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California Background Checks

  • November 12, 2018
  • by ServeNow Staff
  • Articles

Background checks are an important tool in any private investigator’s arsenal. Individuals, businesses, and employers use background checks for a variety of reasons, but the core cause often lies with the need to uncover any incriminating evidence. However, personal data protection is taking precedent in laws across the globe, as evident in the General Data Protection Regulation Law in the European Union and the UK, and the right to privacy is mentioned in constitutions in numerous countries. While the GDPR has little effects on investigations in the United States, another rule in California is changing the way employers conduct background checks.

In Connor v. First Student, Inc., the Supreme Court of California ruled on August 20th, 2018 that employers must inform applicants/employees of their intent to conduct a background check and obtain consent from said person. While some employers were previously following the Consumer Credit Reporting Agencies Act (CCRA), they must now also follow the Investigative Consumer Reporting Agencies Act (ICRAA) in accordance with this recent ruling. Simply, complying with the CCRA does not negate an employer’s requirement to comply with the ICRAA, as the ruling states that the two acts do not render each other “vague.”

This unanimous ruling may have little effect for private investigators in California, as it is the duty of the employer to inform the applicant, rather than the person or agency performing the background check. However, if you regularly offer background checks to employers, it is beneficial to create a process to ensure that your client collected the appropriate permissions before starting your background check process. Doing so will ensure that your agency is not unexpectedly implicated in any process that may break California laws.

Investigators and employers, both inside and outside of California, should also keep the Federal Laws regarding background checks to ensure that they are compliant with all applicable laws.

Larger Implications

Regardless of where you conduct background checks or general investigations, this ruling shows trends that help support any concern regarding an individual’s privacy concerns. Employers, businesses, and persons seeking investigative reports will have to tread lightly to ensure that their requests for information are valid and legal. On the other hand, investigators need to be sure that their processes for collecting information are also legal. For instance, when surveilling a subject, be sure that you are collecting photographic, video, or audio evidence in accordance with state and federal laws.

Investigators must also bear in mind the right to privacy. The right to privacy, as mentioned in the 4th Amendment of the United States Constitution, is “the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated[…]”. While this law is most applicable to unlawful searches and seizures by the government itself, it can be interpreted to restrict investigators’ “search” for information. With the explosive revelation that the NSA was spying on US citizens and other countries, the right to privacy continues to be a subject that is carefully navigated. Investigators must be sure that they are not crossing the line into gray areas that exploit a person’s right to privacy, through both physical and digital information.

As an investigator, how do you make sure that your investigations are lawful and maintain an individual’s right to a certain amount of privacy? 


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