Consumer Reporting Agencies know lots of dirt about you. They know your credit card balances and how many traffic tickets you have gotten. They know about the college you dropped out of before attending the one from which you graduated. For the most part, though, this information is no one’s business. If Consumer Reporting Agencies gave out this information, along with all the identifying details contained in the reports, it would be easy for anyone to stain anyone else’s reputation with credible information, not to mention opening the door to widespread identity theft. The Fair Credit Reporting Act gives current and prospective employers the right to access consumer reports about employees and job candidates under certain circumstances; it also protects workers from having their credit history and other information about them shared, except when the employer has a genuine need to know it. If an employer has unfairly refused to hire you or has fired you from a job based on information contained in a consumer report, contact the Alabama employment lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys LLP.
What is the Fair Credit Reporting Act?
The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) is a federal law that covers background checks and credit reporting. It allows prospective employers to access reports about you in pre-employment background checks, but they may only access the aspects of your consumer report that are relevant to the purpose for which the prospective employer is requesting the report. These are some types of reports about you that current and prospective employers can request during a background check:
- Credit score and other information related to your credit history
- Criminal records
- Driving records
- Education history, including institutions of higher learning you have attended, your dates of attendance, and whether you graduated
- Employment history, including the names of employers and dates of employment
- Current and expired professional licenses
Not every pre-employment background check will include all of these details, and certain conditions must be present before Consumer Reporting Agencies will disclose the information. This is how the process of obtaining a pre-employment background check should work, according to FCRA:
- The employer gives the employee a written notice, expressing its intention to conduct a background check and obtain a report. The notice informs the employee of the types of information the employer may request and the ways in which the employer can use the information.
- The employee signs a consent form authorizing the employer to conduct the background check.
- If the employer finds anything in the consumer report generated by the background check that makes it consider taking “adverse action” (such as rescinding a job offer), it must notify the employee of this decision in writing, and it must attach a copy of the report to the notice. This notice must include a summary of the employee’s rights under FCRA. It must give the employee a reasonable deadline for correcting the worrisome issue that made the employer consider taking adverse action.
The adverse actions that employers can take as a result of finding troubling information in background check reports include declining to give an employment offer, denying an employee a promotion to a position of greater responsibility and higher pay, or terminating the employee’s employment, among others. If an employer takes adverse action against you because of a background check, or if you receive a notice that your employer plans to do so, contact the Alabama employment lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys LLP.
Investigative Consumer Reports
Under certain circumstances, employers may request a type of consumer report called an investigative consumer report. This report is the result of a background check similar to the ones that government employees applying for security clearance jobs undergo, in that investigators conduct interviews with people who have insights into the employee’s trustworthiness, personal character, values, and behavior. Employers seeking to obtain an investigative consumer report have even more responsibilities to the employee in terms of disclosures than employers seeking a routine pre-employment background check.
Consumer Reporting Laws in Alabama
As in some other areas of the law dealing with workers’ rights, Alabama does not offer workers additional protections beyond what the federal law requires. For example, Alabama follows the federal minimum wage and does not require employers to provide family leave beyond the unpaid leave indicated in the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Alabama law requires employers to follow the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act; Alabama does not have its own state-specific law about background checks. The Alabama Consumer Credit Act only covers a small part of the scope of the FCRA. Namely, it sets regulations for lending institutions that provide credit to consumers; it does not deal with pre-employment background checks and the required disclosures related to these.
What to Do if You Lose a Job Opportunity Because of a Consumer Report
Alabama employment lawyers can help you in disputes with employers over adverse actions taken in response to background checks conducted before or after you were hired. If, to your surprise, you receive a notice from your employer saying that they plan to take adverse action against you because of a consumer report, contact an employment lawyer as soon as possible. If your employer takes adverse action against you because of something in your background without notifying you of your rights, this is an even bigger reason to hire a lawyer; it is either an FCRA violation or employment discrimination, depending on the details. Likewise, an employment lawyer can help you exercise your rights if your employer has not yet conducted a background check, but you are worried about information that the employer may discover in the report.
Contact an Alabama FCRA and Background Check Lawyer
Having a troubled past, including financial struggles or most types of engagement with the criminal justice system, should not cut you off from employment opportunities. An employment lawyer can help you prevent or resolve a dispute with your employer about information obtained through a pre-employment background check or investigative consumer report. Contact the Alabama FMLA lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys LLP to set up a consultation.