Employment & Criminal Background Checks
Whether you are applying for employment or seeking a new place to rent, you can reasonably expect prospective employers and landlords to conduct background checks.Many employers utilize background screening to maximize the chance of hiring candidates who are trustworthy and free of any criminal record. Similarly, landlords rely on credit reports to determine whether a potential tenant is likely to pay the rent. Unfortunately, errors in background check reports are all too common, sabotaging career aspirations and restricting access to housing.
The Law Protects Victims of Inaccurate Background Checks and Credit Reports
The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) is a federal law that requires companies that conduct background checks, known as specialty consumer reporting agencies, to adopt procedures to assure the “maximum possible accuracy” of the information in those reports. The law requires these companies to “exercise their grave responsibilities with fairness, impartiality, and a respect for the consumer’s right to privacy.”
Your Right to “Maximum Possible Accuracy” Under the FCRA
If you have been harmed by an error contained in a background check report, there are remedies available to you. The law allows you to obtain money damages to compensate you for lost employment or housing opportunities, as well as for related emotional suffering. Individuals also may be awarded punitive damages if the background check company acted recklessly, or even worse, intentionally. In addition to damages, courts must award reasonable attorney’s fees to a prevailing consumer so that individuals who have been harmed are relieved of the financial burden associated with clearing their names.
Expungement or Sealing
Background screening companies may not report convictions if the court has expunged or sealed that conviction.
- § 160.59 of New York’s Criminal Procedure Law is available here
- New York State Human Rights Law, N.Y. Exec. Law § 296(16) prohibits both public and private employers from taking adverse action (denying employment or a license) because of a sealed conviction or even inquiring about it.
- For more information, click here
If you have had a conviction expunged or sealed, but it still is reporting on a background check report — whether for employment or otherwise, please contact our firm immediately.
Your Right to Attorney’s Fees Under the FCRA
In most cases, consumers are not responsible for attorney’s fees because the FCPA requires the wrongdoing party to pay the legal fees of consumers harmed as a result of its mistakes. If we represent you in a case involving a background check error, you won’t be responsible for our fees, regardless of the outcome of the case.
The Grave Consequences of Inaccuracies in Your Report
Credit and background check reports with inaccurate negative information can result in unfair denial of employment or housing. Consider one common example: Your prospective employer offers you a position pending your background check. Abruptly, however, the offer is withdrawn because your criminal background check erroneously shows a felony conviction, even though you have no criminal background.
Additional Protections for Individuals Under the FCRA: Your Rights Under the Law
In addition to requiring the accuracy of background checks and credit reports, the FCRA provides a number of other safeguards to protect individuals.Specifically, the FCRA imposes various requirements on background check companies, employers, and landlords to protect individuals from unfair denial of employment or housing. Your rights under the law include:
Requirements for Background Check Reporting Agencies
Regardless of whether the report is for employment or housing purposes, background check companies must adopt reasonable procedures to assure maximum possibly accuracy of information they report (15 U.S.C. §1681e(b)).
Furthermore, in the context of employment, 15 U.S. Code § 1681k(a) requires that background check companies that report public record information likely to harm the employee’s application either to:
a. notify the employment applicant that public record information is being reported or;
b.“maintain strict procedures” to ensure information that is likely to have an adverse effect on an applicant’s ability to obtain employment is complete and up to date.
Such information includes records related to arrests, indictments, convictions, law suits, tax liens, and outstanding judgments.
Requirements for Employers
Employers are forbidden from obtaining background check reports without express, written disclosure to the potential employee. This written disclosure must also include the applicant’s rights under the FCRA and be provided to the applicant before the employer can legitimately request a report from an agency. The law also requires that this written disclosure be made separately from any other disclosure, notice or information.
Employers must also obtain written authorization from the applicant to procure that report (15 U.S.C. §1681b(b)(2)(A)(ii))
Once a report is obtained, an employer must provide applicant with a pre-adverse action notice before taking any unfavorable action, such as denial of employment based on information in the report. This affords applicants the opportunity to dispute errors in background check reports before an employment opportunity is lost (15 U.S.C. § 1681b(b)(3)(A)).
Employers must also provide the name, address and phone number of the reporting agency that supplied the report in the notice and inform the applicant that a copy of the report can be obtained from the reporting agency for free within 60 days.
Contact Our Office Today for a Free Evaluation by Phone
Do not delay. The FCRA has a statute of limitations which means you may lose your rights to obtain a monetary award if you do not sue within a fixed time period. If you have been turned down for a job, or denied a place to live, after a background check revealed false information about you, or you have another background check or credit check-related concern, contact our office for a free evaluation of your case over the phone.The Law Office of Adam G. Singer, PLLC may be able to help you restore your good name and obtain financial compensation. Depending on your case, you may not have to pay attorney’s fees.