What Are a Job Applicant's Rights Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act?

A potential employer can conduct a background check on a job applicant before extending an offer of employment. A company can also conduct a background check on a current employee before offering him or her a promotion. Applicants and employees have rights that are protected under the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

A potential employer cannot conduct a background check on you without written permission. The employer must tell you that the information can be used in making an employment decision. The company can deny you employment if you refuse to allow them to conduct a background check.

The company must send you a letter informing you that the background check uncovered negative information prior to making a decision to deny you employment. They must include a copy of the background check report and the contact information for the company that provided it, as well as a copy of “A Summary of Your Rights under the Fair Credit Reporting Act.” The employer must tell you how to get your own copy of the report. The report is free for you if you request it within 60 days of being denied employment.

In a separate letter, the employer must inform you that the company is denying you employment due to the results of the background check. The employer must also inform you that the company that supplied the information did not decide to take the adverse action and cannot provide you with the reason for it. You have the right to challenge the accuracy of the information contained in the report after receiving either letter.

If you find inaccurate or incomplete information in your report, contact the company that issued it. The company will investigate. If they determine that you are correct and the information is erroneous, they must correct the information and send an updated report to the employer if you ask them to do so. You can also discuss the inaccuracy with the employer. You should always have inaccurate information corrected so it does not negatively affect your job search or eligibility for promotions in the future.

If a background check company provides an employer with a report containing negative information from public records, such as criminal convictions, tax liens, or outstanding judgments, the company must tell you that it provided the information to the employer or take special steps to verify its accuracy. You have the right to challenge the accuracy or completeness of the information.

If an employer says not to apply if you have a criminal record, that could be discrimination. You should direct your concerns to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

If employers do not comply with the FCRA, they can face legal consequences from the Federal Trade Commission, other federal agencies, and states. You could also sue the employer in state or federal court for certain violations of the Act.

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