If a prospective employer at a job interview tells you that the work environment is “like a family,” this is a red flag, and you should only take the job if you have no other options. At family gatherings, your relatives make snide comments about your physical appearance, political and religious beliefs, and spending habits. It is inappropriate, and sometimes even illegal, for your coworkers and work supervisors to be in your business about these things. Drawing attention to an employee’s physical appearance or religious affiliation is workplace harassment and is forbidden under federal employment discrimination laws, but what about your financial history? Your credit card statement is not a pretty sight, but it is also none of your employer’s business, or is it? Sometimes disputes arise between employees and employers or between job candidates and prospective employers relating to background checks that reveal the employee or candidate’s credit history. If you are involved in a dispute of this nature, contact the Charlotte Fair Credit Reporting Act lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys LLP.
The Fair Credit Reporting Act and Your Job Search
You have probably heard of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) before, but you probably did not think of it as having any relationship to employment discrimination. FCRA is a federal law that requires fairness and accuracy in credit reporting and protects consumers from having confidential information about their finances shared with unauthorized parties. If you have completed a rental application to rent an apartment or have applied for a car loan or home mortgage, the lender probably requested a credit report. In fact, you might have even based your decisions about applying for loans on your knowledge of your own credit score.
You are correct that working gives you money that you use to make payments on loans, increasing your credit to debt ratio and therefore your credit score, but that is not the only relationship between your job and your credit reports. Employers have the right to conduct background checks that reveal details about your financial history, including unpaid debts. The reason for allowing this is that, for some jobs, information about your finances gives the employer an indication of your trustworthiness to perform the functions of your job. It is especially important in jobs where you will have access to large amounts of cash or customers’ financial information, such as if you are a bank employee or the manager of a retail store.
FCRA requires credit reports to be accurate and not to include untrue information that damages your reputation in the eyes of lenders and prospective employers. For example, if you have recently made a payment toward a debt, the credit reporting agencies must update your report to reflect this. Credit reports may not reflect debts from more than seven years ago or bankruptcy filings from more than 10 years ago.
North Carolina Laws Related to Credit Reporting
Only one North Carolina law provides consumers additional protection beyond what they get from the federal FCRA. The Identity Theft Protection Act makes it harder for businesses to share your social security number after you have revealed it to them. Credit reports do not typically reveal your social security number, but other documents your employer can access during a background check might show it, if not for this law.
Workers’ Rights in Relation to Pre-Employment Background Checks
When you apply for almost any job, your employer has the right to conduct a background check to determine whether you have been truthful in your interactions thus far with the prospective employer and to obtain other information that would help the employer determine whether you are suitable for the job. The background check can inquire into details about the following aspects of your history:
- Interactions with the criminal justice system, including arrests, charges, and convictions
- Driving records, including traffic violations and associated fines, as well as when and where you have been licensed to drive which kinds of vehicles
- The locations of your previous jobs and the dates of your employment
- Schools and training programs you have attended, the dates of attendance, and whether you graduated
- Professional licenses you have earned and the dates of renewal, if applicable
- Financial history, including unpaid debts
Before conducting a background check, your employer must notify you in writing of what information the background check will research and what actions the employer may take based on the information they find. The employer cannot begin the background check until you sign a consent form authorizing them to begin. If your employer finds something negative in your credit report, the employer must show you a copy of the report and notify you in writing of the deadline for correcting the problem. (An employment lawyer or consumer law attorney may be able to help you fix the issue.) If the employer takes adverse action against you, such as deciding not to hire you or rescinding an offer of employment it has already given you, they must also notify you of this in writing. If you believe that the employer’s decision was unfair or that the report is incorrect, contact the Charlotte employment lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys LLP.
In an era when half of Americans cannot afford a $400 emergency expense, almost everyone has unpaid debts that appear on their credit reports, and many have filed for bankruptcy in the past. If employers only hired people with a squeaky-clean financial history, it truly would be a case of the rich getting richer while the poor get poorer, but that is not how employment is supposed to work. While financial hardship is not officially a protected category under employment discrimination laws, it is another way that employers sometimes unlawfully exploit workers’ vulnerabilities.
Contact a North Carolina Employment Lawyer About Background Check Disputes
An employment lawyer can help you if an employer has unfairly used information in your background check against you. Contact the employment lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys LLP in Charlotte, North Carolina to set up a consultation.