Employment Background Checks and Your Rights

By David / July 15, 2016
How the FCRA Protects You from Erroneous Employment Background Checks

Today we have a guest post from Andrew Weiner, an employment attorney located in Atlanta, Georgia. Mr. Weiner's firm, The Weiner Law Firm, handles many different types of matters involving background reports and the Fair Credit Reporting Act. He represents clients from all across the country on these matters. You can learn more about The Weiner Law Firm here.

Mr. Weiner is here to discuss how federal law provides you rights and remedies, if you fail to get a job because of erroneous information contained in an employee background check.

What is the FCRA?

The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) is a federal law that regulates the consumer reporting (sometimes referred to as background reporting) industry. It imposes obligations on the companies that create consumer reports, the companies that use consumer reports, and the companies that supply information used in consumer reports.

Many people believe that the FCRA only covers credit reports. They often are surprised to find out that it covers many different types of reports, including background reports obtained by a prospective employer.

Critically, the FCRA is a consumer protection statute. Its purpose is to protect the privacy and personal information of consumers like you. This includes requirement that consumer reports - including employment background reports - contain accurate and up-to-date information.

This is why the protections of the FCRA also include your right to know and correct the contents of a background check any potential employer uses in its hiring decisions.

Your Right to Dispute Employment Background Reports

In today's digital age, companies regularly purchase background reports from third-party companies to evaluate individuals for any number of purposes, including making employment decisions.

When a background reporting company makes an error on a background check, it can create great hardships on an applicant or employee’s life. It can cost the individual a job, which in turn can lead to financial problems and, often times, distress in life at home.

Fortunately, federal law provides remedies in many situations when a private background reporting company makes an error, including monetary damages for these errors.

Some of the most common errors include:

Mixing Files

Background reporting companies often report records that do not belong to the individual at issue. Sometimes, the background reporting company will report criminal record information about someone with the same first and last name, but a different date of birth or social security number.

When a background reporting company reports such mixed information, it may be violating the Fair Credit Reporting Act. If the law has been violated and it has caused you harm, you may be entitled to damages.

Including Obsolete (Old) Information

Pursuant to the Fair Credit Reporting Act, background reporting companies cannot report arrests or charges that are older than 7 years and that did not result in a conviction. So, if you were charged with 5 misdemeanors ten years ago, and convicted of just 1 of them, the background reporting company should not be reporting the other four charges at all.

Incomplete Information

Pursuant to the Fair Credit Reporting Act, background reporting companies have an obligation to include only the most complete and up-to-date information in background reports. Sometimes, background reporting companies will report that you’ve been convicted of a felony or misdemeanor, but they will fail to report that the conviction has been expunged or is subject to a First Offender’s law.

If the background reporting company fails to report complete and up-to-date information, it may violate the law and entitle you to damages.

Inaccurate Information

Background reporting companies must report accurate information at all times. When they fail to do so, and they failure causes you damage, then you may be entitled to damages. One of the most obvious examples of this type of failure is a background report that says that you were convicted of a felony, when you actually were convicted of a misdemeanor.

If a background reporting company reports such inaccurate information, it may violate the Fair Credit Reporting Act and entitle you to damages.​

Why You Might Need a Lawyer

You might be entitled to compensation under the FCRA if:

  • You a failed to get a job because of errors in your background report; or
  • A potential employer failed to give you copy of your background report before making a hiring decision.

The Weiner Law Firm handles many different types of matters involving background reports and the Fair Credit Reporting Act. If you think your rights have been violated, or if you simply have questions, Andrew Weiner can be reached at (404) 254-0842 or aw@atlantaemployeelawyer.com and Jeff Sand can be reached (404) 205-5029 or js@atlantaemployeelawyer.com.