This article was written by Lemberg Law staff, and reviewed by Sergei Lemberg, the managing attorney of Lemberg Law.
Employment background check errors typically aren’t on your mind when you apply for your dream job. You know you’re in the clear. You survive the interviews. Your future employer is excited about hiring you and says that she just needs a quick background check. Then, a week later, you receive a notice from a credit bureau about an adverse action on your credit report that describes a criminal conviction that is not yours. That’s followed by a letter stating that you’ve been passed over for your dream job. How could this happen?
What Should I Do If I Am a Victim of an Employment Background Check Error?
Immediately, you need to determine if the employer strictly followed the required procedure for employers in the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). Several major companies have been sued in class action lawsuits for not complying with these requirements. Some have settled, for example, Avis for $2.7 million, Target for $8.5 million, and Uber for $7.5 million. Cases are pending against others including Amazon, Home Depot, and Starbucks.
Ask yourself these questions:
- Before it requested my consumer report, did the employer give me a written, stand-alone notice that it might use the information from the consumer report in making their employment decision?
- Did the employer get written authorization from me to obtain your consumer report?
- Before it sent me the letter rejecting my job application, did the employer send me a copy of the report and a copy of A Summary of Your Rights under the Fair Credit Reporting Act? This serves to give me time to review the report and notify the employer if it is correct.
- Did the employer subsequently give me an adverse action notice containing the name and contact information of the consumer reporting agency that prepared the report and statements that this agency did not take the unfavorable action against me and that I have the right to dispute the report and to get a new report?
If the employer did not follow these procedural steps, you may have a claim against it. You should consult an experienced employment lawyer. You may be entitled to civil penalties in the amount of $1,000 and actual damages (including emotional distress). In addition, punitive damages, plus attorneys’ fees and costs, may be recovered where there is “willful noncompliance” with the Act.
Common Mistakes On Employee Background Checks:
Background checks are susceptible to errors. Individuals who handle public and private data about you can make mistakes and computer systems can also fail to to be accurate. Here are some of the most common causes for inaccurate info showing on your report:
- Wrong or incomplete data in original documents
- Typos such as number transposition
- Copying, filing, and search mistakes
- File corruption in computer system
- Duplicate information
- Outdated negative information
- Mistaken identity
- Identity theft
How Do I Dispute Background Check Mistakes?
- First, demand a copy of the report from your employer who must give it to you. Frequently, an employer hires a consumer screening company to compile the report. If so, the employer must give you the name and contact information of the company.
- Second, check the report for errors. Some errors result from clerical mistakes, such as transposing numbers or misreading handwriting, confusion caused by similar names, incorrect or incomplete data provided by the applicant, outdated credit information, or identity theft. If the employer or screening agency made the mistake, it must correct it immediately.
- Third, if it did not make the mistake, you must obtain the correct information from the source. The employer may have requested credit, criminal, and education reports. For example, you will contact the credit report agency to correct erroneous information in your credit report and may have to contact a law enforcement agency or court to correct a false criminal report.
- Fourth, provide this information to the employer and to the screening company. Demand that they change the report and provide you with a copy.
Be Proactive to Avoid Workplace Background Check Errors
- Check and correct your credit report annually,
- Consider buying a background check on yourself from a reputable screening company before you apply for the job you want or need. This gives you time to correct false information before it robs you of a job opportunity or shreds your reputation.
Contact an Experienced Labor Law Attorney if You Believe You Are a Victim of Employment Background Check Error
To get the money you deserve, call Lemberg Law at 475-277-2200. Our employment lawyers will review your case and give you no-nonsense answers to your questions.