Understand the Potential Legal Issues

Background checks can reveal a wealth of information including criminal, financial, employment, driving, educational, and other records. While this can sometimes seem like an invasion of privacy, there are laws in place to protect individuals from unfair discrimination. To make certain the information revealed in a background check is used in a proper manner, both the individual being subjected to the check and the party requesting it should understand what information can and can’t be used in evaluating eligibility for employment, housing, or credit. Consistently adhering to these regulations ensures a fair and legal screening process.

Who Has Access to Background Check Information?

In an effort to maintain a safe workplace and ensure a pool of responsible employees, background checks are a common part of the employment screening process. However, landlords, lenders, and other agencies may also pull an individual’s criminal background, credit report, or other type of history as part of a variety screening processes. In addition, vital records, criminal history, court and legal records, property records, and information on social media sites are part of the larger public record and can often be accessed without consent by any interested party with a first and last name they wish to research.

Still, if a background check is used in screening for employment, housing, credit, or any other purpose covered under the Fair Credit Report Act (FCRA), there are regulations regarding how this information is obtained, used, and disclosed. Employers, landlords, lenders, or others looking to perform a background check must:

What Can and Can’t Be Used Against an Applicant?

Not everything you find in a credit report is fair game when it comes to using that information to deny someone a job, tenancy, or money. Be sure to pay careful attention to these rules to avoid getting into legal trouble.

An Applicant’s Rights

In instances where an individual is being evaluated for employment, housing, credit, or other purposes covered under the FCRA, the party requesting the background check must obtain a release form and disclose any negative findings. Applicants should also be made aware of the following: