FAQ - Criminal Background Check

To protect the campus community and its assets, the University needs to ensure that individuals assigned to certain campus positions (cash handlers, police officers, child care workers, and data managers with access to personal information, to name a few) have no history of criminal behavior relevant to their employment. Although this is no guarantee against criminal acts, it does reduce the likelihood of crime, and may reduce the campus' liability in the event a crime occurs. It also helps protect hiring departments from the possibility of lawsuits, which exact a heavy cost in time and morale, and from the cost of embezzlement (the University's Employee Dishonesty Insurance Policy has a deductible of $1 million, meaning anything less than that is paid by the department). You are invited to read the full text of the policy.
 

The policy provides guidance on the criteria for determining when positions are sensitive and require criminal background checks. It articulates the responsibilities of the department and other campus units, describes the process for criminal background checks, including the notification process, and provides for the confidentiality of information gathered and the protection of privacy of individuals undergoing criminal background checks.
 

Criminal Background Check Policy located here.

No. The background checks authorized by this policy are for criminal convictions only. However, some positions may require additional background checks, including checking into a person's credit rating.

Criminal background checks are required of an employee who moves into a sensitive position as a new hire, transfer, promotion, reclassification, or changes in job duties that move a position into a "sensitive" category. This includes career, limited, contract, per diem, student, and volunteer positions.

Where policies and contractual provisions related to background checks for specific personnel programs currently exist, it is intended that the provisions of this policy be applied in conjunction with those provisions. Employees in the Clerical unit will remain covered by the relevant contractual provisions and the previous policy pertaining to background checks while collective bargaining obligations are completed. See Unions, Bargaining Agreements, and Labor Relations for more information.

The hiring department, in consultation with Human Resources, will determine which positions should be designated as "sensitive," based on the duties and responsibilities of each position.

Current employees do not have to undergo criminal background checks unless a transfer, promotion, reclassification, or change in their job duties moves their position into a sensitive category, as defined by the new criteria.

The University of California Police Department (UCPD) will maintain the results of criminal background checks. If there are no criminal convictions, UCPD will notify the department to complete the personnel transaction (e.g., hire). The original report will remain in the Police Department. If there are criminal convictions, the UCPD will notify the Criminal Background Check Review Committee, which will review the results and make final determinations regarding the suitability of subjects for specific positions. In accordance with California law AB655, the UCPD will also provide a summary of the criminal background check to the subject of the investigation, regardless of the results.

UCPD conducts criminal background checks under the supervision of the Chief of Police. The UCPD will serve as the Office of Record for all criminal background check results and will maintain confidentiality. Departments will not receive any details of a criminal background check, only a notification of whether the background check has revealed any criminal convictions. UC policy and state and federal laws recognize a subject's right to privacy and prohibit campus employees and others from seeking out, using, or disclosing personal information except within the scope of their assigned duties.

The UCPD will keep the criminal background check results on file at their office indefinitely or until they are notified by a department that an individual has left campus employment. When an employee leaves the campus and is not expected to return, departments can send an email to UCPD notifying them that the individual has left University employment. The UCPD Records Unit will destroy records after an employee leaves and notify DOJ to discontinue the updates. Departments can send the email to this UCPD address: fingerprints@lists.berkeley.edu.

Criminal background check information should not be kept in an individual's personnel file. For current employees, this information should be kept in a separate file. For applicants who are hired, criminal background check information should be kept in the recruitment file for that position. If someone is not hired, it is ok to keep all of the information in one file. Visit the following HR web site for other questions and answers about staff employee personnel files including a list of items that do not belong in the personnel files of an employee: Personnel Files.

UCPD conducts criminal background checks under the supervision of the Chief of Police. The UCPD will serve as the Office of Record for all criminal background check results and will maintain confidentiality. Departments will not receive any details of a criminal background check, only a notification of whether the background check has revealed any criminal convictions. UC policy and state and federal laws recognize a subject's right to privacy and prohibit campus employees and others from seeking out, using, or disclosing personal information except within the scope of their assigned duties.

The University of California Police Department (UCPD) will maintain the results of criminal background checks. If there are no criminal convictions, UCPD will notify the department to complete the personnel transaction (e.g., hire). The original report will remain in the Police Department. If there are criminal convictions, the UCPD will notify the Criminal Background Check Review Committee, which will review the results and make final determinations regarding the suitability of subjects for specific positions. In accordance with California law AB655, the UCPD will also provide a summary of the criminal background check to the subject of the investigation, regardless of the results.

The policy places the responsibility on the department to determine which of their positions should be designated sensitive. Additionally, there can be financial consequences for a department when a crime is committed in that department. For financially sensitive positions: the University has an insurance policy for employee dishonesty, but the deductible is $1,000,000. The department would have to pay for losses under that amount. For other sensitive positions: although it is true that the General Liability Self-Insurance Program would pay for many of these liabilities, under certain circumstances the General Liability Program could compel departments to pay for the first $50,000 of any loss. The most common reason the General Liability Self-Insurance Program asks for department contributions is "violation of University or campus policy." Failure to conduct a criminal background check when appropriate would fit under that category. Currently, there are no central campus funds available to help off-set this expense. The responsibility and cost of criminal background checks may provide an incentive to some departments to structure their internal business processes with needed checks and balances to avoid the need for the background checks.

The current rate (October 2004) for criminal background checks is $82 for the combined Department of Justice (DOJ) and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) reports. The UCPD is responsible for coordinating the criminal background checks and will recharge the department for this service. The rates were established and approved by the campus Recharge Committee, and are subject to annual review and may be modified in accordance with campus recharge policy.

The current rate (October 2004) for criminal background checks is $82 for the combined Department of Justice (DOJ) and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) reports. The UCPD is responsible for coordinating the criminal background checks and will recharge the department for this service. The rates were established and approved by the campus Recharge Committee, and are subject to annual review and may be modified in accordance with campus recharge policy.
 

UCPD should receive the DOJ criminal background check information in three to seven days and the FBI information in approximately 30 days.

New hires (individuals who are not currently employees in the UC Berkeley system) can be provisionally hired before the criminal background check has cleared. This is because new hires serve a probationary period and can be released if they don't clear the criminal background check.

Criminal background checks are to be initiated and completed before an individual is assigned to a sensitive position.

To find out if an individual has already had a criminal background check, departments can inquire by calling UC Police Department 642-6760 for instructions.

This is because there is no provision in the policy to hold or guarantee the old job if an employee gives notice and the criminal background check subsequently precludes that individual from accepting the new sensitive position. The principle here is to preserve an individual's job rights.

This will depend on the situation:

  • If students will be donating time and effort to the campus in a manner that benefits the campus (UC sponsored program, event or activity), and the responsibilities are of a sensitive nature, a criminal background check is required.
  • If students will be donating time and effort in a manner that benefits others (non-UC sponsored opportunity), the agency or institution accepting the volunteer is liable. In this case, campus departments are not responsible for obtaining the criminal background check. The Office of Legal Affairs states that liability for actions of volunteers would reside with the organization using the volunteers, not the organization supplying the volunteers, unless there is an agreement to the contrary.
  • If a student volunteers to host a high school senior for a night as part of Cal's Senior Weekend activities, departments should transfer liability to the parents of the senior coming to campus. If this is done, a criminal background check of that student volunteer would not be required. (Departments can call the Office of Risk Management to obtain a waiver of liability, agreement, or memo of understanding.)
  • If a student volunteers to work for a campus sponsored event or program which involves minors (individuals under 18 years of age), a criminal background check is required, unless the students' interaction with these minors is supervised at all times.

If you have questions about whether you need a criminal background check for work-study students or student volunteers, consult with your assigned Employee Relations Consultant.

As long as the student returns to the same sensitive position or one that is similar, criminal background checks are not required each time students leave the campus and return to start a new position. If the employee has already cleared the criminal background check for a particular sensitive position, the UC Police Department (UCPD) will continue to receive automatic updates from DOJ/FBI notifying them of any subsequent criminal convictions. Subsequently, there is no need to obtain additional background checks unless the nature of the sensitive job duties change. These automatic updates will continue to come to UCPD until a department notifies them that the employee no longer works for the University. UCPD then has to notify DOJ/FBI to discontinue the updates.

Since both student employees and limited employees can be terminated at will if the criminal background check reveals relevant criminal convictions, a department may at their discretion choose to let such employees begin working in some positions before completion of the background check. It depends upon the kinds of sensitive duties the employee would perform and the potential consequences of criminal behavior. For example:

  • For a position that has been designated sensitive because of access to cash, the department may carefully weigh the University's business need against risk management considerations and decide that a student or limited employee whose job duties would include, e.g., part-time operation of a cash register in a low-volume gift-shop operation does not pose a significant financial risk of theft or embezzlement, and can allow the employee to begin performing the duties before the criminal background check results have been received.
  • For a position that has been designated sensitive because of duties involving contact with children, the potential consequences of even a single act that caused harm to children would outweigh any business need considerations, and the individual should not be allowed to start working in the job before being cleared
  • For a position that has been designated sensitive because of access to keys, the decision of when a student or limited employee can begin work should take into account the nature of the theft or harm that could result from misuse of the keys. For instance, if the employee would possess keys to an office supplies storeroom, the department may consider that this does not represent a risk of significant theft. But if the employee possesses keys to dormitory rooms or to laboratories with hazardous materials, the consequences of misuse of the keys may represent too great a risk of harm.

Departments have the option of using the Fleet Services Pull Notice Program to order periodic DMV checks and be recharged, or Sacramento's DMV Pull Notice Program at no cost (UC is exempt from charges). To use the Sacramento Pull Notice Program, departments will need to apply for their own user codes and maintain their own records for audit purposes. For information about the Sacramento DMV Pull Notice Program, call the DMV Employee Pull Notice Unit at (916) 657-6346.

Fingerprint information and perpetual updates from DOJ/FBI cannot be transferred between campuses when a career UC employee in a sensitive position transfers from one campus to another. The UC Police Department (UCPD) has clarified that the agency that submits the fingerprints is required to use a unique identifying number issued by the DOJ; information cannot be transferred from one agency to another. (For example, if a person is transferred from UC Berkeley to UC San Francisco [UCSF], UCPD would drop him/her from their database. If UCSF wanted to track that individual, they would need to submit a new set of fingerprints to DOJ/FBI). Protection of privacy and confidentiality issues prohibit agencies from sharing data. Consequently, criminal background checks should be obtained before hiring/promoting career employees who are transferring from another UC campus to fill sensitive positions, when there will be no break in service.

If there will be a break in service, in most cases this individual may begin work (provisionally) before the criminal background check is complete, since s/he will serve a new probation period and can be released if s/he does not clear the criminal background check.

The intent of the policy is that it will apply to represented as well as non- represented employees. For the policy to apply to represented employees, the union and the University must first negotiate an agreement. The policy will apply to CUE employees once the union negotiates an agreement with the University. The collective bargaining agreement between the University and CUE expired September 30, 2004, however, the basic terms and conditions of employment for CUE employees continue. Although CUE positions are not presently covered by the new policy, this does not mean that CUE positions are exempt from criminal background checks altogether. Certain CUE positions will continue to require criminal background checks for "critical" positions (similar to the "sensitive" positions in the policy). Departments should read and follow UC-CUE Agreement, Article 48 (Work Rules) until such time as the union agrees to the provisions of the new Criminal Background Check policy.

Departments considering actions that may change employee terms and conditions of employment including reorganizations or changes in work rules, should consult with their assigned Employee Relations Consultant regarding a possible bargaining obligation.

The Criminal Background Check policy criteria states that criminal background checks are required of those who have authority to commit financial resources of the University through contracts greater than the Low Value Purchase Authority. Therefore, if the Procurement Card user is only authorized for purchases up to the Low Value Purchase Authority maximum of $2,500 per transaction, no criminal background check is required. Departments should make sure that the appropriate audit procedures are in place.

No. The UC- issued photo ID (Cal 1 Card) cannot be used as identification for criminal background check/live scan service. The UC Police Department has clarified that the State of California DOJ and the FBI only accept the following types of ID to conduct a fingerprint scan: driver's license, passport, or birth certificate with a picture ID.

The Committee will complete its review within seven days of receiving notification of a DOJ/FBI background check with convictions.

Individuals with criminal convictions for theft, embezzlement, identity theft or fraud cannot be hired into positions with fiduciary responsibilities. Convictions for child molestation and other sex offenses will automatically preclude an individual from employment that involves direct unsupervised contact with students, outreach programs, or access to residence facilities. Workplace or domestic violence, or other convictions for behaviors that would be inappropriate for specific jobs may also be grounds for denial of employment/promotion. This list is not inclusive, but serves to illustrate the decision-making criteria.

No. If there is a criminal conviction, the Criminal Background Check Review Committee will review the results and make the final determination regarding the individual's suitability for employment in the position. The Review Committee may recommend additional controls that a department would need to implement before employing, promoting, or reclassifying a person convicted of a crime. Consideration will be given to the specific duties of the position, the number of offenses and circumstances of each, and whether the convictions were disclosed on the application.

Yes. The Committee reviews all criminal background checks in which convictions are found and makes the final determinations regarding the suitability of individuals for specific positions.

The DOJ will report on conviction results in the State of California, and the FBI will report on national criminal convictions. Criminal background checks automatically report all past criminal convictions in a person's history, unless restricted by contract or law. Only convictions within the past seven years will be considered by the Review Committee.

The following forms can be found on the UCPD website:

Sample Letters of Notification (to inform an individual that employment in a particular sensitive position is conditional upon the results of a criminal background check) are available on the Criminal Background Check: Forms & Sample Letters page.