We recently received a comment from a reader in response my blog "Employers’ Use of Biometric Time Clocks Could Violate State Law" that essentially asks this question (albeit, in much nicer form). 

 Without commenting specifically on this reader’s situation, the comment did raise a more general question as to when, if ever, an employer may require its employees to be fingerprinted?  The answer, in short, is that unless a state law prohibits it, employers are permitted to fingerprint as part of a background check any employee or contractor, regardless of position held. 

In some cases, employers may be required to fingerprint applicants and employees.  For example, 34 states, as of 2010, required fingerprinting of public school employees.  Further, as a matter of practice, some industries, such as financial service providers, routinely require fingerprinting as part of a background check. 

In several states, however, employers may be prohibited from inquiring about certain parts of a criminal background.  In addition to the states, like Hawaii, that very broadly ban the use of criminal background checks with limited exceptions, other states, like California, restrict access to arrest records that did not result in conviction.

Employers are thus cautioned to insure compliance with all state and federal background check laws and should obtain the required authorizations before requesting fingerprints.  It is also recommended that employers consult with employment counsel before implementing a policy requiring fingerprinting of employees.