In an effort to protect the University, its employees, students and visitors, UT completes pre-employment background checks for all regular faculty and staff positions.

Background checks are conducted for successful candidates prior to making an offer of employment, and offers are contingent upon successful background checks.

Current employees hired before Jan. 1, 2011 and who apply for certain internal positions also will be required to undergo background checks. These positions include ones working with security, finances, children or the use of master building keys.


Background Check Guidelines


In an effort to protect the university, its employees, students and visitors, the University will complete criminal background checks prior to making an offer of employment for any faculty or staff position. This criminal background check will include a review of professional license sanctions.


The University must complete a background check on all new faculty and staff members. Individual campuses will determine whether to complete background checks on term employees. Exceptions will be made for the following categories of employees:

  • finalists for faculty or post-doctoral appointments who present valid work-authorization documentation from the Department of Homeland Security (work eligibility must be verified);
  • faculty members who are employed at Oak Ridge National Laboratory; and
  • faculty members in adjunct, zero-salary appointments.


  1. A signed authorization form from the finalist is required before criminal background information may be requested.  This information is collected during the application process. If a prospective employee refuses to provide such authorization, the individual is ineligible for consideration for employment.
  2. If the verification cannot be completed before an offer is made, the appointment letter must state that the offer will be withdrawn or employment terminated if the results of the criminal background check are unacceptable.
  3. After receiving the authorization form, the Recruitment Office will submit the information to the University’s outside vendor. Records checks typically take between 2‐3 days depending on the jurisdiction. A typical background report includes:
    • Social Security Number Verification and Trace
    • County Criminal Record Search
    • Federal Criminal Record Search
    • National Criminal Database Search
    • National Sexual Offender Database Search
    • Motor Vehicle Records Search
    • Professional License Sanctions Base

    County court searches retrieve county court case records; cases handled in county court concern matters of state law. State record searches involve retrieving court records through a state repository, such as the state police or other agency, or through a state court system. Federal court searches involve retrieving federal court case records from United States district courts; cases handled in federal court concern matters of United States law.

  4. Applicants are required to disclose on their applications all felony and misdemeanor convictions (excluding minor traffic violations). This includes all convictions that have occurred under a name other than the name provided on the application. Arrests, as opposed to convictions, should not be taken into consideration for employment purposes. Applicants who do not disclose all felony or misdemeanor convictions on the application may be eliminated from consideration for employment based upon falsification of the application.
  5. Before taking any adverse action based on a background report, the University will advise the individual of its intentions in a pre‐adverse action letter. The University must provide the applicant with a period of time, not less than five business days, to dispute and/or correct the report with the vendor. The University must receive confirmation from the vendor that the report has been corrected and receive an updated report. Along with the pre‐adverse action letter, the University must provide the applicant with a copy of the consumer’s rights under the FCRA as prescribed by the FTC. Human Resources has these forms available.
  6. The existence of a criminal conviction does not automatically exclude a candidate from eligibility for employment.  The University will review each applicant on a case‐by‐case basis considering the nature and severity of the offense, the time since the conviction, the applicant’s overall work history, and the type of the position for which the applicant seeks employment.
  7. If the University proceeds with the adverse action, the University must provide the individual with notice that it has denied employment to the applicant or terminated the employee based on information contained in the background report. Human Resources also has these forms available.
  8. If Human Resources recommends that an applicant be eliminated from consideration, or that an employee be terminated, and the Department wishes to proceed with the hiring of the applicant or retention of the employee, the Department must get the approval of the appropriate Chancellor or Vice President.


Decisions for staff hires are the responsibility of the HRO and CBO (or representative). The Office of the General Counsel and/or System HR may provide oversight as needed. Decisions for faculty hires will be made by the provost/chief academic officers.


Background information must be regarded as confidential and protected against unauthorized disclosure. Information shall not be released or otherwise disclosed to any person or agency, except to persons who need to know this information in order to make a determination regarding the application for employment.

Fingerprint-Based Background Checks

The University of Tennessee conducts fingerprint-based criminal background checks through the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and Federal Bureau of Investigation only when required by state or federal law (e.g., teachers or nurses).

Use and Dissemination. Criminal History Record Information (“CHRI”) obtained from the TBI and FBI shall be solely used by the hiring department to verify criminal violation(s) and shall not be disseminated.  Results shall be considered confidential and only accessible to the hiring official or designee. CHRI shall only be accessed by authorized personnel in performance of their duties and shall never be released to the public.

Retention and Security. Each hiring department shall adopt procedures to ensure CHRI is stored in a secure location.  Areas in which CHRI is processed and handled shall be restricted to authorized personnel identified by the department head. The area shall be out of the view of the public and unauthorized personnel.  The department head shall maintain a list of all employees who have access to, can process, disseminate, and/or destroy CHRI.

Disposal of CHRI. When CHRI is no longer needed, it shall be destroyed by burning, shredding, or other methods rendering the information unreadable. Record destruction must be conducted in accordance with the Disposal of Records provisions located in Fiscal Policy FI0120.

Misuse.  Employees who use CHRI for any purpose other than verifying criminal records for a prospective employee shall be subject to disciplinary action up to and including termination.  Willful disclosure of CHRI for improper purposes could also result in criminal liability.  Any employee with knowledge of the misuse of CHRI shall immediately report a violation to the Department of Human Resources or the Office of General Counsel.

Programs Involving Minors

Background checks also are conducted, in accordance with Safety Policy 0575, for all employees or individuals in a contractual or volunteer position with the University who have direct contact with minors through certain programs.