10 Laws About Background Checks You Should Know

Since 9/11 security has been an issue, and, as many of you know, our lives have changed as a direct result. Of course, this is a good thing, but it also comes with some inconveniences. More employers than ever are doing extensive background checks. Volunteers are also finding background checks a requirement before they can extend their time or services to help. It helps to know what your rights are concerning the background check since it can include looking into your employment history, credit history, drivers’ record and of course criminal background. Here are some laws of which to be aware if you are subjected to a background check.

  1. Release of information
    – Employers or potential employers must receive written permission from you before they can do a background check. What’s more, they must provide you with a summary of your rights under the Fair Credit Report Act (FCRA) before they check your credit.
  2. Disclosure of results – If your report results in negative consequences, such as not getting hired for the job, you must be informed. In the case of employment you should receive a pre-adverse action letter. The company that requested the report must supply you with a copy of the results. You will be given a “reasonable amount of time” to respond and correct any misinformation in your report.
  3. Identity of reporting agency – The company or agency that provided negative information about you on the report must be identified and the content of the information must be made available to you.
  4. Inaccurate information – You have a right to contest any misinformation that shows up on your report. This is one reason it is wise to check your report from time to time making sure that all information is current and correct.
  5. Yearly credit reports – Everyone has a right to one free credit report annually. Most people do not take advantage of this but it is important to do, especially since credit reports can be included in your background check.
  6. FCRA regulations – Any company that compiles consumer reports for the purpose of obtaining credit, insurance or employment must abide by the FCRA. A consumer report is information gathered about you that is processed and sold and affects or discloses your credit worthiness, standing or capacity, or your character, general reputation or lifestyle. Even if the information is gathered through public records or the company does not consider itself to be a consumer reporting agency, it is still regulated by the FRCA.
  7. Willful noncompliance – If a company fails to comply with a FRCA requirement willfully, it is liable to the consumer for up to $1,000.
  8. Consistency – When applying for a position, every applicant must go through the same screening process. There cannot be variations or exceptions in the way background checks are done on candidates.
  9. State laws – It is best to check on the laws in your particular state regarding sensitive information, since some laws vary from state to state regarding certain types of information. In some cases this information can be removed from public domain through a court ordered non-disclosure process.
  10. Bankruptcy – If you filed bankruptcy, it cannot be used as a reason to disqualify you from employment. Your rights regarding bankruptcy are protected under the Federal Bankruptcy Act.

Background checks can cover a variety of areas including social security validation or verification, any criminal history including felonies, misdemeanors and sex offenses, as well as credit reports, driving records, education verification, employment history, and licensure. This can certainly feel like an invasion of privacy. Become informed about your rights concerning background checks and don’t be afraid to ask questions if something seems too invasive. At the same time, you can take comfort in knowing that others are going through the same thing, and it is all working together to make our world a little safer.