Question: I'm applying for sales jobs in California, all of which will involve driving. I'm concerned that I might be disqualified based on my driving record. I've had a couple of accidents and speeding violations in the last few years. I've taken a defensive driving course, and I think I've become a better driver. But I'm worried that potential employers might look at my DMV record and exclude me without an interview. Can employers look at my DMV record? Do they have to get my consent first?
Answer: In California, potential employers can check your DMV records as part of a background check for a job. For a job that requires driving, employers often perform this kind of investigation. Although the law prohibits the DMV from giving out certain types of personal information (such as your Social Security number and information on any medical conditions or disabilities you may have), the DMV may provide information on your driving status, violations, and accidents.
Potential employers are not required to get your consent before getting this information directly from the DMV. However, an employer that hires a professional background checking company to compile a report on you will likely need to get your consent to the background check first.
Although you are not required to give your consent, if you don't, the employer may refuse to consider your application. Your best bet at getting past this hurdle is to get a copy of your own driving record from the DMV, review it, and think about how you want to present it to potential employers. Then, if you are asked to consent to a background check or you complete an application warning you that your driving records will be checked, bring up the issue yourself. Explain that, while you've had some violations in the past, you've taken steps to improve your driving skills. You might also offer proof that you completed the defensive driving course.
Employers are under no obligation to give you another chance (and many won't, given that they could be held liable if you cause an accident). But if your driving record is holding you back, it's worth a try.