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What Employees Need to Know about Background Checks

background checkDepending on the field in which you are seeking employment, a background check might be commonplace. Many employers run background checks on applicants for protection. In addition to protecting their own interests, they also need to be sure it’s safe for their employees to interact with clients since they can be held responsible for exposing clients to danger.

In general, employers have a right to run a background check on an applicant, but applicants (and current employees) also have rights.

For instance, there are federal laws governing when and how an employer can run a background check as it relates to criminal and financial history. These background checks cannot be based on race, national origin, religion, sex, disability, age, or genetic information.

As an example, an employer choosing to run a background check on applicants must do so on all applicants, as opposed to only those applicants who are over 30 or who are male applicants, etc.

Employers Must Be Open and Honest about Background Checks

There are certain obligations employers have before they can run a background check or view a credit report for a job applicant or current employee. For example:

• They must receive written permission from you to run the background check
• They must tell you that any information obtained in the background check can be used against you when determining whether or not you’ll be hired
• They must tell you if they will be using an investigative report and gathering information from personal interviews with people you know
• They must certify that they’ve acted within the letter of the law, including informing you of their actions and conducting the background check without violating any discrimination laws

Employers running a credit check on an applicant must also comply with the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

What If an Employer Finds Something Negative in a Background Check?

Unfortunately, there are circumstances in which an employer can refuse to hire you based on what is found in your background check.

If you believe your background check will disqualify you from a position, you do not have to give permission for that employer to run a background check. However, if you refuse, the employer can deny you employment (or let you go from your current position) based on your refusal.

Should you allow a background check and something in it result in denial (or termination) or employment, the employer must:

• Provide you with the name and contact information of the company that supplied the information (the credit bureau or background information)
• Inform you that the company supplying the information did not make the decision not to hire you and cannot provide you information about why you weren’t hired
• Provide you with information about your right to dispute the accuracy of incompleteness of the information included in your report

New York’s Human Rights Law provides additional protections concerning employee background checks and criminal history. You can read more about them here.

Credit Checks

Keep in mind, if denial of your employment was based on your credit report, you have a right to request a free copy of your report from any of the three major credit bureaus for free within 60 days of the incident (even if you’ve already received your annual free copy).

If you believe there is an error on your report, it’s important to tell your employer or potential employer of the error and show proof you are disputing the error. Most employers know it’s fairly common for errors to occur on credit reports and will be understanding if this is the case, as long as they know you are making an effort to correct the problem.

If you believe you were unjustly denied employment because of something in a background check or on your credit report, or you believe the report was run strictly due to your gender, or race, or any other related reason, you might have a right to pursue legal action. For more information or to schedule a consultation, contact Borrelli & Associates, P.L.L.C.

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