Oregon Public Records Laws
Oregon law states that all records created by a public body that contain information relating to the conduct of public business are considered to be public records. Most public records are available to the general public, with the exception of confidential communications between government officials and records of active criminal investigations.
Government agencies and officials can claim that certain records are exempt from disclosure to the public if they can demonstrate that the need for confidentiality is greater than the public interest. Government agencies who reject a request for a record must explain in writing why the request was denied, and the requester has the right to appeal to the Oregon Attorney General free of charge. If an elected official denies the request, it must be appealed by filing a lawsuit in Circuit Court.
Agencies are allowed to charge fees to cover the costs of fulfilling the request, but requesters can also challenge the fee on the basis of public interest. If the fee exceeds $25, the government agency must first provide an estimate.
Oregon Criminal Records, Arrest Records and Background Checks
Official state background checks are handled by the Public Records Unit of the Oregon State Police.
A full criminal history can only be released to the subject of the record upon positive fingerprint identification. Applicants can either be fingerprinted in person at the CJIS Division of the Oregon State Police in Salem, or they can do their own fingerprints using card FD528. The fingerprints must be correctly rolled according to the instructions on the card to be accepted. They can then be mailed (along with a check for $33) to the CJIS Division of the Oregon State Police in Portland (not the Salem office) along with a completed “Copy of Own Record Request Form.”
The only third party that can obtain a complete criminal history is a criminal justice or law enforcement agency. Some limited information is available to the general public for arrests and convictions that are less than one year old on the date of the request. Any third party can learn the date of arrest, nature of the offense, arresting agency, court of origin and sentence imposed. If the information is to be used for employment purposes, however, the potential employer must notify the subject in writing that they are requesting it. Requests can be made in writing to the Oregon State Police in Portland for a $10 fee.
Oregon Jail and Inmate Records
The Oregon Offender Search is available online for use by any member of the general public. These records include a mugshot, the inmate’s name, date of birth, height, weight, eye and hair color, gender and race. Their current incarceration status and location are also listed as well as sentencing information and their projected release date.
Some counties list their full roster of current inmates online along with their mugshots, name, age, scheduled release date, list of charges and sentencing status.
Oregon Court Records
The Oregon Municipal Clerk of Court maintains computerized records of civil, criminal and traffic cases that can be searched online. This database contains the full records of the 36 circuit courts in the state.
The circuit court in each county also maintains a free OJIN public access terminal that allows users to look up case information. Court staff may also be able to help in looking up records.
Oregon Vital Records
The Center for Health Statistics issues certified records of births, deaths, marraige, domestic partnerships and divorces. Birth and death records are available from 1903, marraige records are available from 1906 and divorce certificates are available from 1926. Older records may be available from their county of origin.
Records can be ordered over the Internet at Vitalchek, by telephone, by mail or in person at 800 NE Oregon Street in Portland. The lowest fees are for requests by regular mail.
Are You Looking for Employment Background Checks in Oregon?
The above information was a general overview of public records in Oregon. If you’re looking to run background checks for employment purposes in OR, there’s more info that you’ll need to know.
In addition to abiding by federal laws such as the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Oregon state laws further regulate what information employers can access during the employment screening process and how they can use that information.
Criminal History Checks in Oregon
The process for requesting a criminal background check and what information can be disclosed is governed by ORS 181.560.
In order to access information on an applicant’s criminal history, employers in Oregon must notify the applicant. When requesting that information from the state police, they must provide the time and location that the applicant was notified.
State police notify the subject of any criminal background check prior to providing that information to the requesting party. This notification contains a copy of all information that will provided to the potential employer, information on civil rights law relating to the employer’s use of the information contained in the report, and a procedure for challenging anything in the report that the applicant believes is inaccurate.
Background check results are provided to employers no sooner than 14 days after the subject of the check has been notified. Most criminal background checks are based on a name search. Some types of positions (see below) require fingerprint searches for increased accuracy.
Prior convictions, excluding juvenile convictions that have been expunged, and arrests within the last year for charges with no record of acquittal or dismissal appear on the report, and can include the following details:
• Date of arrest
• Arresting agency
• Court of origin
• Sentence, including parole date and revocation of parole, if applicable
Information on arrests that did not result in a conviction does not appear, though pending arrests may.
Oregon law does not distinguish between misdemeanors and felonies for the purposes of criminal history reporting and there is no time restriction on the convictions that can appear on the report.
Using Criminal History as Grounds for Disqualification in OR
Criminal convictions alone are not sufficient grounds for denying an applicant employment in Oregon. Specific circumstances must be taken into account, including:
• Nature of the offense
• How long ago the applicant was convicted
• The nature of the job
More importantly, employers must consider the implications of the conviction on the position for which the applicant is being considered, taking into account such factors as the position’s degree of supervision, the applicant’s exposure to other employees, and where the job will be performed. Generalizations, such as “an applicant convicted of theft is more likely to steal” are not permissible reasons for denying employment based on a past conviction.
Other mitigating factors that must be considered are whether the applicant has performed similar work since the conviction with no further criminal conduct, character references, references concerning their suitability for the position, and efforts toward rehabilitation since the conviction.
Following federal law, Oregon employers are required to notify applicants if they are being disqualified for a position based on the contents of their criminal history report.
Employers are prohibited from using expunged juvenile records in hiring decisions unless that record directly relates to a specific job qualification.
Positions Requiring Mandatory Background Checks
ORS 443.004 requires background checks for anyone in a position that provides in-home care or who works with disabled individuals; ORS 181.547 provides further guidelines on background checks for positions with direct access to any of the following:
• The elderly
• Persons with disabilities
• Persons with mental illnesses
• The general public
Direct access is defined as interaction with the individual that meets the above criteria or with their personal information.
Common positions that fall under these rules are day care workers, in-home care assistants and law enforcement officers.
Additionally, these rules govern background checks for anyone seeking employment in a profession or trade that requires any of the following:
Background checks for applicants to positions meeting the above criteria generally require fingerprint identification to reduce incorrect reporting due to identity errors with name searches. Oregon law allows for consideration to be given to the cost of a nation-wide fingerprint search when performing these employment screenings.
Applicants for these kinds of positions may be disqualified based on the results of a criminal history check without the same regard for the relevance of the conviction to the position that is required for positions that don’t meet any of the above criteria.
Oregon maintains a Background Check Registry of individuals with completed background checks who are eligible to for employment as homecare workers without a new background check. Inclusion in the registry is subject to a new background check every two years.
Credit History in background checks under Oregon Law
While the FCRA allows employers to use an applicant’s credit history if it’s relevant to the position, Oregon law is more restrictive. Employers may not obtain or use any information about an applicant’s credit history unless they fall into specific exception categories, such as federally insured banks and positions for which such information is required by law for employment. ORS 659A.320 and the fact sheet summary for employers is available from Oregon’s Technical Assistance for Employers website.
In addition to creditworthiness, employers may not consider bankruptcy history or wage garnishment when making hiring decisions.
OR law also addresses information that may come up during an employment screening that falls outside the purview of criminal and credit history.
Employers may not use an applicant’s involvement in a civil case filed in good faith against an employer, as a plaintiff or witness, when making a hiring decision.
Per ORS 659A.315 employers may not deny employment to an applicant who smokes during non-work hours, and may not require as a condition of employment that an applicant refrain from smoking during non-work hours, unless there is a genuine occupational reason or a collective bargaining agreement is in place that prohibits off-duty smoking.
Oregon law is generally more restrictive than federal law on what information potential employers can access and how they can use it when making hiring decisions.