If you are searching for a job, it might seem as though every prospective employer insists on obtaining a background report as part of the application process. It has become common for interviewers to ask job applicants about their employment history, criminal record, education, financial history, and even their use of social media.
Most employers routinely hire a company to conduct an investigation and produce a background report about individuals being considered for employment. You have rights under federal law to protect your rights when an employer asks for a background report about you.
There are limits to how employers can use criminal record information
Practically all background report requests made by employers include criminal record investigations. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission of the federal government prohibits employers from using criminal record information as the sole basis for denying you employment. According to the EEOC, the decision not to offer you a position because of a criminal record must be based upon a business necessity and include consideration of the following:
- The gravity and nature of the charges
- How long ago the conviction occurred
- The nature of the job for which applied
Your right to get a copy of your background report
State laws might give you better access to a background report completed by a prospective employer, but under federal law, you must be given a copy of the report if the employer uses it to take what the Fair Credit Reporting Act refers to as "adverse action," such as refusing to hire you. You should review the report carefully to verify the accuracy of the information.
For instance, if a criminal conviction was expunged by court order, the background report might erroneously show the conviction instead of the expungement. Errors in the report can be challenged and corrected.
A background report cannot contain medical information about you
Unless medical history has a direct relationship to the type of work that you will be doing if you are hired, a background report cannot include such information. The exception to this rule is if you give the employer written consent to investigate your medical history. This rule does not prohibit an employer from requiring that you take a physical examination after you have been offered the job and as part of the routine hiring process.
You have the right to file a complaint
If you believe you have been discriminated against because of the contents of a background report, you can file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. You might also have rights under the laws of your state that exceed the rights given to you under federal law. For example, some states prohibit credit report information to be contained in a background report unless you specifically agree, in writing, to allow it.
You can get a better understanding of the rights you have concerning a background report by seeking legal advice from an attorney. An attorney would be in the best position to advise you about the your rights under the laws of your particular state.