The background check has become an integral part of the job application process. The good news is that if you have made it to the background check, the chances that you will be hired are very good. The bad news is many background checks contain inaccurate information, and you may not even know about it until you are denied employment.
Many people who have been turned down for employment might believe they answered some questions wrong in the interview, or their qualifications weren’t as good as other candidates. But, what if it was incorrect information on your background check? You should always ask the Human Resources (HR) personnel why you were not accepted for employment.
If they inform you that it was because of information on your background check, did they inform you they were doing one? Did they ask for your permission in writing?
What is required of the company requesting a background check?
The failure to do any of the following is illegal:
- Inform you that a background is being done on you. The company is obliged to inform you that they plan to run a background check against you. A failure to do so is illegal. Also, this information must be conveyed explicitly in a document of its own.
- Get your permission to do a background check. Even if the company has informed you about their intentions to perform a background check, they cannot just go ahead with the background check until you give them written permission to do so. T
- hey must provide you with a copy of the report. The law stipulates that you get a copy of the background check report about you. Even if you have told the company that you do not intend to take the job, you must be given a copy of any background check after it is completed.
Although it is not required, an employer looking to hire an applicant who has something in their background check that raises a question should ask said prospective employee before dismissing their application out of hand. There may be a perfectly reasonable explanation.
You could file suit against the company that did a background check on you without your permission. However, the most important goal should be to get a copy of the report and get it corrected. After getting the information corrected, if they do not hire you, you have leverage.
What is required of the company doing the background check?
Many employer and employment agencies outsource background checks to a third-party agency. You have the right to know who performed your background check. The employer or the employment agency is required to inform you of who they contracted.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) are the enforcement agencies for violations of the Fair Credit and Reporting Act (FCRA).
The following careless mistakes could lead to a violation of your rights to fair reporting:
- Mistaken identity: An honest mistake could creep into your report. This could happen when you share a name, close social security number, or date of birth with someone else. False information could easily be placed in your file by mistake when you share any of those three with someone else. However, it is the responsibility of the agency gathering information to make sure it gets posted in the right file. If not, they could be liable for damages.
- Old information kept beyond the seven-year maximum: All criminal information from before you turned 18 should be removed from your file, as well as any misdemeanors or minor credit violations should be removed after seven years. Even bankruptcies are only held against a person’s credit for seven years.
- All information should be verified prior to going to the requester: Mistakes happen, but it is the responsibility of the company getting paid for doing a background check to ensure the information they gather is correct to the best of their ability.
Once you find out that your report has one or more of these errors, you can contact the verifying agency and ask them to recheck the report. They have 30 days to reply to your request. If you ask them to do so, the agency is also expected to send the corrected report to your prospective employers.
If the corrections are not made within the 30-day period, you should contact the the FTC. You can reach the FTC by calling 1-877-382-4357, or you can reach it online. You can also get information about your credit report here.
If you suspect discrimination in the background check procedures, such as you were the only person subjected to a background check, or only certain nationalities were checked, contact the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to investigate.
What are the damages that you can receive?
If you win a case of incorrect background information verification, you are entitled to get punitive damages, a maximum of $1000 as statutory damages, and full refund of your attorney’s fees. A good position with a reputable company could be worth much more than that, so request your credit report annually.