Modern technology makes it increasingly easy for employers to get the scoop on their prospective employees before hiring them. Background checks are common in many types of employment, and a legal requirement in some. States vary as to what information background checks can include, especially when it comes to arrests that do not result in convictions.
Any job seeker may be requested to consent to a background check. This procedure is essentially a private investigation arranged by the employer to learn about the prospective employee. Most background checks verify an individual's identity, education and qualifications. Depending on the job, the employer and the state you live in, your background check may also include any brushes you have had with the law.
Read More: How to Get Free Background Checks
Legality of Background Checks
The federal government does not prohibit prospective employers from seeking information about a job seeker's criminal past, and many do so. State laws can offer greater protections. While in some states, any job seeker can be asked about convictions, in other states a prospective employee can only be asked about convictions relevant to the job in question. Some states do not permit employers to ask about past arrests that did not result in convictions, and others set time limitations on the scope of the inquiry.
Assault and Battery
The words assault and battery often appear together as if they constituted one crime. However, each word describes a different crime. The crime of battery involves unauthorized physical contact causing harm or that is offensive. Battery is by definition intentional and the state must prove that the defendant intended to make the physical contact. Assault occurs when someone threatens to commit a battery. For example, raising a baseball bat in a threatening manner is an assault, whereas bringing it down on someone's head is a battery. Assault and battery charges against you can be included in background check reports in states that permit inclusion of arrests and criminal convictions.
Misdemeanors in Background Checks
Criminal charges are generally divided into the categories of felonies and misdemeanors. Although state definitions differ, felonies are more serious offenses while misdemeanors are less serious. In some states, an employer is allowed to ask about misdemeanor arrests and convictions as part of a job interview, and to obtain your criminal record as part of the background check.
- Nolo: Background Checks FAQ
- Nolo: State Laws on Use of Arrests and Convictions in Employment
- U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission: Pre-Employment Inquiries and Arrest & Conviction
- Criminal Defense Lawyer: Background Checks: Criminal Arrests Without Conviction
- Illinois Legal Aid: What Is the Difference Between Assault and Battery?
Teo Spengler earned a JD from U.C. Berkeley Law School. As an Assistant Attorney General in Juneau, she practiced before the Alaska Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court before opening a plaintiff's personal injury practice in San Francisco. She holds both an MA and an MFA in English/writing and enjoys writing legal blogs and articles. Her work has appeared in numerous online publications including USA Today, Legal Zoom, eHow Business, Livestrong, SF Gate, Go Banking Rates, Arizona Central, Houston Chronicle, Navy Federal Credit Union, Pearson, Quicken.com, TurboTax.com, and numerous attorney websites. Spengler splits her time between the French Basque Country and Northern California.