Employers Improperly Obtain and Use Employee Background Checks

Companies Routinely Violate Workers’ Rights

Have you been denied employment on the basis of a criminal background check or credit check?  If so, it is important to know your rights.

The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) sets national requirements for employment background checks obtained through a third party. If requesting a background check, employers must also provide job applicants with a copies of the “Summary of Your Rights Under the FCRA” document.

Know and Protect Your Rights

Employers are limited in the opportunity to lawfully obtain background checks and credit reports on employees and job applicants. The FCRA requires two things of employers seeking background checks:

  1. Employers must get permission from the applicant or employee to obtain a background check or credit check.  The authorization form must be a separate document, not buried in the fine print of a job application or other document. This authorization document must not ask employees to release any claims or waive any rights.  The law is very specific about the requirements for the authorization form and many employers do not obtain proper authorization;
  1. Employers must provide job applicants and employees with a copy of the background check or credit report before taking any adverse action such as not hiring someone, demoting someone, or firing someone.  This ensures that employees and applicants have the chance to challenge inaccuracies in the report before adverse action is taken.

Under the FCRA, employers who willfully violate these requirements are liable for actual damages, punitive damages, and statutory penalties of up to $1,000 per violation. 

Many employers, including some of the largest companies, routinely violate the FCRA by obtaining background checks and credit reports without proper authorization.

If you believe that you are the victim of an improper background check or that your employer improperly used your credit report, then we may be able to help. Contact our consumer attorneys to learn more.

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