How Far Can A California Employer Go With A Background Check? Requesting Medical and Criminal Records

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Denis ZilberbergJanuary 11, 2019Workplace Discrimination

It is no secret that employers in California have access to a wide range of personal information of their employees and job applicants. But how far can an employer go without crossing legal boundaries? Can employers inquire about their prospective employees’ medical records?

Our Los Angeles discrimination attorney from The Kaufman Law Firm is going to try to answer these questions. In California, it is a common practice for employers to make hiring and firing decisions based on the information discovered in the course of background checks.

However, what many employers – and even employees – do not realize is that California has strict background check laws that prohibit employers from accessing or inquiring into certain types of information about their employees and job applicants. These types of information include military and medical records.

Conducting background checks and oversharing on social media

Contrary to the popular belief, a California employer can legally request drug screenings and credit reports if he or she has the employee’s consent. But employers illegally accessing or inquiring into sensitive information about their employees and prospective employees is only half the problem.

“Job applicants sharing personal information through social media websites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram is the other half of the problem,” says our experienced discrimination attorney Los Angeles. As a rule of thumb, if you do not want to discuss certain types of information about yourself during a job interview, do not reveal it on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, because the information you share on social media is available to everyone, including your prospective employer who will surely be conducting background checks.

Restricted information during background checks

Certain types of information about a job applicant is restricted when an employer conducts a background check. California has some of the strictest laws for background checks.

  • Criminal records: In California, it is prohibited by law to inquire about a prospective employee’s criminal history unless a conditional offer of employment has been made to that employee. After the offer has been made, only then an employee has the right to ask a job applicant directly about whether or not he or she has been convicted of a crime or make any other inquiry about the applicant’s criminal records.
  • Military records: Under the federal Privacy Act, employers are prohibited from inquiring about a prospective employee’s military records.
  • Medical records: An employer may have the right to require a medical evaluation or physical examination only when such an evaluation is relevant to the prospective employee’s job duties. Otherwise, inquiring about a job applicant’s medical records is prohibited by law.
  • Credit reports: Generally, employers in California are not allowed to rely on a job applicant’s bankruptcy filings or other credit reports when making a hiring decision.
  • Workers’ compensation: Inquiring into whether or not you have previously obtained workers’ compensation may only be legal when requesting such records is relevant to the specific duties of the job.

These are not the only types of records inquired into by employers in the course of background checks. Other types of information include driving records, court records, personal references, drug tests, social security number, state licensing records, and many others.

Whether or not your employer has a legal right to inquire into these types of information during a pre-employment background check depends on your particular situation and the duties of the job you are applying for. Speak about your particular case with our Los Angeles discrimination lawyer from The Kaufman Law Firm. Call our offices at 310-981-3404 for a case evaluation.



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