Background Checks
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State LawsWisconsin

Wisconsin Background Checks

A guide to Wisconsin background checks

A Wisconsin background check can give employers insight into a candidate’s history, including their criminal record, education, past employers, and motor vehicle report. Employers may use background checks to make more informed hiring decisions, mitigate risk, and create safer job environments. 

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Background checks in Wisconsin can play a key role in the hiring process, so it’s important for employers to stay compliant with federal, state, and local hiring regulations. Navigating these laws can be challenging, especially when hiring managers conduct background checks in-house. This guide covers how to get a background screening in Wisconsin, how screenings are conducted, what types of reports are available, and the benefits of partnering with a third-party background check provider.

What Is A Wisconsin Background Check?

A Wisconsin background check is a search of different types of public records and databases to provide information about an individual’s history. Common screenings may search an individual’s criminal records, credit history, or driving records. Employers may also use a pre-employment background check in Wisconsin during the hiring process to confirm a candidate’s qualifications and eligibility for a job or volunteer position.

Wisconsin Employment Background Check Laws

Currently Wisconsin has one statewide ban-the-box law and two statewide fair hiring laws, as outlined below, that apply to all public sector employers. In addition, employers should also be aware of federal and state laws, as well as local fair hiring laws. Wisconsin employers may choose to follow the strictest Wisconsin background check laws to avoid potential legal liability. 


Under 2016 AB 373, Wisconsin public sector employers are not allowed to inquire about a candidate’s criminal history on job applications. Instead, they must wait until the interview stage.

Wisconsin Fair Employment Law

Wisconsin employers, along with staffing agencies, labor unions, and licensing agencies, are prohibited from discriminating against candidates (and employees) due to their sex, color, ancestry, disability, marital status, religion, age, and other factors including pregnancy, sexual orientation and national origin.

Wisconsin Statute 111.335

This statewide law restricts employers from discriminating against candidates based on their criminal history. In addition, employers cannot consider arrests that do not have conviction information. In the event an individual has a criminal record, employers are required to conduct an individualized assessment of the information on the report as it relates to the job before making a final decision about hiring the candidate for the role.

Wisconsin Statute § 995.55

The statewide Social Media Law prohibits employers from asking candidates to share social media passwords. Employers are also prohibited from asking a candidate to add them as a contact or open their social media accounts in the employer’s presence.

Wisconsin Statute § 50.065

Under this statewide law, employers that employ caregivers are required to conduct caregiver background checks during the hiring process. Caregiver background checks are also mandated every four years after an individual is hired.

Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA)

Employers that work with a CRA to conduct their background checks are required to follow the steps outlined in the federal FCRA. First, employers must send a candidate notice in writing of their intent to conduct a background check. They must then receive written permission from the candidate to proceed with the background check. Finally, an employer must follow the adverse action process should they decide not to hire the candidate based on information included in the report. 

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What Shows Up On A Wisconsin Background Check?

What shows up on a Wisconsin background check will vary based on the types of screenings the employer conducts and whether they search on their own or partner with a background check provider. A pre-employment background check in Wisconsin often includes several types of screenings, revealing information from criminal history to driving records. 

Here’s a closer look at what shows up on the most common types of background checks and what they report:

  • Criminal background check to search a candidate’s criminal records, including felony or misdemeanor convictions.
  • Driving record check to reveal a candidate’s motor vehicle record, which includes driver license information and a 5-year Wisconsin driving record of accidents and traffic violations. More serious incidents, such as DUI convictions, may remain permanently on a Wisconsin driving record. 
  • Education verification to confirm a candidate’s academic background, including schools attended, dates of attendance, degrees obtained, and graduation dates. This screening may be more commonly used for roles that require specific educational backgrounds or degrees. 
  • Employment verification to validate previous employers, past job titles, and employment dates. 
  • Credit checks to show an individual’s credit report, including collections, payment history, and bankruptcies. This screening may be more commonly used for positions with financial responsibility, where allowed by law. 
  • Drug testing to screen a candidate for the presence of controlled substances, including both illicit drugs and prescriptions. This screening is commonly used for positions that involve public safety, such as law enforcement, or where required by law, such as commercial trucking.

Wisconsin Criminal Background Checks for Employment

Wisconsin criminal records are maintained by the Wisconsin Department of Justice Crime Information Bureau (CIB). When employers conduct a Wisconsin DOJ background check, they can access Wisconsin criminal records held in the centralized criminal history (CCH) database. 

A state of Wisconsin criminal background check searches records in the CCH database that are sourced from many different agencies, including law enforcement, prosecutors, courts, and the Wisconsin Department of Corrections (DOC). Many different types of detailed information about a candidate’s criminal history can be accessed, including arrests, arrest charges, prosecution, court findings, sentences, and state correctional system admissions and releases. 

In Wisconsin, many criminal record searches are named-based, as these are often more comprehensive with quicker turnaround times. However, the CIB also manages Wisconsin’s fingerprint-based centralized criminal history repository. Fingerprints may be used to confirm whether a criminal record belongs to an individual, often for background checks with state agencies and regulated industries.

How Long Does A Background Check Take In Wisconsin?

Turnaround times for a Wisconsin background check can vary, depending on the scope of the search, types of records requested, and who is conducting the search. Some screenings, like a national background check, access digitized records so reports are returned within minutes, while other types of checks, like education verification, may take several days or longer. Employers that choose to conduct searches on their own may have a more time-consuming background check process than organizations that partner with a consumer reporting agency (CRA). 

When performing background checks in-house, employers need to take a hands-on approach which often requires requesting information about a candidate from many different public record sources, such as the CCH, including court records and motor vehicle records. Non-public records, like reference checks and employment verification, often require even more legwork like phone calls to past employers. 

When employers partner with a CRA, like GoodHire, the background check experience is typically a more efficient process. With GoodHire’s access to many types of public records, Wisconsin criminal record databases, and courthouses across the US, employers can benefit from faster and more accurate results. Plus, GoodHire can provide employers with a wide range of screenings, making it simple for hiring managers to perform multiple checks at once. 

How Far Back Do Background Checks Go In Wisconsin?

How far back an employer can look for a WI employment background check varies depending on who is performing the search, the scope of the background check, and the type of screening being conducted. Federal, state, or local laws can also play a role in how far back an employer can look into a candidate’s history. 

When employers partner with a CRA, like Goodhire, they are required to follow the federal  regulations of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). Under this law, during background checks for employment, reporting of non-conviction information is limited to a seven-year lookback period, including 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.

The FCRA includes exceptions regarding reporting of non-conviction information, for example, if a candidate’s expected salary is $75,000 or higher. The FCRA does not apply to searches an employer conducts themselves. 

How To Get A Background Check In Wisconsin

Employers can choose to conduct a state of WI background check for employment directly or partner with a trusted CRA. Employers can request a criminal history check through the Wisconsin Online Record Check System (WORCS), though not all records can be requested online. There is a fee for each report, and additional fees for certified copies. Performing background checks in-house can be time-consuming for human resources teams as they require manual data entry and review, while also tracking compliance with applicable laws.

Employers often choose to partner with a trust background check provider, like GoodHire to benefit from a more streamlined background check process and faster turnaround times. With GoodHire, employers can conduct a Wisconsin background check online with user-friendly workflows and tools to support compliance.

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How Much Does An Wisconsin Background Check Cost?

The cost of a WI employment background check typically depends on who is conducting the search, the type of records that need to be ordered, and the frequency of background screenings needed. When employers choose to perform background checks directly, they will need to pay for the cost of each record individually. For example, a certified Wisconsin motor vehicle report costs a fee of $10 and a criminal history check starts at $7 per report. 

These fees can quickly add up, as other fees may be imposed from the Department of Justice or for employers requesting certified copies. Partnering with a CRA is typically more cost-effective for employers. With GoodHire, now a Checkr company, employers can benefit from customizable and comprehensive background check packages starting at $29.99. 

County Resources

Use the resources below to learn about ban-the-box laws and public records in some of Wisconsin’s largest counties:

Dane County 

Dane County is home to more than 561,500 residents and is the second-most populous county in Wisconsin. The city of Madison is the county seat as well as the state’s capital. The county is located in southern Wisconsin and is part of both the Madison, Wisconsin and Madison-Janesville-Beloit areas. 

Public Information & Records

Local ban-the-box laws apply to positions within the county government in Dane County and city government employees and contractors in Madison.

Milwaukee County

Located in southeastern Wisconsin, Milwaukee County is the state’s most populous county with nearly 950,000 residents. The city of Milwaukee is the county seat and also the state’s most populous county. The county is part of the Milwaukee-Waukesha-West Allis and Milwaukee-Racine-Waukesha area. 

Public Information & Records

Local ban-the-box laws apply to positions within the city government of Milwaukee and the county government in Milwaukee County.

Get A Wisconsin Background Check

Wisconsin employers can partner with a trusted CRA, like GoodHire, for a more streamlined background check process — all while helping hiring managers navigate complex federal, state, and local compliance regulations. GoodHire offers more than 100 screening options and an easy-to-use online platform with automated workflows, providing faster turnaround times and more accurate reporting. Get started with a Wisconsin background check. 

Get A Wisconsin Background Check Today

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GoodHire's background check platform makes it easy to order reports and review results.

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.