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With its year-round balmy temperatures, thriving arts and culture scene, and relatively inexpensive cost of living – Florida is a big attraction for both employers and job-seekers alike. But not everything is sunshine and oranges in Florida. Recent statistics indicate that roughly 75% of small businesses have been the target of employee theft, leading to multi-millions in losses for Florida businesses each year. In fact, over 25% of Florida businesses admit that employee dishonesty in the form of theft, embezzlement, or identity theft has been a direct cause of bankruptcy or business closings.
In light of these sobering statistics, it’s clear that obtaining a Florida background check on each of your pre-hires is critical in avoiding losses and hiring trustworthy workers. If you are an employer in Florida, you cannot leave your pre-screening process to chance because there is too much at stake. Furthermore, you should conduct background checks according to state and federal regulations to avoid further costly fines or penalties.
As an employer, hiring manager, or volunteer administrator, a Florida background check for employment is your first, best action in protecting your organization and ensuring the best results in your operations. At PreSearch, we conduct background checks in all 50 states, and we have witnessed time and again how vital this preliminary information is to the success of hiring businesses. To underscore the importance of this point, this article addresses what you should know when conducting a background check in the Sunshine State.
How PreSearch Can Help With Your Background Checks
Pre-hire and regular background checks are essential for protecting your business. Moreover, pre-employment background checks should comply with any and all laws that are in place. In our efforts to be compliant, we keep a close eye on the laws that govern background checks. Our staff undergoes training to learn how to find the right information for our clients.
We know you want to get started with your hiring process as quickly as possible. This is why we’re committed to being at the forefront of technology and customer services so you can rest assured you are getting the best possible background check services available. With our latest applicant screening solutions, we can give you all the information you need so that onboarding is a snap.
Contact us today so we can show you how effortless and time-saving we can make your pre-hiring process and learn how we can help you hire the best candidates for your business success.
What Are Background Checks?
Background checks are exactly what you might expect them to be – they are a method of determining whether or not an individual applying for a position is who they say they are. A Florida background check is meant to uncover details about an applicant to verify his or her identity as well as confirm employment and education history. Criminal background checks in Florida are also helpful in determining if a candidate has had run-ins with the law that may interfere with his or her work performance on the job should they be hired.
Why Are Background Checks Important?
No matter if you are running a corner ice cream shop or managing a multi-million dollar tech company in Florida – you need to know what kind of employees are working for you. When you consider that your employees are the nuts and bolts of your business or volunteer organization, then it becomes obvious that hiring the best quality individuals is crucial. That’s where background checks are invaluable.
A comprehensive, accurate background check can give you the confirmation required to ensure you are hiring the right person for the job. In today’s world, trusting one’s word and a handshake simply doesn’t pass muster when it comes to hiring quality employees. As an employer in Florida, a background check is a necessity to determine a candidate’s qualifications, trustworthiness, and viability as an employee within your organization.
How To Get a Criminal Background Check in Florida
There are two ways employers can perform a background check in Florida. One way is by conducting the check themselves, while the other is to work with a third-party company like PreSearch.
Here at PreSearch, we offer a service that allows you to research background information about people you are considering for hire. This can be something as simple as accessing criminal background checks in Florida, or it could involve more thorough investigations. In any case, PreSearch conducts pre-screening reports in adherence with federal and Florida background check laws so you can get the information you need quickly, easily, and lawfully.
Employers sometimes opt to conduct Florida background checks themselves. If so, they commonly start by requesting an applicant’s criminal records from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and checking for sex offenders in the state. Employers may also reach out to an applicant’s past employers and educational institutions to confirm past work and education history.
Employers may also be tempted to go online to find information about candidates. This can be tricky business for employers because finding information online may not comply with state and federal laws. For instance, if your self-conducted search uncovers negative information on an applicant that could be used to make an adverse employment decision, Florida employers are not permitted to use this information. If this data was collected in error or illegally, the information must be erased, and the individual notified of its erasure.
An employer-conducted background check is not a replacement for a licensed, fingerprint-based report. Additionally, a do-it-yourself background check can take a very long time to complete. And once all that information is gathered and received, you may find most of the information is incorrect, out-of-date, or inaccurate.
A significant issue with do-it-yourself employment background checks is that it’s difficult to get accurate information in a timely manner, as sometimes it can take days or weeks to speak to an employee’s former employer or obtain state-issued criminal history reports. PreSearch is fully experienced at providing accurate, FCRA-compliant, and up-to-date employment background checks, so you know the results you’re getting are done right.
Therefore, to complete FCRA-compliant background checks, it is recommended that you work with a reliable background check company like PreSearch. We research thoroughly and leverage our access to reliable databases to quickly produce background checks for clients.
With PreSearch, you can pick the types of information that you need in a background check that complies with the FCRA and other important state and local laws.
Florida Background Check Laws
As mentioned, hiring managers, employers, and volunteer administrators must abide by state and federal laws when conducting background checks in the state of Florida. Here are some of the most pressing state and federal laws all hiring entities should be familiar with when conducting legal background checks on pre-hires.
Federal Background Check Laws
- Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA)
The Fair Credit Reporting Act was proposed in 1969 to protect consumers. The Act gives consumers the right and ability to dispute incorrect data on their credit reports. The FCRA also regulates how employers can carry out background checks on applicants or employees, and how they can view results. The Fair Credit Reporting Act also oversees how employers gather information, what types of credit information can be obtained, and how employers are permitted to use this information in the pre-hire process. Another key concept of the FCRA is that it doesn’t stop employers from carrying out background checks; rather, they must follow its guidelines when doing so.
- Title VII of the Civil Rights Act 1964
The Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is a law against discrimination in hiring. The law prohibits discriminating on the basis of religion, color, national origin, sex (including pregnancy), ethnicity, or nationality. When an employee makes a complaint about discrimination in their workplace or participates in an employment discrimination lawsuit or investigation, the employer cannot retaliate.
- Federal Ban-the-Box Restrictions
The federal Ban the Box law is also known as the Fair Chance to Compete for Jobs Act. It was created by the federal government that forbids employers and contractors from asking about potential employees’ criminal histories on their job applications before they have been offered a position. As of December 2020, this means that employers and contractors may not ask about an applicant’s criminal history before they’ve been offered a job. The Fair Chance Act was put into play so that qualified candidates with past incarcerations have a fair shot at obtaining federal job positions. The act does not “remove criminal history information about the applicant considered for employment. Rather, it moves this information to the end of the process so that a candidate may have a better chance of being hired by the federal government,” according to the Office of Congressional Workplace Rights. In short, Federal employers and contractors may not inquire candidates about indictments, sentencing, sealed or expunged records, arrests or criminal charges on pre-hire paperwork (such as an application) before a formal interview has been scheduled.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is dedicated to enforcing the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and other legislation as it relates to EEO discrimination in workplaces. The U.S. Department of Labor also has two organizations that enforce some EEO policies, the Civil Rights Center and the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP). It is important for employers and hiring managers to comply with EEO regulations and policies to avoid fines, penalties, and legal action from the federal government.
State Background Check Laws
Now that we’ve discussed the main federal laws to consider when conducting a Florida background check, let’s take a look at some critical state laws all employers must familiarize themselves with.
- 112.011, Fla. Stat. (2021) – Disqualification of Public Employees Based on Criminal Convictions
This state law says that a criminal conviction does not automatically disqualify candidates from future employment, but there are a few situations where an applicant can be denied employment for having a low-level criminal conviction. However, if a candidate applies for a job in the public sector with a felony or first-degree misdemeanor conviction on his or her record that relates to that position, then the candidate can be denied employment by the employer.
- 775.16, Fla. Stat (2021) – Applicants for Public Employment with Certain Drug Offenses
Under Florida State law, §775.16 (21) prohibits people convicted of felony drug trafficking or sales from working at state agencies. However, if a person completes all the terms and conditions of their sentence and completes state-approved drug rehabilitation programs, they can potentially overcome this disqualification.
- Ban-the-Box Laws in Florida
Florida is one of nineteen states without a statewide ban-the-box law. However, there are communities in FL that have passed local ban-the-box laws. For instance, the City of Lakeland has passed a ban-the-box law that prohibits city employers from including conviction information on their applications for employment. Numerous cities in Florida have passed laws to ban-the-box for public sector employees, including Gainesville, Tallahassee, Jacksonville, Sarasota, Orlando, and Tampa.
- Miya’s Law
In response to the devastating murder of a 19-year-old student by an apartment complex worker in 2021, Florida passed Miya’s Law. Miya’s Law states that property managers of unsound apartments with transient and non-transient residents should be liable for stricter liability when it comes to rental housing violations. Miya’s law also places stricter regulations on hiring practices for housing property employers and managers.
- Does Florida Follow the 7 Year Rule?
Yes. Florida background check records may comply with the FCRA 7 year rule, which states that certain records of criminal activity must not be accessed past seven years. Therefore, criminal records older than seven years may not be used or evaluated in the pre-hire process. However, there are caveats. Please see the limitations section below.
- Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA)
Before 1998, the FCRA prohibited consumer reporting agencies (CRAs) from reporting any criminal convictions more than seven years old. However, today, there are instances in which this restriction does not apply. For instance, FCRA 7 year time restrictions do not apply to background investigation on a candidate’s past education or employment history, and this information can be accessed as far back as the employer deems suitable.
- In addition to the FCRA 7 year rule, Florida employers must ensure all credit information is accurate when consulting credit reports on applicants. To explain, when the FCRA was created, it required businesses to ensure that consumers were protected from false information, identity theft, and compromises in privacy. Therefore, if the report proves false during a dispute, both parties must receive written notice.
- Under FCRA laws, credit reporting agencies are not allowed to report information on arrests that did not result in a conviction. This includes all arrest records more than seven years old. Employers also cannot use this type of information as the basis for making adverse employment decisions.
- Also, if an employee stands to earn more than $75,000 a credit reporting agency may report any activity that may have taken place before the 7 year lookback period.
There can be dire consequences when employers or background check services fail to comply with the FCRA. Failure to comply could result in an applicant filing legal claims against an employer, which could lead to hefty fines and penalties.
Types of Background Checks in Florida
There are different levels of background checks in Florida, and these levels are as follows:
- Level 1 Checks: Level one checks are name-based and state-only background checks. This is a preliminary check that assesses a candidate’s employment and education history in the state of Florida. This check also reviews whether or not an applicant may be listed on the national sex offender registry. In some instances, level one checks may dive into credit scores and a local Florida criminal records search.
- Level 2 Checks: A Level two Check requires the applicants to have their fingerprints processed. Level two checks are comprehensive background checks conducted by the FBI and/or Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE). If an applicant has any incidents on their record that would prohibit them from owning firearms or impede work performance, an employer may have grounds to refuse employment after these checks are complete.
- Level 3 Background Checks: Florida does not require level three background checks. Nevertheless, some employers consider a background check from the FDLE as a level three type of check.
What Information Does a Florida Background Check Contain
The information you will receive on a Florida background check largely depends upon what types of information you require from the applicant as well as what data you need in terms of the position for which you are hiring.
For instance, if you are hiring an individual who will be working in a sensitive environment among vulnerable segments of the population (such as eldercare, medical industry, or childcare) you should get a thorough background check for trusted employees which dives more deeply into an applicant’s background.
At the very least, a background check should verify an applicant’s identity and confirm his or her employment history as well as education experience (including verification of earned diplomas, certifications, and/or degrees).
Many employers benefit from conducting criminal background checks in Florida which will reveal if an applicant has a criminal history. To further ensure a comprehensive understanding of an applicant, employers may also want to obtain nationwide and international criminal history background checks which will indicate if a pre-hire has committed a crime(s) in other locations outside of the state of Florida.
How Far Back Do Background Checks Go in Florida
How far back do background checks go in Florida depends upon certain criteria. As mentioned earlier, most background checks look into criminal and credit history only 7 years prior to applying for a position according to FCRA guidelines. However, education and employment history lookbacks can go beyond the 7 year standard. Furthermore, employers may also search beyond the 7 year mark for certain positions such as federal, government, or high-earning positions ($75,000 or more per year).
How Much Does a Background Check Cost in Florida?
As an employer, you can conduct a criminal history report from the FDLE ( Florida Department of Law Enforcement) This will cost $24 per individual report. Bear in mind this state-generated criminal report will not reveal all the other types of background information that might be relevant to your applicant’s situation.
Some employers might be tempted to try out so-called “free” background check report services online. This is ill-advised because not every website claiming to offer a free Florida background check is legitimate. You should avoid these providers, as they often provide inaccurate information or incomplete searches. Relying on this type of information when making hiring decisions could open you up to liability.
With PreSearch, we offer several different packages and add-ons depending on your needs. No matter what you need, our customization options can help you get the information you need on your candidates, and we gather all our information within compliance with all state and federal laws.
*a select number of states charge an additional, mandatory, county court fee in addition to our standard service fee.
How Long Does it Typically Take to Complete a Background Check?
How quickly you get your pre-employment background checks depends on how you complete them. For instance, when searching for criminal history information, a state-level search would take around seven days or longer. If you DIY your background checks, it can take several weeks to contact local organizations such as education institutions, employment references, and more. Moreover, it can be extremely time-consuming to verify, double-check, and organize a background check on your own.
A far more efficient and expedient solution is to use a fast background check service such as PreSearch. We offer in-depth background checks that are quick and accurate. We collect as much information as possible, and there will also be a detailed report reviewing everything our background check revealed. In many cases, our turnaround time can be same-day.
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