Know Your Rights

The Fair Credit Reporting Act and Employment Background Checks

Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act ("FCRA") an employer is not required to conduct an employment background check but most employers do.  Whether you are a potential employee looking to get hired or currently employed at your job, the FCRA has adopted standards that employers must adhere to when conducting a background check.

In general, most consumers inquire whether they have a right to know when a background check is requested.  The plain and simple answer is YES.  Employers must provide notice and receive written consent from potential or existing employees prior to conducting a background check.  Under recent amendments to the FCRA and an opinion from the Federal Trade Commission ("FTC") employers must follow a strict protocol prior to delving into your consumer history. 

Under the FCRA, after your employer conducts a background check and uses the information to take "adverse action" against, that is terminating employment, denying your application for employment or denying your promotion, the employer must comply with the statute.  First, prior to taking adverse action, the employer must provide you with a copy of your credit report and a summary of your rights under the FCRA.  Next, after taking adverse action, the employer must provide you with an "adverse action notice."  This notice must provide the name, address, and phone number of the employment screening company, a statement that this company did not make the adverse decision, rather that the employer did, and a notice that you have the right to dispute the accuracy or completeness of any of the information in the report.

In the event there is an error on your report, there are steps you can take to repair it.  First you should discuss any inaccuracies directly with your employer.  Explain that your report contains errors and that you will launch a more formal investigation, but perhaps by explaining your situation you will be able to get your job back after clearing up the errors.  Next, file a written dispute with the employment screening company that reported the inaccuracy.  I suggest you write and not call-or do both, no harm in making a call to dispute and following it up with a letter.  Make sure to send the letter certified mail so you have proof it was received.  The process for disputing errors on your employment background check is the same as the process for disputing errors on your credit report.        

After receiving your dispute letter, the employment screening company has 30 to 45 days to investigate, just like the credit reporting agencies.  If the information you are disputing cannot be verified as accurate it must be deleted from your report.  The screening company must send you a response to your investigation with the results and you are entitled to request it also send the revised results to any employer who reviewed your report during the two years prior.

Unfortunately, an employer has no obligation to hold your job during the dispute process or change its decision to hire you or extend you that promotion.  If you are having issues with an employment background check and need advice or assistance, contact SmithMarco P.C. for a free case review.

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