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Colorado Background Checks

A guide to Colorado background checks

Background checks can help employers verify a candidate’s work experience and education, and provide insight into their criminal history. But, navigating Colorado’s background check requirements and fair hiring laws can be challenging. Colorado employers must contend with a range of federal, state, and local laws related to pre-employment background checks. Learn more about Colorado’s fair hiring landscape, background check requirements, and how to comply with both.

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In some cases, employers may be required to check a candidate’s criminal record as part of their hiring process. At the same time, they must observe fair hiring laws that may restrict when they conduct background checks and how they use them to make hiring decisions. In this guide, we’ll explore how Colorado employers are using background checks, laws that affect the information they may obtain, and how to conduct employment background checks while remaining legally compliant. 

What Is A Colorado Background Check?

Colorado organizations use background checks to verify qualifications and learn more about job candidates, employees, and volunteers. Colorado background checks may include a variety of screenings, including:

  • Criminal history to search a candidate’s criminal background at the national, federal, state, or county level 
  • Education or licensing verification to verify a candidate’s degrees, credentials, or professional licenses
  • Employment history and reference checks to confirm a candidate’s past employment and contact their professional and personal references
  • Motor vehicle records to search a candidate’s driving record and license status for driving-related positions 

The Colorado Open Records Act (CORA) requires that most public records be made available to the public. That being said, locating the correct government agency from which to request records can be a challenge. Criminal histories are maintained through the Colorado Bureau of Investigation (CBI) for both Colorado state-wide searches and for searches by county.

Types Of Background Checks In Colorado

Employers routinely conduct background checks as part of the pre-employment screening process. Background checks may also be required for professional licensing or for work in fields like gaming, finance, or the distribution of prescription drugs. A Colorado gun background check, conducted through the Colorado Bureau of Investigation CBI Firearms InstaCheck Unit, is required for gun purchases in the state.

Employers may choose to conduct employment background checks on their own or through a consumer reporting agency (CRA), but you may also be required by law to run criminal background checks in Colorado on employees in certain fields and positions. The CBI employment background check webpage provides information about the  positions that require Colorado fingerprint background checks. Here are a few examples:

CHILDCARE, ADOPTION AND FOSTER CARE

The Colorado Department of Human Services provides licensing for services and agencies providing for the care of children—including licensed family daycares, child placement agencies, children’s residential camps, foster care homes, and neighborhood youth organizations. They require CBI and FBI fingerprint-based criminal background and sex offender registry checks on all agency personnel. Employers may not hire or approve for volunteering individuals who have a criminal record of child abuse, violent crime, unlawful sexual behavior, felony domestic violence, or a pattern of misdemeanor convictions. 

ADULT CARE

Colorado Adult Protective Services requires CBI and FBI criminal history checks for employees of assisted living facilities, home care agencies, birth centers, residential treatment agencies, hospice, and more.

EDUCATION

Colorado public school teachers and employees, as well as some private and charter school personnel must be screened using fingerprint-based criminal background checks through the Colorado Department of Education. Some private schools that are not regulated by the CDE may use a name-based criminal background check for this purpose.

PUBLIC SAFETY AND SECURITY

Although local agencies may set some of their own requirements for pre-employment background screening, police officers, emergency medical responders, and some private security officers in Colorado must submit to CBI and FBI fingerprint-based criminal history searches. 

TRANSPORTATION

Employers of taxicab and passenger transport drivers must conduct fingerprint-based CBI and FBI screening. 

While CRAs, like GoodHire, conduct a wide range of pre-employment screening services including criminal background checks, most CRAs do not provide Colorado fingerprint background check services. If you are hiring for a position that requires one, you may wish to work directly with the CBI.

How Far Back Do Colorado Employment Background Checks Go?

How far back an employment background check in Colorado can legally go depends on two factors: the type of background check you are conducting, and whether you’re working with a Consumer Reporting Agency (CRA) or searching on your own. The federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) applies a seven-year lookback period to arrests that did not lead to convictions, liens, collections, and civil judgments. Bankruptcies are limited to 10 years. These time limits do not apply to searches conducted by employers themselves (rather than through a CRA). Under the FCRA, criminal convictions may be reported indefinitely, regardless of the age of the record.

Wondering how far back a CBI background check goes? Criminal history record information obtained through the Colorado Bureau of Investigation extends back seven years. 

Driving records maintained by the Colorado Division of Motor Vehicles reflect activity posted during the past seven years, making seven years a common, though not universal, standard.

A 2022 Colorado law, the Clean Slate Act, affects lookback periods by automatically sealing court records–violent crimes are not eligible–after a set period of time: 

  • Civil infractions may be sealed four years after the final disposition
  • Misdemeanors after seven years
  • Felonies 10 years after final disposition or release from jail. 

Employers conducting a background check won’t see sealed records on a candidate’s criminal history. 

When conducting checks without the help of a CRA, you may go back as far as needed to verify education, employment history, credentialing, or licensing.

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Colorado Background Check Laws

Employers conducting background checks in Colorado must comply with the FCRA, while also being careful to comply with state background check laws. There are several Colorado laws that regulate background checks, including: 

Colorado Employment Opportunity Act

Employers with four or more employees are prohibited from checking a job candidate’s consumer credit report unless the information is “substantially related” to the position or is required by law. Banks and other financial institutions, as well as employers filling positions involving contracts with defense, intelligence, national security, or space agencies of the federal government, are allowed to conduct credit checks as part of regular pre-employment screening.

Equal Pay for Equal Work Act

Employers may not inquire about past salaries as part of their employment verification. Because salary history can be used to perpetuate wage discrimination by basing future pay on past wages, employers are prohibited from seeking the wage rate history of prospective employees and relying on wage rate history to determine what they’ll pay.

BAN-THE-BOX LAWS

Colorado also has two statewide ban-the-box laws that regulate the use of pre-employment criminal background checks. Ban-the-box laws are named for the practice of including a check box on job applications asking candidates if they have been convicted of a crime. By restricting when and how employers can use criminal history as part of the employee screening process, Colorado background check laws aim to level the playing field for candidates with a criminal record and provide fair hiring guidelines for employers.

House Bill 12-1263 applies to certain employers, including public or private correctional facilities, public or private juvenile facilities, the public employees’ retirement association, and the Department of Public Safety. The law places restrictions on the following: 

  • Employers can’t state in a job advertisement that people with criminal records “may not apply.”
  • They may not conduct a background check on a job candidate until they determine the applicant is a finalist or they have made a conditional offer of employment.
  • They cannot withdraw an offer of employment or decide not to offer a job based on an arrest or non-conviction.
  • They may not decide against offering a job or withdraw an offer based on a conviction—whether or not it has been expunged, sealed, pardoned, or dismissed—unless they have determined that the candidate is disqualified after considering the nature of the conviction; the relationship between the conviction and the position’s duties and responsibilities; the time elapsed since the conviction; and rehabilitation and good conduct shown since the conviction.

The Colorado Chance to Compete Act originally applied to employers with 11 or more employees; but now applies to all Colorado employers. Under this law, employers may obtain a publicly available criminal background report for an applicant at any time during the hiring process. However, employers may not: 

  • State in a job advertisement that a person with a criminal history may not apply
  • State on an application that a person with a criminal history may not apply
  • Inquire into or require disclosure of an applicant’s criminal history on an initial application form

Exceptions apply if the law prohibits hiring a person with a specific criminal history for the position, or if the employer is required to conduct a criminal background check by law or regulation. Positions that are part of federal, state, or local government programs that encourage the hiring of people who have criminal histories are also exempt.

In addition to these statewide ban-the-box laws, Colorado employers must comply with local fair hiring regulations, including a ban-the-box law that applies to the city and county of Denver. Employers that work with CRAs to conduct background checks during the hiring process must abide by FCRA regulations, including these guidelines:

  • Notifying candidates that you will use background checks as part of the hiring process
  • Obtaining written consent from candidates before conducting background checks
  • Following the FCRA adverse action process if you decide not to extend a job offer

Federal law prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, national origin, color, sex, religion, disability, genetic information (including family medical history), or age (40 or older). In order to avoid a disparate impact on protected classes of job applicants, EEOC guidance recommends that employers not consider arrests that did not result in conviction, and that they conduct job-specific individual assessments before denying jobs based on criminal convictions. 

Faced with different federal, state, and local regulations, employers may wish to consider complying with the strictest laws in each case to avoid potential liability.

County Resources

Adams County

Stretching north and east of Denver, Adams County is part of the greater Denver metropolitan area but is within commuting distance to Fort Collins. The county’s population is 519,572, with Thornton and Westminster as its largest cities. Aurora, with a population of 387,377, lies within Adams County, Arapahoe County, and Douglas County. Adams County is home to the Rocky Mountain Arsenal Wildlife Refuge, a 15,000-acre wildlife sanctuary located on the site of a former chemical weapons manufacturing facility. 

Public Information & Records:

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Arapahoe County

Arapahoe County is the third most populous in Colorado with a population of 655,070. Named for the Arapaho Native Americans, Arapahoe calls itself Colorado’s first county, since its founding predates the Pike’s Peak Gold Rush that began in 1858. Although parts of Aurora fall within Arapahoe County, the county’s most populous cities also include Centennial, Southglenn, and Englewood.

Public Information & Records:

Boulder County

Boulder County is home to 330,758 residents, nearly 30,000 of whom are students at the University of Colorado Boulder, one of the nation’s leading research universities. Boulder is the county seat and the county’s most populous city, followed by Longmont. Located 30 miles northwest of Denver, Boulder is part of the greater Denver metropolitan area, but its beautiful setting in the Rocky Mountain foothills and its college town identity give it a personality of its own.

Public Information & Records:

Denver County

Denver is both a city and county. It’s the most populous city and the second most populous county in Colorado with 715,522 residents. Nicknamed the Mile High City because its elevation is exactly one mile above sea level, Denver is often thought of as a mountain town. In fact, it’s located on the western edge of the High Plains, east of the Rocky Mountains. With six professional sports teams, a reputation for “green” innovation, and a walkable downtown area known for its craft brewing scene, Denver has been called one of the best places to live in the US.

Public Information & Records:

A city-wide ban-the-box law applies to public sector employees in the city of Denver. Learn more.

Douglas County

Douglas County is located halfway between Colorado’s two largest cities, Denver and Colorado Springs. It’s home to 357,978 residents, roughly 70,000 of whom live in its largest city, Castle Rock. Douglas County has the highest median household income of any county in Colorado and was named the third healthiest county in America in 2021 by US News. 

Public Information & Records:

El Paso County

El Paso County is Colorado’s most populous with 730,395 residents. The county seat and largest city is Colorado Springs; other cities include Fountain and Fort Carson. Colorado Springs is home to four military bases including Fort Carson, US Air Force Academy, Peterson Air Force Base, and Schriever Air Force Base, as well as the North American Air Defense Command (NORAD). Colorado Springs is also the place to visit the US Olympic & Paralympic Museum, ride the Pike’s Peak cog railway, and see the Manitou cliff dwellings.

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Jefferson County

Jefferson County—popularly known as Jeffco—is home to 582,910 residents, making it Colorado’s fourth most populous county. Its largest city is Lakewood, followed by Arvada and Wheat Ridge. Jeffco also includes Golden, home of the headquarters of the Coors Brewing Company and the Colorado School of Mines, which specializes in mining, geology, chemistry, and engineering. 

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Larimer County

Home to Colorado State University and named the “Napa Valley of craft beer,” Larimer County has a population of 359,066, nearly half of whom live in its largest city, Fort Collins. Larimer County is growing as residents being priced out of nearby Denver and Boulder head north for open spaces and more affordable living. After Fort Collins, Loveland, Berthoud, Wellington, and Estes Park round out the county’s notable towns.

Public Information & Records:

Mesa County

True to its name, Mesa County is located in a high desert area of large flat-topped mountains or hills called mesas. The county seat and largest city is Grand Junction, which accounts for 63,447 of the county’s 155,703 residents. Grand Junction’s remarkable scenery also serves as the setting for more than 20 wineries, which may be one reason the city was named the second best place to retire in the US in 2022 by Kiplinger. 

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Pueblo County

The cities of Pueblo and Pueblo West account for most of Pueblo County’s 168,162 residents. Pueblo is about two and a half hours away from Denver and only four hours from Santa Fe, New Mexico. Pueblo is one of the largest steel producing cities in the US, earning it the nickname “Steel City.” It’s also home to Colorado State University Pueblo.

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Weld County

Known for its agriculture and its oil and natural gas development, Weld County is also one of the fastest-growing metropolitan areas in the state. Its population increased by more than 30 percent between 2010 and 2020: It is now home to 328,981 residents. The county seat, Greeley, is located 30 miles southeast of Fort Collins and 55 miles northeast of Denver. Among its largest employers is the University of Northern Colorado. It’s also home to the Greeley Air National Guard Station. 

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Get A Colorado Background Check With GoodHire

Employers in Colorado looking to conduct background checks for more informed hiring decisions–while also navigating legal compliance–can simplify the process by working with a qualified CRA, like GoodHire. GoodHire offers 100+ screening options for employers, using an easy-to-use online platform with FCRA-trained support, making the process easy to navigate from start to finish. To learn more about background checks with GoodHire, reach out to our sales team.

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Disclaimer

The resources provided here are for educational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. We advise you to consult your own counsel if you have legal questions related to your specific practices and compliance with applicable laws.