Guide to Georgia Background Checks

Danielle Hubein
May 12, 2023
7 min read

Before hiring a new employee, Georgia employers can use background checks to learn more about an applicant’s history and qualifications. However, navigating federal, state, and local laws can be tricky. Here’s what you need to know about how to run a Georgia background check for employment, including types of reports, how long they take, and the laws that may apply.

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What is a Georgia background check?

A Georgia background check may be used by employers to verify candidate or volunteer qualifications during the hiring process. There are many different types of background checks in GA, which can be conducted directly by an employer or with the help of a trusted consumer reporting agency (CRA), like Checkr.

The process typically involves gathering and reviewing information for a variety of sources, including public records. Reports may include information about a candidate’s criminal records, employment and education history, or professional licensing. driving records, or credit history, for certain types of roles. In some cases, an employment background check may also be required by law. In Georgia, for example, employees and volunteers at long-term care homes are required by state and national laws to undergo fingerprint-based criminal record checks.

Employers who choose to run a Georgia background check for employment must be sure to stay compliant with all federal, state, and local background check laws.

What shows up on a Georgia background check?

Here is a closer look at what information may show up on the different types of Georgia background screening:

  • Criminal background checks may search federal, state, or county records for information about a candidate’s criminal history, including felony and misdemeanor convictions.
  • Driving record (MVR) checks search Georgia state motor vehicle records for driving history, such as license status, types of licenses held, accidents and moving violations, plus any vehicle-related convictions like a DUI.
  • Employment verification validates a candidate’s work history, including previous employers, positions held, and length of employment.
  • Education verification confirms a candidate’s academic background, including schools attended, degrees earned, and attendance dates.
  • Civil searches search for a candidate’s civil court records, including lawsuits, judgements, liens, and restraining orders.
  • Credit checks review a candidate’s credit history, including bankruptcies, tax liens, and accounts in collections.
  • Drug testing detect the presence of alcohol and controlled substances.

How long does a background check take in Georgia?

In Georgia, how long it takes to conduct a background check depends on the type of screening and whether you’re searching records on your own or working with a CRA.

For example, Georgia criminal background checks conducted by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) generally take 1-2 days. Accessing motor vehicle records through the Georgia Department of Driver Services (DDS) generally takes a few days, but could take weeks if a certified copy of a document needs to be mailed. Additionally, while some records are available online, others may require submitting a request by mail or visiting the courthouse.

Partnering with a background check provider, like Checkr, to conduct Georgia background checks can speed the process while providing accurate, comprehensive results. Checkr’s modern technology helps reduce time, human error, and bias from manual reviews. Plus, Checkr ETA, a proprietary tool from Checkr, uses machine learning to predict accurate turnaround times for county searches to provide transparency for employers and  candidates alike.

How far back do Georgia employment background checks go?

There are generally no Georgia state laws restricting how far a criminal background check in Georgia can go. However, there are several considerations for certain types of background checks. For example, Georgia law restricts the type of criminal records that can be reported in an employment background check, but does not limit how far back employers can look when searching criminal records. Additionally, Georgia employers searching civil court records often go back 7 years, but if the position has an annual salary greater than $75,000, the search may be expanded to 10 years. MVR checks may look back 3 years, 7 years, or the candidate’s lifetime. Employment and education verifications have no time limit.

Georgia employers who partner with a CRA to conduct a Georgia background check for employment must comply with the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). The FCRA restricts non-conviction information reported by a CRA to a 7-year lookback period which includes civil judgments, tax liens, and most credit report information. It excludes bankruptcies, which may be reported for up to 10 years and criminal convictions which may be reported indefinitely. If a candidate’s expected salary is $75,000 or higher or if searches are conducted by the employer themselves, these limitations may not apply.

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Georgia background check laws

Georgia has several statewide laws that apply to background checks as well as local Ban the Box and fair hiring laws that may apply to Georgia employers depending on their location.  Some employers may wish to comply with the strictest laws to mitigate the risk of potential liability.

Ban the Box law

Summary: A statewide Ban the Box law applies to all public sector employers. Employers regulated by the law cannot inquire about a candidate’s criminal history on job applications. In addition, a candidate cannot be automatically disqualified from a role because of their criminal background, with certain exceptions for sensitive positions. Instead, employers must give an applicant the opportunity to discuss their records, correct inaccuracies, and provide proof of rehabilitation. See law.

Georgia Code 35-3-34 (3) (b)

Summary: Under this Georgia state law, employers that choose to deny employment based on information found in a Georgia criminal background check from the Georgia Crime Information Center (GCIC) are required to follow certain guidelines. These include informing the applicant that the record came from the GCIC, advising what information was revealed in the report, and explaining how the record affected the employer’s hiring decision. See law.

Georgia Code 42-8-3

Summary: Known as the First Offender Act, this law allows records from exonerated first offenders to be disclosed for employment purposes. They can also be used to disqualify someone from employment if the individual was prosecuted for a major sex crime, such as incest or sexual battery, and the role is in a school or long term care facility or other types of positions that work with children, the elderly or those with mental disabilities. A person can also be disqualified for employment if they violated GA Code 16-5-8 by exploiting or intimidating seniors or those with disabilities. See law.

Georgia Code 31-7-14

Summary: Under the Georgia Long-term Care Background Check Program, certain individuals are required by law to undergo a fingerprint-based criminal background check through both the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). This includes people that have direct access to patients or patient financial information who work or volunteer at adult day care centers, assisted living communities, home health agencies, hospice, intermediate care facilities, nursing homes, personal care homes, and private home care facilities licensed by the Georgia Department of Community Health (DCH). See law.

Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA)

Summary: Georgia employers that choose to work with a CRA for background checks must comply with federal FCRA requirements. Under the FCRA, employers must provide a candidate with proper disclosure of their intent to conduct a pre-employment background check, receive written consent from the applicant, and follow the adverse action process should they decide not to hire the candidate as a result of information found on a background check. See law.

County resources

Use the resources below to learn about Ban the Box laws and public records in some of Georgia’s largest counties:

Chatham County

Chatham County has more than 295,000 residents. The city of Savannah is its largest city and county seat. Chatham County is home to two national wildlife refuges and the Fort Pulaski National Monument. Savannah is also Georgia’s top tourist destination with its many arts and cultural attractions, restaurants, and Tybee Island beaches. Chatham County’s key industries include manufacturing, port activities at the Port of Savannah, and economic activities related to Fort Stewart and the Hunter Army Airfield.

Public Information & Records

  • A Ban the Box law applies to city employers in Savannah.

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Cherokee County

Cherokee County is part of the Atlanta metropolitan area and has a population of more than 266,000 people. Its county seat is Canton. The county is located in the foothills of the Northwest Georgia Mountains. It has five historic cities, breweries and wineries, outlet shopping, and outdoor recreation, along with cultural and historic attractions. Key industries include advanced manufacturing, film production, commercial development, and corporate operations.

Public Information & Records

  • A Ban the Box law applies to public sector employers in Cherokee County.

Clayton County

Clayton County is home to nearly 300,000 people and is part of Atlanta’s metropolitan area. Its county seat is Jonesboro. The classic 1930s movie, Gone with the Wind, was set in Clayton County, and many other films and television shows have been filmed there. The busiest airport in the world, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, is located in Clayton County. Major industries in the county include education, travel, logistics, and healthcare.

Public Information & Records

Cobb County

Cobb County is located in the Atlanta metropolitan area and is home to more than 766,000 people. The city of Marietta is the county seat. County geography includes the Chattahoochee River Recreation Area along with several mountains. Many large corporations are located in Cobb County, including The Home Depot, The Weather Channel, and Kool Smiles. There are also arts and cultural attractions, along with historic landmarks such as the Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park.

Public Information & Records

DeKalb County

DeKalb County is a suburban county that is home to more than 764,000 residents. A small portion of the city of Atlanta, Georgia’s state capital city, falls in DeKalb County. The county has many tourist attractions, including Stone Mountain Park, museums, arts and culture, historic landmarks, and outdoor recreation. There are several colleges and universities in the county, including Emory University, one of the county’s largest employers. Other major employers include Delta Air Lines, UPS, and several healthcare organizations.

Public Information & Records

Fulton County

Fulton County has more than one million residents and is Georgia’s most-populous county. The county seat is the city of Atlanta, which is also the state capital. Fulton County has two nationally protected areas, a wide range of arts and culture attractions, and historic landmarks, along with several professional sports teams. Many large corporations are headquartered in the county, including Chick-fil-A, The Coca-Cola Company, Delta Air Lines, Newell Rubbermaid, UPS, and Wendy’s/Arby’s Group.

Public Information & Records

  • A Ban the Box law applies to public sector employers in Atlanta, South Fulton, and Fulton County.

Additional Ban the Box laws

The following Georgia jurisdictions also have Ban the Box laws:

  • Albany: A Ban the Box law applies to city employers.
  • Augusta: A Ban the Box law applies to city and county employers.
  • Columbus: A Ban the Box law applies to city employers.
  • Macon-Bibb County: A Ban the Box law applies to county employers.

Get a Georgia background check with Checkr

Georgia employers may partner with a trusted CRA, like Checkr, to help speed their pre-employment background checks. Checkr’s modern technology provides fast, fair background checks for companies of all sizes. Our multiple screening options meet your business needs, while our 100+ ATS, HR, and onboarding system integrations help streamline your hiring process. Get started with a Georgia background check today.

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The resources and information provided here are for educational and informational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. Always consult your own counsel for up-to-date legal advice and guidance related to your practices, needs, and compliance with applicable laws.

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About the author

As Compliance Manager, Danielle analyzes the ever-changing laws and regulations affecting background screening to ensure that Checkr and its customers stay compliant. She also writes content to educate employers about background checks, screening best practices, and fair hiring laws. 

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