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FAQ / Fair Credit Reporting Act . What is it?

Some employers run background checks on employees or applicants by using investigative services. The investigative services are called “consumer reporting agencies.” They create consumer reports on people. “Consumer reports” can include any public record, including anything from your credit history to your driving record to your criminal record. “Investigative consumer reports” are more extensive background checks where the agency interviews people who know you.
The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) is a federal law that employers have to follow when they use investigative services. See 15 U.S.C. § 1681 et seq. (2000). An employer can only get a consumer report on you if you: (1) agree in writing, and (2) give them permission to do so before the search is conducted. For an investigative consumer report, the employer must have your permission at least three days before the search. The employer must give you written notice that it is going to use a consumer reporting agency. See 15 U.S.C. § 1681b(b)(2). In addition, you have to sign an agreement giving the employer permission to get a report. For a consumer report, this can be at any time before the search. See 15 U.S.C. § 1681b(b)(2); 15
U.S.C. § 1681d. Note that the “fine print” on some job applications may say that you are giving permission so, if you do not read carefully, you may give permission without knowing it.
The employer is also required to give you information about what the search will contain and your rights. Id. If the employer uses the information it received in the search against you (i.e., you are not offered the job once the employer sees what is on your criminal record), the employer is required to give you the following:
a. o Oral or written notice of the adverse action—e.g., “You are not hired.”
b. o The name, address, and telephone number of the consumer reporting agency that did the search;
c. o A statement that the consumer reporting agency is not making the adverse decision;
d. o Tell you about your right to a copy of the report;
e. o Tell you that you have a right to talk with the consumer reporting agency to make sure everything is correct—e.g., make sure they have the right criminal record.

See 15 U.S.C. §§ 1681b(b)(3), 1681m.
No consumer reporting agency can release more than seven years of your criminal record to an employer. See 15 U.S.C. § 1681c. You can sue the employer and/or the consumer reporting agency if they did not give you notice or otherwise violated the FCRA. See 15 U.S.C. § 1681(n)-1681(o). Contact an attorney for assistance if you think you have a case against the employer.
In order to protect yourself, you might want to get a copy of your consumer report. To get a copy, call Equifax at 1-800-685-1111, or go to www.equifax.com for more information.

Keywords: criminal record, background checks, background check, public record,


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