Over the last few months, our clients have onboarded many young people for summer employment opportunities. Through these experiences, we’ve fielded a number of questions about running background checks on minors, ranging from “can I?” to “how to?”
Is it Legal?
Yes, it is legal to run a background check on a minor. However, the background screening process has a few "minor" (pun intended) differences from that of a background check on an adult.
Screening minors still requires the employer to follow the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). The difference, however, is in regard to the authorization and disclosure forms. Legally, minors are unable to enter into legally-binding agreements. The rationale is that minors do not have the maturity to understand a legally-binding document. Therefore, even if an employer obtains the minor’s consent to conduct a background check, the minor’s consent would not be enforceable in a court of law.
So, what should employers do? Well, employers will need to reach out to the minor’s parent or legal guardian. The parent or legal guardian will be able to provide legally-binding consent to the employer to conduct the background check.
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What Will I See on a Minor’s Background Check?
A common issue when conducting background checks on minors is the accessibility of information. There are laws in place to protect minors, and juvenile courts seal minor criminal records. Therefore, they will not release the minor’s criminal record, even with a public inquiry.
The exception is if the minor was convicted as an adult. In such circumstances, the records typically are not sealed and are likely to be open to public inquiry. Additionally, depending on the jurisdiction, state sex offender registry information will also be available for public inquiry. The amount of case information and detail, however, will vary.
Credit history on minors may be obtained; however, minors are typically unable to obtain credit until the age of 18. If they were able to obtain a loan, perhaps purchasing an item with a parental co-signer, the minor may have a brief credit history. Of course, as with adult background checks, state and city credit restrictions still apply.
Employment and Education
Past employment and education verifications should be available for minors. If a minor has worked or volunteered, this information should be easily verified through primary source verification. The process to verify employment and education is the same as it would be for an adult.
So, What’s Next?
Make a policy! Proper screening is an important part of your onboarding process – that shouldn’t change for minor employees. If you determine you want to conduct background checks on minor applicants, be sure you have a clear policy in place, keeping in mind the importance of obtaining legal consent. InCheck recommends that you work with your legal counsel to ensure your screening policies are consistent and compliant.
Disclaimer: This blog is for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice.