The State of Maine has streamlined its background check process to be more cost-effective and time-saving for employers and employees. By visiting one website, users are able to request different types of background checks based on the specific information they need.
Maine’s State-Specific Laws
The Maine Background Check Center (MBCC) is an online tool available to employers across the state for employment background checks. It is not regulated for private contractors, of course, since many of these businesses do not file documentation through the state anyway.
The MBCC is operated by the Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) with help from the Maine Department of Public Safety (DPS). Over time, DHHS and the DPS hope that this system will improve the hiring process for Maine employers by cutting down on the time and money it takes to get a complete background check.
In addition, the MBCC is more secure than previous background check methods because there are fewer points of contact, and less paperwork is required per background check.
Quick Check is a feature unique to Maine background checks. A Quick Check allows employers to begin their background checks before paying a dime. Any major details that could disqualify an applicant from a position will show up on the Quick Check, and the employer can decide if he or she would like to go further.
Employees will rarely make their final decisions based on a Quick Check, but it is a helpful way to spot issues and be prepared to deal with them if the candidate has the skills, experience, and education to fulfill the role.
All that an employer needs to run a Quick Check is the applicant’s first and last name. With this information, the employer will be able to see sex offender information, Excluded Providers, CNA and DCW licenses, and cases from Maine’s Office of the Inspector General.
Maine employers have the ability to sponsor a waiver for a disqualified applicant. The employer assumes all responsibility for the employee’s behavior if hired under a waiver. Employees are asked to consider the following before hiring an applicant under a waiver:
- Nature and severity offense that caused the applicant to be disqualified.
- How much time has passed since the offense was committed.
- The relation of the offense to the position that the applicant is seeking.
- If the offense was related to the person’s employment at the time.
If the employer feels confident that there is no risk involved in awarding the position to a particular applicant – particularly, that no harm will come to protected individuals such as children, the elderly, or the disabled – then the employer may file for a waiver.
A Maine background check done by the MBCC is $56, and this record is good for up to 5 years.
Any Maine resident can obtain a public Maine Criminal History Record or a Juvenile Crime Information Request (for crimes the person was adjudicated for) for $21. The fee for out-of-state requests is $31. For $10 more (in-state or out-of-state) you can request a notarized copy of the document.
From the third-party website Instant Criminal Checks, you can purchase a criminal background check which includes the national sex offender website for $24.95.
What is on a Criminal Background Check in Maine?
The MBCC is a search tool that looks at all of the following agencies when conducting a criminal background check:
- Criminal record – Arrests, convictions, and incarcerations
- Maine Sex Offender Registry – Sex crime offenses within the state
- National Sex Offender Public Website – Sex crime offenses reported across the United States
- Office of Inspector General – Primarily searched for cases of abuse, but this agency can also report issues of waste or fraud.
- Maine Regulatory Licensing & Permitting – Licensing in a wide range of professions CNA and Direct Care Worker Registry – Licensing for these specific medical fields
- Maine Excluded Providers – Medical providers excluded from participating in Federal healthcare payment programs, like Medicaid and Medicare, due to violations.
In the future, MBCC will add searches for adult and child protective services and the Bureau of Motor Vehicles, and criminal records of the FBI; however, these things are not included on a Maine background check at this time.
As an applicant, you need to disclose all charges you have had brought against you, especially if the charge has happened recently. All cases that have gone to court should be on your criminal background check, but pending charges may not show up.
Reasons for Background Checks in Maine
Not all employers do background screening in Maine. However, with the development of the MBCC, it is expected that more employers will begin running criminal background checks than they did before the system was in place.
Certain positions, such as teaching, law enforcement, and healthcare, will probably always require a background check, but other fields are subject to the employer’s discretion.
Two fields, in particular, are carefully regulated by the Maine DPS:
- Certified Nursing Assistants – CNAs can work in hospitals, nursing homes, or in patients’ homes as a representative for home healthcare agencies.
- Direct Care Workers – DCWs are assisted living staff or non-medical home healthcare providers who help the elderly or disabled with hygiene and everyday tasks or even as a companion.
Applicants for these positions must be cleared of all offenses, as listed in the official CNA and Direct Care Worker (DCW) Matrix. A person can be disqualified from a position for 10 years, 30 years, or for life for offenses such as abuse, sexual assault, fraud and theft.
How Far Back Do Background Checks Go in Maine?
An initial background check for pre-employment in Maine goes back 7 years. The MBCC encourages all reporting agencies to constantly report new information relevant to background checks, so employers may run background checks on their current employees at any time.
If there is an offense that required a longer period of suspension or disqualification (as in the case of CNAs and DCWs), this will still show up on a criminal background check from the MBCC, even if it was more than 7 years prior.
According to the Maine Revised Statutes, direct access employees must have a new criminal history run every 5 years. This amendment was put in place as an effort to reduce abuse, neglect, and fraud cases against these healthcare providers.
How Long Does a Maine Background Check Take?
Third-party providers can produce a statewide criminal background check instantly for state checks. County-by-county checks take a bit longer to prepare (5-7 business days).
Criminal History Record Information (CHRI) from DPS is available immediately as well.
A Quick Check through the MBCC provides immediate results for a limited amount of information. If the hiring authority desires more information and files a full background check, results take 2-3 weeks and will only be released once the fee is paid.
How Long Does a Background Check Take for a Gun in Maine?
Maine does not have a background check system in place for transferring a firearm. Licensed sellers are not required by their state to run any type of background check, just as individuals are not required to run background checks when selling a firearm privately.
However, federal law requires firearms dealers to file gun purchase background checks with the FBI directly, using the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, better known as the NICS.
While there is no guaranteed time frame, the NICS database is known for being fast and accurate, often returning results while the purchaser waits. Alternately, it can take several days to render a result, and in most cases, this delay means the buyer will be denied.
Once the NICS returns a favorable ruling, the background check is good for 30 days, and it applies to a single firearm purchase. For each firearm sale, the dealer will have to file a separate background check.
How to Get a Background Check in Maine
The main differences between background check providers are 1) the amount of detail provided in the report and 2) the cost of the report.
MBCC – The preferred way to obtain a pre-employment background screening in Maine is to access the MBCC. By providing the applicant’s basic information, you will get a complete background check with sex offender information, criminal history, and licensing issues for many career fields.
The MBCC has made a conscious effort to be the only source for Maine background checks, and it has proven to be a useful, easy-to-use tool so far.
Maine State Police SBI Department of Public Safety – The Maine State Police maintains all criminal history records within the state. Therefore, if only a criminal background check is needed, you can request this information directly from the SBI website. This record will show arrests
Third-party background check company – One such company, Instant Criminal Checks, is known for providing fast, affordable checks. Use caution with third-party providers, though, and make sure the result because the DHHS is mandating these companies more strictly since the development of the MBCC.
Free Background Checks in Maine
Quick Check is a free resource for all Maine employers. Quick Check allows employers to run a fast, free background check to look for any major factors that will ultimately show up on the applicant’s complete background screening.
While employers are forbidden from making hiring decisions based on Quick Check, it is a good way to be prepared for issues that may come up later on in the hiring process which would ultimately disqualify the candidate.
Other than Quick Check, there are no free background checks in Maine, whether official or unofficial.
How Can I Run Compliant Background Checks in Maine?
There are several things you must do to run a compliant Maine pre-employment background check. Luckily, most of them are rooted in common sense and decency.
Confidentiality – The first thing you can do to protect yourself and applicants is to treat their information with confidentiality. Only the hiring team should see an applicant’s background check, and information from it should never be shared. If you accidentally receive the wrong person’s information due to similar names and birth dates, report this error back to the agency at once so it will not happen again.
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) – To be compliant with the EEOC, avoid hiring or disqualifying a candidate based on national origin, race, gender, disability, medical history, age, or religion. Ask the same questions to all applicants, and avoid questions about individuals’ backgrounds when at all possible.
Federal Trade Commission (FTC) – You must inform a candidate that you are seeking information that may be used in his or her hiring. This must be done separately from the employment application and the criminal background check notification.
Examples of consumer reports and background checks that can be used for hiring purposes:
- Investigative reports from the applicant’s previous employer(s)
- Credit reports (but not for all positions)
Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) – Employers must make it known in writing that they are going to conduct a criminal background check. This is usually done after the company has offered a position to the applicant conditional to a clear background check. Likewise, the applicant must give permission, in writing, for the background check to occur.
If you choose to disqualify a person based on their consumer report, you must provide the applicant with a copy of the report and all materials that came from the company when you requested the report.
You must also do the following in writing, verbally, or electronically:
- Advise the applicant that he or she did not get the position because of information found in the consumer report
- Provide the applicant with contact information for the company where you purchased the report.
- Verify that you, not the reporting company, were responsible for the hiring decision
- Inform the applicant that he or she can contest the report with the reporting company within 60 days.
Ban the Box
Effective in 2019, Maine became a “ban the box” state, meaning that it is illegal to ask questions about criminal convictions on initial job applications.
However, ban the box laws only apply to state government positions.
All of the following are exempt and may still include questions related to convictions on their employment applications:
- Schools and local governments
- Private employers
- Positions that are directly related to the criminal history
How to Correct Your Maine Criminal Background Record
If you see an inaccuracy on your criminal background check, this probably happened after a potential employer disqualified you for a position based on something that was found on that record.
If this happens to you, call or email the Maine State Bureau of Identification directly. There are a specific set of procedures, you will be asked to follow. You will need to submit your request in writing, and you may be asked to produce certain documents, such as attorney communications. The Maine SBI will have access to other documents, such as court documents, licenses, and legal convictions.
When the background record is amended, it is the applicant’s responsibility to notify the company that requested the background check. Then the MBCC sends a letter to the hiring department of the agency where you have applied in order to verify that the changes have been made and are accurate.