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Can an employer conduct a background check before extending an offer of employment?

Federal law does not prohibit employers from conducting background checks before an offer of employment is made.

State laws, however, may have restrictions. Although in most states a standard background check can be conducted prior to an offer, a small number of states do not allow it. Other states may limit what type of information you may request before an offer is made, such as sealed or expunged records; arrests that did not lead to convictions; or even certain offenses or those of a certain age. In addition, many states have passed "ban-the-box" legislation, which prohibits employers from asking certain criminal history questions at various times during the interview and selection process.

In light of these restrictions, employers should consult with their attorney and their state labor departments to ensure they are in compliance with state law. This is particularly important for multistate employers that may not be able to have one policy for all locations. 


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