Dealing with Infractions on a Record
In some cases, negative information turned up on a background check may automatically result in rejection for employment, tenancy, or new lines of credit. Other times, further evaluation may be necessary. In these instances, it is important to remember that each individual receives the same opportunity to respond to or correct their record. However, it is ultimately up to the discretion of the employer, landlord, or lender when it comes to what actions to take after obtaining more details.
Disclosure of the Results
If any red flags are raised based on information turned up in a background check, the applicant must receive:
- A pre-adverse action letter or equivalent notification. This should include the name, address, and phone number of the agency that reported the negative information.
- A copy of the report containing the negative information.
- A summary of their rights under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).
This will provide the applicant with the opportunity to respond with additional information or take action to correct any mistakes. In the case of pre-employment screenings, employers must hold the position for a reasonable amount of time to give the individual a chance to respond. Though the definition of a “reasonable amount of time” can vary, typically, a week or two is considered adequate.
Evaluating the Situation
Even in situations where negative information may be accurate, it is up to the party requesting the background check to evaluate how this will impact the applicant’s ability to perform their job, pay their rent or bills, or how it will affect the community, whether in a work or residential environment.
While there are stricter regulations regarding criminal background checks for those working with children, the elderly, or in banking or government, there are still some jobs that applicants with a criminal record can fill. Typically, these will be lower paying jobs, often involving manual labor, but they still provide the opportunity for these individuals to start rebuilding their reputation.
Credit-wise, those looking to work in finance, banking, or insurance are more likely to find a poor credit score detrimental to their job search, though some employers may be more lenient based on an individual’s circumstances. While bankruptcy can show up on a background check, under the Federal Bankruptcy Act, it is illegal for employers to use this information against an applicant during the hiring process. Still, poor credit raises red flags more frequently when it comes to applying for tenancy and new lines of credit. Please also note that in screenings for housing and credit, bankruptcy can be used against an applicant.
In circumstances where an applicant’s background may reveal negative information, supplementary documentation or further explanation of the situation following a pre-adverse action letter can help employers, landlords, or lenders decide to what extent they will use this information against the applicant.
At What Point Will Infractions Drop Off an Individual’s Record?
Typically, background checks trace back seven years. However, some criminal offenses may remain part of the public record beyond this timeframe. For example, some sex-offenders are required to register in the national database for the rest of their lives. In addition, government and law enforcement agencies may also pull records from farther back in an applicant’s past, especially when being evaluated for high-security positions.
Making a Decision
While employers cannot discriminate against an applicant solely based on a criminal record, if the offense is related to the duties they would perform in the position, it should certainly be seriously considered. Even in these situations, the applicant has the right to respond to the report and must be notified of the negative information. It is then ultimately up to the employer, landlord, or lender to decide if further documentation or explanation of the circumstances makes a difference in their decision.
If an applicant is deemed disqualified from further consideration, whether based on negative criminal, financial, or other records turned up in a background check, a final adverse action notice should be issued informing the applicant of this decision.