Whether you’re a business owner, HR professional, recruiter, or job seeker, understanding what shows up on a background check can be crucial. One question often arises: “Do pending charges appear on a background check?” This comprehensive guide will delve into the specifics, ensuring you understand how pending charges are treated during the background screening process.

Key Takeaways

  1. Understanding pending charges is essential as they indicate an ongoing legal process without a final judgment.
  2. The visibility of pending charges on a background check can vary significantly based on jurisdictional laws.
  3. Employers should develop and apply clear, consistent policies to ensure fair and non-discriminatory treatment concerning pending charges.
  4. Familiarity with legal guidelines, such as those by the FCRA and EEOC, is crucial for both employers and job seekers.
  5. Transparency throughout the hiring process fosters trust and compliance, benefiting both employers and candidates.

Why Background Checks Matter

Background checks are a vital part of the hiring process. They help employers verify candidates’ information and ensure that potential hires are trustworthy and suitable for the role in question. A background check is a comprehensive review of a person’s commercial, criminal, and financial records. Knowing what’s in those records can provide critical insights that protect organizations from potential risks.

The primary purpose of conducting background checks is maintaining a safe and compliant workplace. Employers want to ensure that the individuals they hire embody the values and integrity of the organization. This is particularly crucial in positions that handle sensitive information, manage financial transactions, or interact with vulnerable populations. By conducting background checks, employers can mitigate the risk of liabilities such as theft, fraud, and workplace violence.

Certain industries emphasize background checks more due to the nature of their work. For example, staffing agencies need to verify the backgrounds of the candidates they place to avoid legal ramifications. Healthcare sectors conduct rigorous background checks to ensure patient safety and compliance with regulations. Similarly, transportation and logistics companies perform checks to ensure the safety of goods and passengers. Other sectors where background checks are significant include tenant screening, non-profits, retail, technology, and hospitality. Each industry relies on background screenings to maintain safety, security, and trust.

What Are Pending Charges?

Pending charges refer to criminal charges that have been filed against an individual but have not yet been adjudicated. Essentially, these are accusations currently awaiting resolution through the legal system. Unlike convictions, which indicate a legal determination of guilt, pending charges indicate that someone has been formally accused of a crime and is awaiting trial or a court’s decision.

Pending charges occupy a gray area legally. They don’t come with the certainty of a conviction but are more than mere allegations. Their presence on a person’s record can signal ongoing legal proceedings, influencing how employers perceive a candidate’s suitability. While a conviction provides a clear outcome that can be actioned upon, pending charges leave a lot to interpretation and vary in their seriousness and eventual outcome. This nuance is critical for employers to understand.

Impact on Employment

The impact of pending charges on employment can be significant and varies by industry and the nature of the charges. Pending charges might be heavily scrutinized for high-stakes sectors like healthcare, transportation, or roles involving vulnerable populations. Employers may worry about the potential risk of hiring someone who could be convicted soon or involved in ongoing legal issues.

However, employers must also balance these concerns with fairness, considering the person has not yet been convicted. Some companies might opt for a policy of suspension until the legal process concludes, while others might proceed based on the nature of the pending charges and their relevance to the job role. Understanding the potential impact and preparing to discuss these charges transparently is crucial for job seekers.

Do Pending Charges Show Up on a Background Check?

The Short Answer: Pending charges can appear on a background check.

The Long Answer: It depends.

Pending charges refer to criminal charges that have been filed but have not been resolved through the court system. These can include anything from DUI charges to more serious felonies. Including pending charges in a background check depends on your location and the type of background check being conducted.

Background Screening and Pending Charges

When a background check is conducted, the screening process typically involves accessing various databases that contain criminal history information, including pending charges. The nature of these databases can vary significantly, with some maintained at the national level and others maintained at state or local levels. As a result, the background check might reveal ongoing legal matters, including pending charges.

Jurisdictional Differences

The appearance of pending charges on a background check can also depend greatly on jurisdictional differences. Some states have specific laws dictating whether pending charges can be reported in a background check. For example, in some states, reports may only include convictions and omit pending charges entirely. Others may allow pending charges to be reported but restrict how this information can be used in hiring decisions.

Understanding these jurisdictional nuances is crucial for employers who need to ensure compliance with state and local laws. This often requires staying up-to-date with legislative changes and seeking guidance from legal professionals familiar with employment law in the relevant jurisdiction.

In conclusion, while pending charges can appear on a background check, the extent and impact of this information can be influenced by various factors, including the type of background check, the nature of the charges, and local jurisdictional laws. Employers must navigate these complexities carefully, balancing due diligence with fairness and legal compliance.

Best Practices for Employers

Creating a clear and consistent approach to handling pending charges in background checks is vital for any employer. Here are some best practices to guide your process:

  • Clear Policies: Start by developing transparent, written policies defining how to consider pending charges. Clarify the types of charges that are relevant to your industry and specific roles. Make this policy accessible to all employees and candidates to ensure transparency.
  • Consistency: Apply your policies uniformly across all candidates to avoid any unintentional bias or discrimination. This may require training your hiring managers and HR personnel to understand and adhere to these policies consistently.
  • Due Diligence: Don’t jump to conclusions when a pending charge is revealed. Private-sector background checks are often plagued by false-positive and false-negative errors, which can significantly impact an individual’s access to employment and social opportunities. For instance, a study found that 60 percent of participants had at least one false-positive error on their regulated background checks, and nearly all had at least one false-negative error. Assess the nature and context of the charge and consider its relevance to the job. Weighing the severity of the charge and how recent it is can help make a balanced decision on whether the charge impacts the candidate’s ability to perform the job safely and effectively.
  • Resources: Equip yourself with the right tools and resources to comply with legal guidelines and industry best practices. The following links can provide additional support:

By adhering to these best practices, you can navigate the complexities of pending charges in background checks responsibly and fairly, ensuring a balanced approach that protects your company and respects candidates’ rights.

What Job Seekers Should Know


When applying for a job, it’s crucial to be upfront if the application or interview process asks about pending charges. While it might feel uncomfortable, honesty can sometimes be the best policy. Employers appreciate transparency, and it sets a tone of trustworthiness.

Know Your Rights

Job seekers should be well-versed in their rights under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) guidelines. These bodies offer protections and set boundaries on how your background information, including pending charges, can be used by employers. Knowing these can arm you with the knowledge to ensure that you’re being treated fairly throughout the hiring process.

Proactive Communication

Consider discussing any pending charges with potential employers before they discover them on a background check. Providing context and showing how you are navigating through the situation demonstrates maturity and responsibility. Employers value candidates who tackle issues head-on rather than shying away from them. You can frame it as a unique learning experience that has helped develop your character and resilience.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Do Pending Charges Appear on All Background Checks?

Pending charges can show up on many, but not necessarily all types of background checks. The visibility of these charges largely depends on the depth and scope of the check requested. For instance, a comprehensive criminal background check is more likely to reveal pending charges than a basic screening.

How Should Employers Handle Discovering Pending Charges?

Employers should approach pending charges with a balanced perspective. It’s vital to consider the nature of the charge, its relevance to the job, and the candidate’s explanation. Following established company policies and adhering to legal guidelines will ensure a fair assessment.

What Are an Applicant’s Rights If Pending Charges Are Found?

Applicants have the right to be informed if a background check reveals pending charges. Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), they must be given a copy of the report and a chance to dispute any inaccuracies.

Can Pending Charges Affect Employment Offers?

Yes, pending charges can impact employment offers, particularly if the charges are relevant to the job duties or company policies. However, decisions should be made on a case-by-case basis, taking into account the severity and relevance of the charges.

Should Job Seekers Disclose Pending Charges Voluntarily?

It’s generally a good idea for job seekers to be upfront about pending charges, especially if asked during the application process. Proactive disclosure demonstrates honesty and provides an opportunity to explain the circumstances, which can be beneficial in building trust with potential employers.


In wrapping up, it’s clear that pending charges do indeed show up on background checks, and their appearance can have significant implications for both employers and job seekers.

Moving forward, both parties should prioritize transparency. Employers are encouraged to communicate their background check policies clearly, while job seekers should be prepared to discuss pending charges candidly. By adhering to legal guidelines and promoting open dialogue, the hiring process can become more transparent and just for all.