Who is a minor?
In general, in the United States, a minor is an individual under the age of 18. There are, however, some exceptions. For example:
- In Alabama, Nebraska, and Delaware, 19 is the age of majority.
- In Mississippi, folks are minors until the age of 21.
- In some states (Utah, Ohio, Nevada, and others), a child is considered to be a minor until 18 or high school graduation, whichever is earlier. This means that youth who complete High School prior to turning 18 are no longer considered minors.
Regardless of how your state defines a minor, it’s important to know that there are restrictions and requirements for screening minors for employment.
Can employment background screenings be run on minors? It’s a fair question that requires a careful answer.
The most significant additional requirement for screening minors is parental consent. Background checks for minors are regulated by the FCRA and require consent. However, in most states, minors do not have the ability to give their consent; parents or legal guardians with authority over the individual must consent on their behalf.
Therefore, when initiating a pre-employment background check for a minor, employers must obtain parental consent. While not strictly legally required, it’s also usually considered best practice to also ask the minor to provide their consent as well.
Aside from consent, the other significant consideration surrounding screening minors is simply the availability of information. Minors do not generally have an extensive employment history, don’t have credit, and their criminal records are sealed.
California and Massachusetts actually legally prohibit employers from making any inquiries about a minor’s juvenile records. With references, credit, and crime off the table, what’s left to check? Why even bother requesting a background check?
Even in the face of extra consent and the paucity of available information, requesting background checks for employment on minors is still highly recommended for the following reasons:
- Legal industry requirements. Many industries have background check mandates. Childcare, healthcare, and transportation are just a few examples. An employer’s legal obligation to conduct background checks is the same for adult and minor applicants.
- Risk mitigation. Running background checks mitigates risk; that’s one of the singular benefits of the practice. Background checking applicants dissuades many questionable applicants from applying and protects employers from negligent hiring lawsuits.
- Equity and compliance. The FCRA and EEOC make it clear that employers must apply their background check policies equitably across all applicants. This means that if an adult and a minor apply for the same position that requires a background check, both individuals must be subjected to the same screen. If employers choose to screen only the adults, that can be seen as age discrimination. To avoid any appearance of discrimination, employers must run the same backgrounds check products for every applicant for the same position regardless of age, race, nationality, or gender.
If you have any further questions about applying your background check policy to minor applicants, be sure to consult with your legal team and your background check vendor.
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