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3 min read

Understanding Civil Court Background Check: Why Conduct Them Before Hiring

civil court background check

When making a new hire, a standard background check will typically look into an applicant’s criminal history. This can reveal red flags such as felony or misdemeanor convictions, but may leave out substantial information if a candidate has been involved in civil court cases.

Running a civil court check is an extra precaution your company can take, one that can be especially helpful when hiring employees with access to sensitive information. The goal of any background check is to minimize your risk of liability and protect your company’s reputation. A client’s involvement in a non-criminal lawsuit may be relevant to your final hiring decision depending on a number of factors.

Considering a civil court background check? Below, we will provide a brief overview of the process and how to decide if it’s right for your company.

What Is A Civil Court Background Check?

A criminal background check looks into crimes against the state, including felonies, misdemeanors, convictions, and incarcerations. These charges are brought to the state’s attention by government prosecutors.

A civil court check looks at crimes brought to court by a potential victim. When an individual or entity sues someone for an alleged wrongdoing, the case gets reported on civil court records.

A good example is the case of OJ Simpson. Simpson was famously acquitted of murder in a criminal court, but a subsequent civil case filed against Simpson found him legally responsible for the crime.

What Do You Learn From A Civil Court Background Check?

A civil court check can come back empty or can show benign information such as frivolous or minor lawsuits filed against a candidate. In some cases, however, a civil court background check can reveal substantial red flags.

A candidate may have been named in a sexual harassment suit, for example, or have a long history of breach of contract. What if you are hiring a candidate to help with finances? You want to avoid choosing someone with liens and foreclosures on their record.

There are three main types of civil court searches:

  • County Civil Court Search: This looks at cases filed by individuals or corporations against other individuals or corporations. It can reveal a candidate’s involvement in cases such as liens, foreclosures, small claims, breach of contract, personal injury, restraining order, and more.
  • Statewide Civil Search: This is the same as a county civil court search, but includes all counties in a given state. It may be a precaution when screening candidates who have moved many times in recent history.
  • Federal Civil Search: These look at records within a specific district in a specific state and can show a candidate’s involvement in violations of civil rights, interstate commerce, federal regulations, and tax disputes.

When Should I Order A Civil Court Background Check?

In an ideal world, you could take every single precaution with every single candidate, but your time is limited. The longer the background check process, the greater the risk of losing top talent to competitors.

In some cases, a civil court check may be worth this risk. Are you hiring for a senior position or a managerial role? Will the candidate have access to confidential information or financial documents? If so, it is within your best interest to err on the side of caution. A civil court check protects your company against liability, fraud, and embezzlement. It also protects your reputation. A bad hire can do a lot of damage in the public eye if they leak customer information.

In other cases, a civil court background check may be extraneous. A lower level employee, part-time employee, or seasonal/contract employee does not typically have access to as much information. A civil court check may do little more than slow down the hiring process and leave your company understaffed. 

However, you must also consider your industry. In some sectors, even entry-level employees have substantial responsibilities. In the healthcare industry, for example, workers at all levels may have access to sensitive information. In this case, it makes sense for civil court checks to be a standard part of your hiring process.

In short, deciding on whether to opt for a civil court background check depends on your industry and the responsibilities a position entails.

The Bottom Line

A civil court check can detect red flags a standard criminal background check may miss. Running a civil court check as part of your hiring process can protect your company, but may not be necessary for every hiring decision. Consider the position at hand as well as the needs of your company. 

Considering a civil court check? At AccuSourceHR, we can run county, civil, and federal searches to ensure you are making a trustworthy hiring decision every time. We offer civil court checks that meet your needs and work to ensure compliance on a state and federal level. Reach out here to learn more.

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