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I am filling out information for an employment background check through a third party agency called Orange Tree (I am located in Washington State). Their website says this:

How far back background check go depends on several factors, such as your company policy, state reporting limitations where the candidate works or where the employer is located, and the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). Most criminal background checks have a look back period of seven years.

The FCRA prohibits Consumer Reporting Agencies (CRAs) like Orange Tree from reporting the following:

Civil suits, civil judgments, and arrest records that antedate the report by more than seven years. Other criminal records that resulted in a conviction, any adverse information that predates the report by more than seven years. Some states have different reporting limitations than the FCRA, for instance they may limit reporting of convictions to seven years, limit reporting depending on the level of the offense, prohibit reporting of non-convictions, or limit reporting based on the expected salary of the new hire.

The bolded portion leads me to believe that they can only report criminal records they find within 7 years.

I am at a part in the background check that asks me to divulge "admitted offenses" that occurred within the last 10 years.

My questions are:

  1. What becomes of the records that I divulge that are more than 7 years, but less than 10 years old? Can they return them to my potential employer?

  2. If I divulge a particular arrest or incident in this section, but the background check fails to locate the official record, can they report the matter to my potential employer?

Also, this may require a question of its own, but - I pulled up my record through the Washington State Patrol to help answer the background check as accurately as possible and one incident has the date wrong entirely, and more than one incidents do not appear on the report entirely.

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Under certain conditions, it is illegal for a consumer reporting agency to include certain kinds of information in a report. The federal law is here and the Washington state version is here. You would need to check every nook and cranny to see if there is an exception. The only "exception" under either law regards bankruptcy where the allowed-reporting period is 10 years.

Nevertheless, if you volunteer other information e.g. an arrest that is 8 years old, they may believe that they are allowed to include that information. The plain language of the statute does not say that, but you might have to make a federal case of it if you report facts that they are not permitted to report (and they report that information). The law does not care what the source of the information is, it only states what information can and cannot be included in the report. It is a restriction on the report, and not on government agencies that might divulge information to the reporting agency.

As for reliability of WSP records, you are also afforded the opportunity to dispute the accuracy of claims, but forcing them to correct their records is a non-trivial task. It is allowed per RCW 43.43.730, and they even have a page of information on arrest records. You can fill out this form to request a correction.

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