Employment Background Checks and Applicants’ Rights

Many companies conduct background checks on job applicants before making offers of employment. The Federal Trade Commission enforces the Fair Credit Reporting Act, the federal law that governs employment-related background checks. The law explains what information can be obtained, how it can be used, and what protections job applicants have.

An employer may ask for information on an applicant’s employment history, education, criminal record, financial history, medical history, and use of social media. Employers may not treat applicants differently on the basis of race, national origin, gender, religion, disability, genetic information, or age, if the applicant is over 40.

Before an employer obtains a background check report, the company must tell the applicant that the information might be used to make a decision on whether or not to offer employment. The applicant must give written permission to conduct a background check. An applicant may refuse to give permission, but the employer may reject the application for employment.

If an employer decides not to hire, retain, or promote a person because of information in a background check, it must give the person a copy of the report and a ”Summary of Rights.” If the applicant finds a mistake in the background report, he or she can ask the company to fix it and notify the employer.

If an applicant is rejected for employment based on criminal history or financial information, the employer must provide the name, address, and phone number of the company that provided the information and say that the company did not make the decision on the adverse action. The applicant has the right to dispute the information in the report and to obtain a free report from the company that provided it.

If you believe your rights related to a background check have been violated, you can contact the Federal Trade Commission or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.