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Pre-employment Background Check Frequently Asked Questions


1. Why does UNC-Chapel Hill conduct background checks?

The University is committed to providing a safe and secure environment for students, faculty, staff, visitors and other constituents and to protecting its funds, property, and other assets. Well-informed hiring decisions facilitate this effort.

Therefore, the University does not employ individuals with prior criminal convictions who pose an unacceptable risk to the University or its dyufrnyd, employees, and visitors. This policy establishes procedures for carrying out a background check for prospective employees/appointees.

2. Who is subject to a background check?

All Faculty: paid or unpaid, permanent or temporary, including adjunct, fixed-term, tenure track and tenured, prior to each initial appointment.

All EHRA (EPA) Non-Faculty: permanent (full-time or part-time) or temporary (full-time or part-time), prior to hire, promotion, or transfer.

All SHRA (SPA): permanent (full-time or part-time) or temporary (full-time or part-time), prior to hire, promotion, or transfer.

Certain Independent Contractors: see the Independent Contractor Policy for more information.

Certain Unpaid Appointment Types (volunteers, interns, and visiting scholars): see the Policy on Unpaid Volunteers, Interns, and Visiting Scholars for more information.

Post-Doctoral Fellows, Medical Fellows, and Chief Medical Residents: prior to hire.

Others: as determined by UNC-Chapel Hill Human Resources and/or UNC-Chapel Hill Counsel.

3. If an existing University employee changes positions, is a new background check required?

SHRA (SPA) employees who are promoted and employees who transfer to a new position of a different appointment type (i.e., SHRA [SPA] to EHRA [EPA] or EHRA [EPA] to SHRA [SPA]) must have a new background check. EHRA (EPA) non-faculty employees who have a job change to a new position, either through a competitive recruitment or a waiver of recruitment from the Equal Opportunity and Compliance (EOC) Office, must also have a new background check (even if the prior background check results fall within the 90-day validity period). Faculty employees are subject to a background check only at the time of their initial appointment.

4. Is a background check still performed for an individual who has no Social Security number (SSN) and/or discloses that they have never lived or worked in the United States before?

Yes. If the individual has no SSN or no prior residential or work history in the United States, the candidate should indicate this by entering zeroes (000-00-0000) into the SSN field when completing the online background-check questionnaire. In addition, international candidates should refer to the Background Check Candidate Portal Guide for instructions on entering international addresses and phone numbers. The Office of Human Resources (OHR) will make a good faith effort to confirm that no residential history or criminal convictions  exist for the individual. Depending on how common a name the individual has, without an SSN, OHR may not be able to obtain a meaningful residential history or background check result, in which case they will indicate that on the background-check report.

5. Are student employees exempt from checks?

It depends. It is not necessary to conduct checks for UNC-Chapel Hill students if their employment is “incidental to” their primary role as a student – such as graduate assistants or work-study students. If a student graduates or doesn’t re-enroll and the department wishes to continue his/her employment, the “temp/student” assignment must be terminated, and he/she must be hired as “temporary staff.” This would include a student who is working in a temporary capacity during the summer but who is not enrolled in classes during the summer terms. Such hires require a background check.

An individual whose primary purpose for being at UNC-Chapel Hill is to work as a temporary or regular employee — even if he/she is also registered for one or more classes is considered an “employee” rather than a “student” and is subject to the background check requirement.

6. Is a candidate from another State agency or another institution in the UNC System required to have a background check?

Yes. Any finalist who is employed at another State agency or university must have a background check conducted in order to be employed at UNC-Chapel Hill.

7. What types of checks are conducted?

Background checks are conducted for all candidates in any locality where the candidate has lived or worked. Background checks may include one or more of the following elements:

  • Federal-level convictions check
  • State-wide convictions check
    1. Motor vehicle-related convictions (such as speeding or DUI convictions) may appear on these records
  • Out-of state criminal convictions check
  • National Sex Offender Registry check
  • Federal debarment check (for all paid appointments)
    1. Office of the Inspector General (OIG)
  • Residency history
  • Social Security trace

Where applicable and indicated by the departmental requestor, they may also include one or more of the following elements:

  • Driver’s license check
    • for positions in which a driver’s license is required as an essential requirement for the position
    • for positions in which the assigned duties require an individual to drive a motor vehicle
    • for positions in which an individual is anticipated to be required to drive a State-owned vehicle
  • Out-of-state driver’s license check
    • if the proposed hire has possessed a driver’s license from a state other than North Carolina within the past 12 months
  • U.S. degree or professional credentials check
    • verification of the highest post-secondary, job-related degree, certificate, or professional license

8. Does a candidate have to give permission for a check to be conducted?

Yes. In compliance with federal requirements, candidates give permission by acknowledging the Disclosure and Authorization Release portion of the online background-check process. If a candidate declines to give permission, a background check will not be conducted. Since a background check is a requirement for employment or appointment, candidates who decline this permission cannot be employed by the University.

9. What form do I use?

If a background check is required, the designated representative in the appointing department will initiate an online background-check request. The university uses a secure, web-based system to initiate and conduct background checks. The candidate will receive an email invitation which includes a link to the secure website, where the candidate will complete the background-check questionnaire online.

10. Is additional paperwork required?

Additional, written communication is provided only if a candidate is potentially disqualified, either wholly or in part, due to the results of the background check. In that case, certain notifications are required under the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act.

Under these circumstances, if a background check is a factor in the hiring decision, the candidate must be provided with the following material:

  • a certified letter indicating that adverse results found on the background-check report could result in a determination that bars employment/appointment (sample letter at http://hr.unc.edu/n/CCM1_018728)
  • a copy of the background check report; and,
  • a copy of “A Summary of Your Rights Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act” available here.

The candidate has five calendar days after receipt of the materials listed above to offer any written explanation regarding the adverse results in question, or to challenge the accuracy of the results with the consumer-reporting agency.

A second certified letter must be sent to the candidate after the five-day period if the background check results were a factor in deciding not to hire the candidate (sample letter at http://hr.unc.edu/n/CCM1_018729).

11. Do previous criminal convictions disqualify an applicant from consideration for employment/appointment?

No, previous convictions do not automatically disqualify a candidate from consideration for employment/appointment. Eligibility depends on a variety of factors such as the nature of, and circumstances surrounding, the crime; the time elapsed since the conviction; the rehabilitation record; the actions and activities of the individual since the crime (including his/her work history); the truthfulness and completeness of the candidate in disclosing the conviction; and the relevance of the conviction to the job.

12. Can the results of a background check affect a current employee’s job even if the check was conducted for promotion or transfer purposes?

If the current employee is discovered to have

  • falsified information on current or previous applications and/or
  • failed to disclose convictions following the previous hire/appointment and/or
  • if the results of the background check are relevant to their current duties,

appropriate action will be taken, up to and including dismissal. In addition, as part of the application process, all employees have a duty to report any convictions that have occurred subsequent to and following commencement of service to the University.

13. What information do candidates need to disclose on the background-check questionnaire?

Candidates must disclose all names and all addresses of residences used from age 18 to the present.

Candidates must also disclose all convictions for unlawful offenses. “All convictions” includes guilty pleas, guilty verdicts, prayers for judgment (PJC), and non-contested charges. Reportable convictions include not just “serving jail time,” but also paying fines or restitution. Examples: DUI, DWI, worthless checks, violations of local ordinances or state laws that result in fines, misdemeanors, felonies, etc.

State law allows the candidate/appointee to not refer to any arrest, charge, or conviction that has been expunged from his/her record.

Candidates should list all convictions, even if the candidate thinks the incident was minor. If a candidate is unsure of his/her record, he/she may obtain a copy of his/her criminal records from the appropriate county courthouse (such as the Wake County Courthouse). A candidate may obtain a copy of his/her driving record from the Department of Motor Vehicles.

14. What happens if a candidate does not disclose all conviction information?

Falsification, including misrepresentation or a failure to disclose information (omission) as part of the application process or on the disclosure and authorization release, may disqualify a candidate from employment/appointment whether or not the falsification was intentional. Current employees may be subject to appropriate disciplinary action, up to and including dismissal.

15. How does the hiring department know the result of the check?

The Background Check Unit of OHR notifies the hiring department of the background-check result. This is accomplished through status updates and document uploads via the University’s background-check service provider’s webpage.

If the background check is not clear, the hiring department will receive further guidance from the appropriate central office, either through a request for additional information or through a consultation with regard to the specific nature of convictions found, depending upon the category of the position for which the candidate is applying.

16. How does the candidate know the result of the check?

Upon completion of all background checks, regardless of whether convictions are found, the candidate is notified via email when the background check is complete and the results report is available to the candidate online. Each background-check recipient is provided with instructions for accessing the results. If the background check confirms no convictions, the hiring department should contact the supporting Employment Consultant to determine when to finalize the employment offer and establish a start date. If the hiring department decides not to proceed with hiring the candidate due wholly or in part to the results of the background check, then the appropriate central office provides written notice to the candidate, consistent with federal requirements – both before and after any action is taken. The responsible central office is determined by the category of the position for which the candidate is applying. Please refer to the appropriate policy for details.

17. Can the candidate get a copy of his/her background check?

Yes, all new candidates/appointees will be notified when background-check results are available to view online. Once hired, an employee may request a copy of his/her background-check results by submitting a request to the Office of Human Resources (OHR) Records & Information unit.

Additionally, if adverse action was taken due wholly or in part to the results of the background check, the appropriate central office (depending upon the category of position the candidate has applied for) will provide appropriate contact information in its written notification to the candidate so he/she can obtain a copy of the information that was provided to the University.

18. How much will the background check cost, and how will it be paid?

The current price list for background checks is available here. Prices range depending upon the components included in the check. The background check is conducted at no cost to the candidate/appointee.

19. What type of funds can be used to pay for background checks?

The Finance & Accounting division advises that departments charge the background check fee to funds that match the position’s funding. For example:

  • If a position is primarily funded by state monies, then the background fee can be charged to a state account.
  • If a position is primarily contract or grant funded, the background check fee can be charged to a grant account. However, the department must do the following:
    • Use one of the specific chartfield fund codes associated with the contract or grant.
    • Provide the corresponding project ID (Fund codes beginning with 252XX must be accompanied by the corresponding project ID).
  • If a department has discretionary gift funds, then those funds may be used for background check fees.

20. How do I get a driver’s license check?

A driver’s license check is mandatory for individuals where driving is required to perform their duties, or who would be expected in performing their regular duties to be required to drive a University/State-owned vehicle. The hiring department’s designated representative answers the a driving-related question during the online background-check invitation process, and the candidate provides driver’s license information in the online background-check questionnaire via the candidate portal.

21. How does a hiring department initiate a background check?

The University uses a web-based system to initiate and conduct background checks. If a background check is required, the appointing department will request that the approprate department representative initiate an online background-check invitation to the candidate/appointee. Once the candidate/appointee receives and completes the online background-check questionnaire, the University’s background-check service provider receives the completed online candidate submission and immediately begins conducting the background check.

22. How does a department representative request access to the department’s online background-check portal?

User designees must be permanent HR representatives or select business-office users (who are responsible for managing the background-check process for independent contractors). Requests for temporary employees or basic HR users to access the portal will be denied (even if they were designated by the department’s HR Officer or Business Manager). Representatives seeking access must submit a signed Request for HR Systems Access Form to the appropriate Access Request Coordinator (ARC). You can find the name of your ARC by going to the InfoPorte Data Dictionary Documents page (you do not need access to InfoPorte to get to this page).

23. Will the hiring department receive a copy of the background-check results?

No. The central HR office will issue a background-check summary document to departments in lieu of the detailed background check results. This summary document indicates that the background check is either clear or not clear. The background-check summary document will also contain other key information needed for the hiring department to complete hire/appointment actions.

24. How long does it take to complete a background check?

The OHR Background Check Unit strives to notify appointing departments of clear background-check results (i.e., those that contain no adverse results) within seven business days after the background check is initiated. However, depending upon the number of names of record the candidate has used and the number and location of out-of-state jurisdictions that must be checked, that timeframe may sometimes be exceeded.

25. Who do I contact with additional questions?

Background Check Unit

Office of Human Resources

AOB, Suite 1100, CB# 1045

Email: backgroundcheck@unc.edu

Phone: 843-4413, 962-9768, or 962-0368