their website and through mail requests using their proprietary Pennsylvania Access to Criminal History database (known as PATCH).
If you get a PSP criminal records check, there will be some information missing. The criminal records repository doesn’t include sensitive information shared by other state agencies, and it doesn’t contain out-of-state conviction history or federal offenses. If you choose the PSP records search, your information will not contain an applicant’s education or work background–it only includes their arrest history.
If you’re looking for background checks in Pennsylvania, it’s important to ensure that you vet your options so you don’t get scammed. You may come across free services, but many of these so-called “free” services do not always follow the FCRA and state laws before relinquishing your information (and money).
Moreover, these online background check services frequently fall short when delivering accurate, thorough, reliable information on your candidates. Therefore, if you’re wondering how to get a background check in Pennsylvania, your best solution is to use a legitimate, trusted service such as PreSearch.
Finding the right employees for your company can be difficult when you depend on unreliable sources that provide incomplete background information. With PreSearch, you can rest assured that the information we provide is current, accurate, and obtained by legal means. Our pre-employment background checks include conviction records from other states, the federal government, and within the state of Pennsylvania.
At PreSearch, we make it easy to verify your applicant’s employment history, educational qualifications, and background checks. We understand how important it is to comply with the law during this process, which is why our background check packages offer fully compliant Pennsylvania background checks at competitive rates with a quick turnaround time.
Please visit our service page for a full list of our offerings
Pennsylvania Background Check Laws
Getting up-to-date information on your candidate is one thing. Gathering this information in accordance with state, county, and federal laws is quite another issue altogether. To explain, if a background check is conducted without complying with laws and regulations – your company could be exposed to lawsuits, litigation, penalties, fines, or worse. To protect yourself from these costly and potentially devastating consequences, here are a few Pennsylvania background check laws of which to be aware.
Federal Background Check Laws
Conducting a background check for an employee can be complicated. One of the most important tasks is understanding federal laws regarding background checks. These are extensive and can be complex, so we’ve broken down a few of the most common federal background check laws for you here.
Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA)
The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) was enacted in 1970 to protect consumers, including allowing them to dispute any inaccuracies on their credit reports. The FCRA is also the regulation that requires employers to carry out a pre-employment background check on an applicant or employee and allow them to review the results if an adverse action is taken, such as denying a person’s employment. The FCRA’s key concept is that it doesn’t necessarily impact whether an employee background check is allowable; rather, it regulates how such checks must be carried out.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act 1964
Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (also known as “Title VII”), it is against the law to discriminate against candidates based on their religion, color, national origin, sex (including pregnancy, sexual orientation or an individual’s gender identity), or ethnicity. Furthermore, the Act prohibits an employer from retaliating against any candidate or employee who lodges a complaint about discrimination on the job, files a complaint with the government, or takes part in an employment discrimination lawsuit or investigation.
Federal Ban-the-Box Restrictions
Also known as the Fair Chance to Compete for Jobs Act (or FCA), the “ban the box” law was made effective by the federal government in December of 2021. As of this date, it’s now prohibited for certain federal employers and contractors to ask about an applicant’s criminal history before a job offer is extended. This includes agencies from the executive, judicial, and legislative branches of the US government, as well as those who work in civil service or defense. If you employ federal workers or are looking to hire someone, make sure your process complies with the new law by examining your job applications and interviewing policies.
The Fair Chance Act was enacted to give candidates who may have been incarcerated in the past a fair chance to compete for federal jobs. According to the Office of Congressional Workplace Rights, this act does not “remove access to criminal history information about an applicant for employment; rather, the purpose is to move that information to the end of the process” so those with criminal histories can get a fair shot at being employed by the federal government.
In other words, under the FCRA, federal employers and contractors cannot ask about arrests, indictments, formal criminal charges, sentencing, or sealed or expunged records on an application form or during the interview process.
State Background Check Laws
As you might expect, conducting a proper Pennsylvania background check requires employers to follow the state laws, which are plentiful and frequently changing. It’s important to stay current on state laws while conducting pre-screening on candidates to avoid penalties or litigation. With this in mind, here are a few established as well as new PA laws for background checks.
House Bill 764
This is a new background check law in Pennsylvania, and it is meant to level the playing field for PA employers. House Bill 764 works by removing a double standard in hiring practices for state-licensed and non-licensed businesses employing minors.
According to the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Brett Miller (Republican-East Hempfield), “Employers across Pennsylvania are already struggling to find enough people to hire,” said Miller. “Those offering seasonal employment to minors are being hit doubly hard by this legislation. This new law would significantly help employers and public agencies who are looking for workers, giving them access to a wider variety of potential hires. It’s also a good way for college students and teens to get their foot in the door.”
Clean Slate Law in Pennsylvania
This law is designed to take care of concerns not just for Pennsylvania residents but also for those with an interest in the state. Passed in 2018, the law automatically seals information on criminal convictions or misdemeanors ten years old or over. That is, as long as any court orders of restitution have been met. This means any arrests or convictions can’t show up on Pennsylvania background checks or be used for hiring decisions.
Besides statewide laws, many Pennsylvania municipalities and counties have adopted their own fair hiring ordinances. These restrictions on background checks can create confusion for employers who operate in multiple locations around the state or who employ remote employees all across the Commonwealth. If an employer is unsure about the most stringent law in a particular area, they should comply with that requirement.
Criminal History Record Information Act, 18 Pa.
Pennsylvania’s Criminal History Record Information Act states that employers may only use an employee’s previous criminal history for certain purposes in deciding whether or not to hire the applicant. Felony and misdemeanor convictions may only be considered by the employer if they relate to the job for which the candidate is applying. If an employer does make a hiring decision based on part or all of an employee’s criminal history, then it must notify the candidate in writing if that decision not to hire has been made because of anything related to the candidate’s criminal history.
If an employer violates the Criminal History Record Information Act or violates a pre-hire’s rights, the candidate can file a civil suit to recover damages. These would include all actual and consequential damages of not less than $100 for each violation, punitive damages of not less than $1,000 and not more than $10,000 if the action was found to be willful, and reasonable costs of litigation and court fees.
Local Laws for Background Checks in Pennsylvania State
Depending upon where you are hiring in the state of Pennsylvania, you may need to adhere to specific local laws when conducting background checks. Most notably, employers in Philadelphia should pay heed to the Philadelphia Code 9-1130.
The Philadelphia Code 9-1130 is a credit check ordinance that became legally binding at the beginning of July 2016. The amendment to Rule 9-100 of the Philadelphia Code creates a new layer of protection, in the form of the Fair Practices Ordinance, for citizens against lending discrimination.
Since its inception, Philadelphia Code 9-1130 has gone through some adjustments and amendments that PA employers must be aware of. One such amendment that addresses the employer’s requirement to complete a credit check has already affected some agencies and financial institutions. This amendment expands the scope of 9-1130, Chapter 11 in the Philadelphia Code. In particular, law enforcement agencies and financial institutions are no longer exempt from the law’s restrictions. In other words, these entities may not rely on credit information for employment decisions related to job applicants or employees.
Due to recent changes, employers in Philadelphia are now required by law to conduct credit checks on all new job seekers. Additionally, the amendment includes law enforcement agencies and financial institutions as potential consequences for noncompliance. To make sure that your business meets the requirements of the amended ordinance, review your existing policies and practices to ensure compliance with this revised code.
What Shows Up on a Background Check in Pennsylvania?
As an employer, you might be asking yourself, “What does a PA criminal background show?” The answer to that question depends upon what types of information your organization requires in order to fill a particular position. For instance, you should run a background check with the Department of Transportation if your potential employee’s job functions involve driving a company vehicle or making deliveries. You may also want to run a background check for trusted employees who may potentially be working with vulnerable segments of the population such as the elderly or children.
At the most basic, background information should include identity verification so you, as the employer, can confirm the applicant is who he or she says they are. You should also obtain past employment verification as well as a review and confirmation of past education (including degrees, diplomas, certifications, etc).
Additionally, criminal records are a part of the candidate process. With PreSearch you will be able to collect, review and verify criminal records for peace of mind. Our Pennsylvania criminal background check will reveal crucial information such as:
- Criminal Convictions
- Pending Criminal Cases
- History of Incarcerations
Pennsylvania Background Check Requirements
When conducting background checks in the Keystone state, employers are allowed to inquire about some information in order to verify identity. Employers may also review a candidate’s past education and employment history. However, there are certain details an employer in PA cannot inquire about or use in its judgment to hire or decline a position to a candidate.
For instance, PA employers can’t use disability tests to evaluate new applicants unless the test is directly related to the job. Furthermore, many districts may not approve of conducting genetic tests on their employees. However, Pennsylvania doesn’t have any laws related to the use of genetic information that are different from federal law.
If a Pennsylvania background check reveals that an individual has a medical cannabis card, it can’t be used to discriminate against them when looking for work. Under Philadelphia Code Chapter 9-4700, non-exempt businesses may not base their judgment to hire or withdraw an offer of employment based on a pre-employment marijuana test. However, Certain employers are exempt from this. Employers for law enforcement agencies or those who provide services to vulnerable groups of people are exempt from using marijuana testing results as a basis for hiring or refusing work to candidates. Those who have commercial driver’s licenses are also exempt, as are those with positions that would affect the safety and health of the public or other employees. Other exemptions may apply based on state or federal laws.
If you are an employer for a school or educational institution, Pennsylvania requires you to conduct a child abuse history check through the PA Dept. of Human Services. A criminal records check with the PA State Police is also mandatory, as well as a federal criminal history check when hiring candidates in an educational institution.
How Far Back do Pennsylvania Background Checks Go?
There is a standard lookback period according to the 7 year FCRA, Pennsylvania employers often adhere to. This means that the most common length of time employers can look back into a candidate’s history is seven years. If the salary for a particular position is at least 75,000 dollars or more, the FCRA restrictions do not apply. For these positions, the background report can go back to ten years. The FCRA guidelines don’t restrict convictions by dated time frames. Furthermore, regardless of when a conviction took place, all convictions can be reported (even if they occurred prior to the seven-year lookback standard).
All that said – under state law, there are no limitations on how far back Pennsylvania employers can probe for convictions, and a conviction for any offense (no matter how long ago) may be considered when making the hiring decision. However, Pennsylvania Clean Slate law blocks public access to information for most misdemeanor criminal convictions more than ten years old and arrests that didn’t lead to a conviction. This means that these incidents should not appear in background check results or be considered in your hiring decisions.
How Much Do Background Checks Typically Cost in Pennsylvania?
If you opt to go the DIY (do it yourself) route, you can expect to pay the Pennsylvania State Police $22 per each Pennsylvania criminal background check report. Bear in mind that you will only receive criminal history for the state of Pennsylvania when you pay for this report. You will not receive criminal histories in different states. Furthermore, you will not receive basic information such as educational or employment background verification.
You should also factor in the man hour cost involved when conducting a DIY Pennsylvania background check. Very often, gathering all the information and contacting various different departments and organizations can be overwhelming and can cost a lot of money in terms of salaries for workers hunting down and organizing this information. That is why PreSearch is the ideal solution. We offer affordable packages and provide you with the exact information you need promptly so you can get the most value.
*a select number of states charge an additional, mandatory, county court fee in addition to our standard service fee.
Please reach out if you would like a quote for background screening services.
How Long Does a Background Check Take in Pennsylvania
Results can take up to four weeks when obtaining criminal background check information from the Pennsylvania State Police. That is a tremendous amount of time if you are strapped to get the right person for a vital vacancy within your business. However, when you partner with PreSearch, you can expect quick background check service with speedy, same-day results, and sometimes we can provide you with your background check information within a few hours.
PreSearch Is Here to Help
As you can clearly see, there are a bewildering amount of details when it comes to procuring a Pennsylvania background check. From waiting for bureaucratic facilities to deliver criminal history on your candidate to priceless man hours wasted on following up on details regarding your pre-hire, conducting a background check on your own can be harrowing and costly.
Moreover, you must ensure that you are compliant with state, local, and federal laws and regulations in order to avoid expensive setbacks when conducting background checks.
With all of this in mind, the solution is clear. PreSearch provides you with accurate, comprehensive information for your pre-hires, and we do it in full compliance with the laws. We make conducting background checks on your candidates effortless and easy. When it comes to background check services in the state of Pennsylvania, you can’t afford to take chances. Contact PreSearch today, and let us prove how we can streamline your pre-hire process and get you the valuable data you need to hire the best candidate for your organization.
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