It is legally permissible to conduct background checks on individuals under the age of 18; however, please be aware that there may not be a lot of information returned. Here are some highlights as to different searches and consent forms.
- Education: Odds are the individual is still in high school, not currently enrolled or working towards a GED. There may not be education experience to verify.
- Employment: Likely a minor candidate hasn’t had any prior employment experience that is likely relevant/necessary for the job being filled.
- MVR: There is likely minimal MVR history, although this is one search that may make the most sense if the minor will be driving such as if he/she is applying to deliver food.
- Criminal: Juvenile records are not reportable. There may be an instance where a minor has committed a crime and been tried as an adult, and in this situation it would be reportable. However, if that is the case, it’s likely for a serious offense that would require a period of incarceration, meaning the minor is not out applying for a job. Given the importance of workplace safety and protection from negligent hiring, a criminal search may still be a good idea even taking the above into consideration.
- References: This could be useful depending on the position.
As for credit history, we will not process a credit report on individuals under the age of 18. Typically individuals under 18 only have credit history if a parent/guardian lists them as a joint account holder or authorized user. Another way an individual under 18 would have a credit report is due to identity theft. There have been instances where individuals will use the minor’s information to open accounts, run up debts, etc. without the minor or the parent/guardian ever knowing since minors do not really ever apply for credit (usually you have to be 18+ to apply for loans, open a credit card, etc.). The credit bureaus differ slightly on process, but they will accommodate security freeze requests from parents to help prevent this matter from happening. However, if no file is created in the first place for the minor the credit bureaus typically do not create a file unless required to do so under state law. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has a helpful article on the topic: https://www.consumerfinance.gov/askcfpb/1271/should-i-request-credit-reports-my-children.html.
Our recommendation is to have the minor’s parent or guardian sign the disclosure and authorization form as minors are not typically thought of as capable of providing consent.
As always, when reviewing screening practices for candidates of any age, we recommend discussing with your legal counsel before taking action.