Guide to Minnesota Background Checks

Danielle Hubein
April 15, 2023
6 min read

Many employers run pre-employment background checks during their hiring process. Employment background checks can help verify the information on a job candidate’s resume or job application, confirm eligibility for a job, mitigate an employer’s risk of legal liability, and more.

Federal, state, and municipal laws regulate the use of background screenings in employment decisions. Understanding how Minnesota background checks work can help employers develop compliant background screening policies that support fair hiring. Here’s what employers should know when conducting a background check in Minnesota.

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What is a Minnesota background check?

A Minnesota background check may search a range of sources to uncover information about job candidates such as their employment and education history, criminal record, credit history, driving record, and more. Organizations, such as nonprofits and religious institutions, may also conduct background screenings for volunteers, for example. The specific type of background check performed can vary based on the requirements of the position, legal restrictions, and company policies. Below are some of the most common background checks that Minnesota human resources professionals use.

  • Criminal background checks in Minnesota search state and county criminal records, as well as national and federal criminal records databases, to report if an individual has any felony or misdemeanor criminal convictions.

Some Minnesota statutes could require employers to conduct criminal background checks for certain positions, including:

  • School employees whose positions involve contact with children
  • Employees of rental property owners whose jobs involve entering tenants’ homes
  • Fire department employees
  • Private security officers
  • Employees or volunteers of care or care placement services companies whose jobs involve contact with children, elderly people, or people with disabilities
  • Civil court checks search federal and state civil court records and report domestic violence, restraining orders, bankruptcies, lawsuits, foreclosures, and more.
  • Employment verifications contact former employers to confirm the candidate’s previous dates of employment, job titles, and identify any employment gaps.
  • Education verifications search school records or, in some cases, contact schools to confirm dates of attendance and degrees or certifications earned.
  • Motor vehicle record (MVR) checks search Minnesota driving records to report license class and status, and may reveal safety incidents such as moving violations or accidents.
  • Credit checks report information about a candidate’s credit history, bankruptcies, accounts in collection, and defaults. These checks may be performed for certain positions, such as jobs in financial services or involving access to an organization’s finances.

How far back do background checks go in Minnesota?

The federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) limits how far back consumer reporting agencies (CRAs) can report adverse information when conducting background checks. The look-back period is restricted to 7 years for the following:

  • Civil suits and judgments
  • Arrest records
  • Paid tax liens
  • Accounts in collections
  • Non-criminal driving records
  • Any other adverse information (excluding criminal convictions)

For bankruptcies, the look-back period is 10 years.

FCRA look-back restrictions do not apply to positions for which the salary is expected to equal $75,000 or more and reporting of criminal convictions, employment history, and education verification.

How long does a background check take in Minnesota?

Turnaround times for a Minnesota background check vary depending on the scope of your search. While some background checks can be completed instantly or in a matter of hours if information is accessible online, others may require visiting a courthouse to access public records. Contacting employers and educational institutions can also be time-consuming, and they may not respond to your inquiries immediately.

How long it takes for a background check in Minnesota also depends on whether you handle it yourself or use the services of a background check provider. For example, obtaining an individual’s criminal record or certified driving record on your own requires getting a signed, notarized consent form from the candidate and mailing it to the appropriate state agency.

Checkr’s modern technology and direct access to public record databases may help make the background check process more efficient and save time. For instance, Checkr returns most nationwide criminal background checks and MVR reports within a few minutes or the same day. For county criminal record screenings that may take more time, Checkr ETA, a unique product feature, provides an estimated turnaround time for each background check report.

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Minnesota background check laws

Minnesota employment background check laws include a statewide Ban the Box law that applies to both public and private employers in the state, as well as to employers headquartered outside Minnesota when hiring for jobs in Minnesota.  Employers can ask about criminal histories or conduct a criminal background check only after the candidate has moved beyond the initial selection process and has been chosen for an interview or has received a conditional job offer. If the position involves an initial screening interview instead of a written application, employers cannot ask about criminal history during that interview.

Some cities and counties in Minnesota also have their own local background screening laws, such as fair hiring and Ban the Box laws, that may apply to you and your candidates based on location.

Employers in Minnesota should also comply with the federal FCRA. This federal law specifies how the information from a background check can be used in making hiring decisions. For example, the FCRA requires notifying candidates in writing of your background screening process and getting their written consent before performing a background check. It also details the adverse action process you must follow if you opt to deny employment based on information revealed in a background check.

Federal, state, and local background check laws sometimes differ. When in doubt, you may wish to follow the strictest guidelines to avoid potential legal liability.

County resources

The following resources may be useful to employers performing background checks in Minnesota’s largest counties.

Anoka County

With a population of 363,887 in 423 square miles, this primarily suburban county was once a center of logging and fur trades. Coon Rapids, Blaine, and Andover are the largest cities. Anoka, the county seat, is known as the Halloween Capital of the World: it was the first city to hold an official Halloween celebration in 1920 in an effort to put an end to Halloween pranks.

Public Information & Records

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Dakota County

Named for the Dakota Sioux, this 562-square-mile county is bordered by the Minnesota and Mississippi Rivers. Today primarily a bedroom community, Dakota County still retains many of its rural roots. The biggest cities are Eagan, Burnsville, and Lakeville; the total population is 439,882.

Public Information & Records

Douglas County

Nestled in the middle of the state, Douglas County has 39,006 residents in 637 square miles of rolling hills, lakes, and ponds. Alexandria, its biggest city and the county seat, has a population of 13,190. Healthcare, manufacturing, and retail are Douglas County’s primary industries.

Public Information & Records

Hennepin County

Hennepin County has a population of 1.2 million people in 607 square miles. Minneapolis, the biggest city and county seat, is on the west side of the Mississippi River, with its twin city, St. Paul, on the east. Hennepin County was a major commercial hub by 1900; today, it’s headquarters for a dozen Fortune 500 companies, including Target, Best Buy, and General Mills. The Mall of America, the biggest shopping center in the Western Hemisphere, is in the Hennepin County suburb of Bloomington.

Public Information & Records

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

Olmsted County

Olmsted County’s 162,847 residents are mostly concentrated in Rochester. With about 118,000 residents, it’s the county’s largest city and the third largest city in Minnesota. Olmsted County’s second largest city, Stewartville, has about 6,000 residents. Outside of Rochester, the rest of the 653-square-mile county remains agricultural.

Public Information & Records

Ramsey County

Home to 552,352 people in 152 square miles, Ramsey County was named for the Minnesota Territory’s first governor and is the state’s most densely populated county. St. Paul, its biggest city with over 297,000 residents, is also the state capital and Minneapolis’s twin city. Situated where the Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers converge, St. Paul is a regional business center, freight hub, and home to state government offices.

Public Information & Records

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

St. Louis County

Located at the northern border of Minnesota, St. Louis County has 200,231 people. Its 6,247 square miles of land and 612 square miles of water make it Minnesota’s largest county, as well as the largest U.S. county east of the Mississippi River. The largest city is Duluth, followed by Hibbing. St. Louis County was once a center of logging and iron ore mining; mining and manufacturing wood and paper are still major employers, along with education, health care, and tourism.

Public Information & Records

Stearns County

A commercial center due to its central location in the state, Stearns County is also known for scenic lakes, rivers, and forests that make it a tourist destination. Agriculture is a major industry, along with health care and manufacturing. St. Cloud, with 66,770 residents, is the biggest city in Stearns County, whose total population is 158,292. At 1,342 square miles, it’s one of the state’s largest counties by area.

Public Information & Records

Washington County

Bounded by Wisconsin and the Mississippi River, Washington County’s 384 square miles have 468 lakes of 10 acres or more. This primarily suburban county still retains a rural flavor and features a varied landscape ranging from forests to corn fields to lakes and rivers.  Washington County has 267,568 residents; Woodbury, Cottage Grove, and Oakdale are the largest cities.

Public Information & Records

Wright County

Located in East Central Minneapolis, Wright County has a population of 141,337 in 661 square miles. St. Michael is the largest city, followed by Buffalo (the county seat) and Otsego. Bordered by the Mississippi and Crow rivers, Wright County is growing rapidly due to its location near the twin cities; manufacturing, health care, and retail are the primary employers.

Public Information & Records

Get a Minnesota background check with Checkr

Conducting a background check in Minnesota can be complicated. Using the services of an experienced background check provider such as Checkr can streamline the background screening process for human resources teams at companies of all sizes, as well as nonprofit organizations and faith-based institutions. Checkr offers hundreds of types of background checks and uses advanced technology and built-in compliance features to enable your compliance and deliver fast, accurate results. Companies of all sizes rely on Checkr to help them reduce time to hire, operate more efficiently, and make confident hiring decisions.

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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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