Tennessee State Laws on Employer Background Checks

Employers in Tennessee have several options for background searches on a prospective employee.
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Many employers insist on a background check before they hire a new worker. They want to ensure that the employee does not have a criminal background or any identifiable substance abuse problems. Employers in Tennessee have a variety of options that will allow them to conduct a background check on an applicant for employment.

Records Search

The Tennessee legislature allows any person to access public records in state, municipal or county offices unless those records have a specific exemption. Public offices must allow individuals to access public records during regular open office hours. Individuals may not expect that a public official will affect the search. Each local office that maintains records may charge a reasonable fee to individuals who wish to search the records database. Individuals may acess any records, in whatever form that the record exists, which connects with official business transacted by any governmental agency. Many records that an employer might use as a background check exist in the form of applications and court or police documents.

Non-Accessible Records in Archives

Employers may not access an applicant's medical records from a state, county or municipal hospital or medical facility, or the medical records of a person who receives medical treatment, at the state, county or municipality's expense. Employers can not access Tennessee Bureau of Investigation investigative records, records from the office of inspector general, records from criminal investigative files of the department of environment and conservation or the department of agriculture, records from criminal investigative files of the Department of Motor Vehicles, or applications for handgun carrying permits. Employers can, however, find many of these records through online searches. Employers may not access public educational institutions' records regarding a student and they may not access an applicant's military records.

State or Federal Positions

A state or federal employer can turn to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation to ask for a background check of employees. The employer may request that the employee provide personal references and supply fingerprint samples for submission to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation or the Federal Bureau of Investigation for a criminal records check. The employer may also request that the applicant release information that will allow a state licensed private investigation company to conduct a private investigation check of the individual who has applied for a State or Federal position.


The employer must incur all costs related to the investigation of an applicant's background.

Online Searches or Private Investigators

Employers may turn to a state licensed private investigation company or an Internet search company for an online search of public records that will provide information about the applicant's arrest warrants and criminal history records. Many Internet people search companies offer this service for a fee (see resources). Employers can also see if the applicant has a history of bankruptcy, drunk driving or has ever been identified as a sex offender.

Read More: What Kind of Records Can a Private Investigator Obtain?