Q: Can we do a background check on a 16-year-old we are considering hiring to do part-time IT work? He would have access to company records, including financial data. Would his signature on our background consent/authorization for be valid, or do we need a parent or guardian to sign?

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A: A 16-year-old is a minor, under the age of legal consent, meaning he lacks the capacity to understand the consequences, terms, and obligations of a legal agreement or contract, and therefore cannot give legal consent to submit a background check.

The Fair Credit Reporting Act sets certain employer obligations and applicant/employee rights regarding information gathered through employment-related background checks. It applies to background checks for minors and all other applicants or employees.

Considering that your 16-year-old employee will have access to valuable company data, it seems prudent to do a background check. But lack of proper consent from a minor incapable of giving legal consent could trigger employer liability under the FCRA. It would therefore be advisable to obtain consent from a parent or legal guardian.

Before proceeding, however, it is also advisable to examine what data a background check is likely to uncover for a minor, even with parental consent.

Most minors' criminal records, other than those related to serious criminal matters where the minor was prosecuted as an adult, are sealed and most likely unavailable.

Credit history would probably be nonexistent, since most minors cannot obtain credit of any significance.

Educational and employment history are the most likely to yield useful information.
Educational and employment history are the most likely to yield useful information related to knowledge, experience, and integrity.

Remember, even though the information likely to turn up may be minimal, don't even consider shortcutting the process of required consent from a legally competent person on behalf of the minor.

And if negative information is obtained leading to a decision not to hire, be sure to follow the mandated FCRA notice and disclosure requirements, including giving to both the minor and parent or guardian the pre-adverse decision notice permitting an opportunity to correct the negative information.

Filed Under: HR Hotline, Labor & Employment, Recruiting & Hiring
  • Annette

    If a person was convicted of felony 16 years ago. Would it show up on a background check

  • Robert Baker

    I’m 17 could I pass a background check

    • CBIANews

      As long as your history, education, work experience, criminal background, possibly a drug test and/or medical exam, etc. did not contain any disqualifying incidents or items, yes, you could pass a background check. From the employer perspective, the question is more one of “can a minor give legal consent to permit accessing his background data,” or should the employer seek parental consent on behalf of their minor child. There may not be much there for a minor just starting out in life, with limited work and financial history, or whose brushes with the law are sealed by the court because they are a minor.