Criminal Background Checks Regarding Academic Personnel

The University of Washington (UW) is committed to the safety of students, patients, clients, academic personnel, and staff. The University conducts criminal conviction history checks as part of its employment process for positions that are identified as security/safety sensitive, and/or subject to the Washington State Child and Adult Abuse Law (CAAL).

Identifying Positions Requiring Criminal Background Checks

At the time of recruitment for a new or vacant academic personnel position, all applicants who will be working in positions that are security/safety-sensitive or with members of certain populations must undergo a criminal background check performed through A-Check America, the consumer reporting agency vendor that conducts background checks for the University.

To decide whether the position is covered by CAAL, you need to determine whether it “will or may have unsupervised access” to any of the following special populations:

  • Children under 16 years of age;
  • Developmentally disabled adults; or
  • Vulnerable populations

Most typically these positions are located in the following schools or colleges:

  • College of Arts and Sciences (certain positions)
  • College of Education (certain positions)
  • School of Dentistry
  • School of Medicine
  • School of Nursing
  • School of Public Health
  • School of Social Work

A copy of the Criminal Conviction and Civil Finding History self-disclosure questionnaire can be downloaded here.

Questions regarding whether a position is covered should be directed to the school/college/campus Dean or Chancellor, or to AHR (206.543.5630 or

Positions Having Access to Select Agents

Hires into positions having direct access to select agents, as defined by the USA PATRIOT Act of 2001, are subject to federal background checks which substitute for the UW criminal background check process. UW Environmental Health and Safety notifies employing units when the federal background check is required. Offers of employment into such positions must be made contingent on obtaining a satisfactory criminal background check result.

Conducting Criminal Background Checks

The Dean/Chancellor’s office of the hiring unit initiates the criminal conviction history check process after a contingent job offer is made to the candidate you wish to hire. The background check requirement may also apply if the candidate is a current UW academic personnel member who is being considered for a position which requires a background check and has not previously undergone a criminal conviction history background check.

After receiving the criminal background check results, the dean/chancellor’s office will notify the hiring unit of the result.

Criminal Background Check Results

In the majority of cases, candidates are cleared for employment. If your candidate has a disqualifying criminal conviction, a representative from the Office of the Vice Provost for Academic Personnel will discuss the matter with your dean/chancellor’s office human resources representative and review the appropriate action to be taken.

Records Retention Schedule

All units must retain and store completed criminal background check authorization forms, criminal background check results, character, competence and suitability assessments and all other applicable background information as required by the State Records Committee, RCW 40.14.050 and the University’s Record Retention Schedule.

Hiring Resources

Criminal Background Checks – Questions & Answers

When is a criminal background check required for academic personnel (Faculty, Librarians, Academic Staff and Senior Fellows/Residents)?

For new hires a criminal background check is required for an appointment into a security, safety sensitive and/or CAAL-covered position. For current academic personnel, a criminal background check is required when a current member who has not had a UW criminal background check is conditionally offered a new position that requires a criminal background check. The scope of the background check is based on how long the candidate has resided in Washington state.

Does the criminal background check requirement apply when an individual holding an academic personnel position is assigned new Security/Safety sensitive, and/or CAAL-covered duties in the member’s current position?

Yes. If new duties are assigned that are security/safety-sensitive or CAAL-covered, a criminal background check must be conducted.

Does the UW offer of employment need to be in writing in order to conduct a “post offer” criminal background check?

Yes, in general, the offer of employment does need to be in writing to conduct the “post offer” criminal background check.

How long does it take to conduct a criminal background check?

Criminal background checks can normally be completed within 48-72 hours of the time that the selected candidate provides the required information to the University’s contractor (i.e., A-Check). However, circumstances such as the need to perform an international criminal background check will necessarily require additional time.

How soon after receiving the criminal background check results may the candidate begin work?

The candidate may start work as soon as your dean/chancellor’s office human resources representative notifies you of a satisfactory criminal background check result and all other institutional conditions for hire have been met.

What if a department feels that it can’t afford the cost of conducting criminal background checks?

Hiring officials are encouraged to consult with their dean/chancellor’s office human resources representative about funding. Criminal background checks must be conducted if a position meets the security/safety sensitive criteria, and the employing unit is responsible for the cost of the background check.

If the final candidate rescinds his/her acceptance of the job offer after a criminal background check is conducted, will the criminal background check fee be refunded?


How are departments informed of the results of the criminal background check?

The dean/chancellor’s office human resources representative will notify the hiring unit whether the candidate is eligible for employment. If the candidate is not eligible for employment, the dean/chancellor’s office human resources representative will tell you that the candidate has a disqualifying criminal conviction history, but will not reveal details of the criminal conviction information.

How long is a candidate’s criminal background check information retained by the University?

The UW Records Retention policy is followed.

If a candidate is determined ineligible for employment based on the results of the criminal background check, who may the department contact for further information?

You may contact the dean/chancellor’s office human resources representative who serves your department.

Who tells the candidate after a disqualifying criminal background check result that he/she is not eligible for employment?

The dean/chancellor’s office human resources representative notifies the candidate of his/her ineligibility for employment after consultation with the representative from the Office of the Vice Provost for Academic Personnel.

Who determines when a position is properly designated as security/safety sensitive and/or CAAL-covered?

All positions in the University of Washington Medical Centers are designated as security, safety sensitive and/or CAAL-covered. For other academic personnel positions, the hiring department, in consultation with an Academic Human Resources Consultant determines which positions are so designated based on the duties and responsibilities of each position.