Background Checks

The CSU system-wide policy on background checks was developed to provide directives and guidance on background checks which are critical in preventing risk and providing protection to campus employees, students, volunteers, and guests.

Procedures and Documentation:

CSU Policy:

Frequently Asked Questions:

1. When did the policy go into effect?

The policy went into effect August 3, 2015.  The policy was updated on December 21, 2017 to comply with AB 1008.

2. Who may I contact with questions regarding the process?

Please contact us at:

3. Are employment verifications and reference checks also required for emergency hires (Intermittent employees) and short-term hires (less than 90 days in duration)?

Yes, the policy requirement applies to all new hires, including temporary, probationary, intermittent, and at-will employees.

4. If a current employee is voluntarily moving from a position that was subject to a background check to another position subject to a background check, will a new background check be required?

If a current employee is voluntarily moving from a position that was subject to a background check to another position subject to a background check, a new background check is required if more than 12 months has elapsed since a check was previously performed.

5. Are campuses required to confirm that previous background checks were completed for current employees who are voluntarily moving into sensitive positions?

Every employee voluntarily moving into a position in which a background check is required must complete it unless they have had a CSU background check at the same campus in the past 12 months.  Therefore, for a current employee in this situation, the campus must verify whether or not a background check occurred within the last 12 months to determine whether a new check is required.

6. Are reference checks required for all faculty employees, including lecturers?

Yes, reference checks are required for all new faculty employees.

7. The policy indicates that all new hires will have to complete the criminal records, education and employment verification, as well as the reference checks. What if the position doesn’t require education?

An education verification is still required as part of the “Required Background Checks” as indicated in the policy.  Most positions at the CSU require, at the minimum, a high school diploma or GED certificate.

8. What education should we verify? What if the job classification doesn’t require specific education for the position? What if the candidate reports degrees that aren’t required?

If the advertised position requires a specific level of education, the campus should verify that the candidate has the required education.  However, the campus should verify all post-secondary degrees claimed by the candidate.  If the candidate has a post-secondary degree when only a high school diploma or GED is required, verification of the post-secondary degree is sufficient.  

For example, if the position requires a high school diploma or GED certificate and the candidates has a Bachelor’s degree, then the campus should verify the Bachelor’s degree.  If the position requires a JD degree and the candidate has both a JD and an MBA, the JD degree must be verified, but it is also good practice to verify the MBA.  If the job classification does not require specific education and the candidate does not claim a specific degree, it is not necessary to verify education.

9. Can we allow a candidate and/or existing employee to start work but indicate they cannot perform the sensitive duties (e.g., gain access to our Level 1 data) until cleared?


10. What is the difference between the employment verification and a reference check?

The employment verification verifies the dates of employment and prior employers.  The campus may send an inquiry to the candidate’s current employer only if s/he specifically consents.  A reference check gives a professional assessment of the candidate’s work history and skills.  A reference check is typically done by contacting a past employer, supervisor or co-worker.

11. If the department completes the reference checks for the new hire, is a statement from the department sufficient or does HR need to retain notes from the reference checks?

All documents related to the background check should be kept together, including all notes from the reference checks.  Departments conducting their own reference checks will need to submit copies to the Records Custodian in Human Resources.

12. Are reference checks required for new faculty members when the job posting requires the candidate to provide letters of recommendation with their application materials?

Yes.  Reference checks are required for all new hires, including faculty members.  If letters of recommendations are submitted directly by the referees (not the candidate), the campus may accept these as valid references.  However, we strongly recommend that at least one additional reference check be carried out.  Letters of recommendation submitted by the candidate cannot be substituted for reference checks under this Policy.  

13. Must we conduct background checks on guest lecturers, instructors who teach one-day non-credit courses offered through Extended Learning on a sporadic basis, and conference presenters paid via an honorarium or who volunteer their services?

Generally, no.  Campuses frequently bring individuals to campus to provide one-time services such as public talks, seminars in their field of expertise, performances, conference presentations, guest lectures, workshop facilitation, etc.  These activities are typically non-sensitive and provide very low levels of risk to the organization, and the providers do not have an ongoing employment relationship with the campus (although they may receive a payment).  When that is the case, they can be considered excluded from this Policy.