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Academic Personnel criminal background checks

Academic units must conduct criminal background checks performed by Sterling Check to identify any prior convictions as part of the employment process for jobs identified as security/safety sensitive, and/or subject to the Washington State Child and Adult Abuse Law (CAAL).

Identifying Jobs Requiring Criminal Background Checks

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

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

All jobs in the University of Washington Medical Centers are designated as security/safety sensitive and/or CAAL-covered. For other academic personnel jobs, the hiring department, in consultation with an Academic HR Business Partner, determines which jobs are designated based on the duties and responsibilities of each job. Questions regarding whether a job requires a background check should be directed to the school/college/campus dean or chancellor, or to Academic HR.

Most typically these jobs are 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

When required, final candidates must complete the Criminal Conviction and Civil Finding History self-disclosure questionnaire and return it to the appointing unit.

Jobs Having Access to Select Agents

Hires into jobs 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 jobs must be made contingent on obtaining a satisfactory criminal background check result.

Conducting Criminal Background Checks

The HR Business Partner of the hiring unit initiates the criminal conviction history check process after a contingent job offer is made to the candidate they wish to hire. In general, the offer of employment needs to be in writing to conduct the “post offer” criminal background check. The background check requirement may also apply if the candidate is a current UW academic personnel member who is being considered for a job that will now include security/safety sensitive and/or CAAL-covered duties and has not previously undergone a criminal conviction history background check.

Academic HR Business Partners must be authorized by the University to initiate criminal history background checks through Sterling Check. If you have questions about who in your unit is authorized to initiate background checks, or to add, delete, or edit an authorized user’s information, please contact Academic HR at

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

Background Check Fees

The hiring unit is responsible for the background check cost. Hiring units are encouraged to consult with their dean/chancellor’s office HR representative about funding. If the final candidate rescinds their acceptance of the job offer after a criminal background check is conducted, the criminal background check fee will not be refunded.

Sterling will send background check invoices by the 10th of the month for checks completed the previous month. For additional information about background check fees, please visit Background checks: Costs and billing on the UW Human Resources website.

Criminal Background Check Results*

The background check initiator will receive an email indicating whether the background check returned criminal history findings. The initiator will not be able to view the completed background check report.

If there are criminal history findings, Sterling will automatically notify the Office of Academic Personnel (OAP). OAP staff will assess whether the findings are disqualifying for UW employment and communicate the disposition to the initiator of the background check.

If the candidate is not eligible for employment, OAP will inform the hiring unit that the candidate has a disqualifying criminal conviction history—without revealing details—and will notify the candidate of their ineligibility for employment after consulting with the OAP representative.

If the results of the check are satisfactory, the candidate may start work as soon as Sterling (in cases where reports have no findings) or the OAP representative (in cases where criminal history is not disqualifying) notifies the unit of the satisfactory result and after all other institutional conditions for hire have been met.

Records Retention Schedule

All units must retain 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.