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Employees and Job Applicants Have Rights Under The Fair Credit Reporting Act

In today’s competitive job market, employers often rely on criminal background checks and credit reports to help aid decisions of whether to hire a candidate for an open position. These reports obviously contain very sensitive personal information, and employers should use the utmost care in handling them. All too often, however, employers do not and violate federal law in the process.
The Fair Credit Reporting Act (15 U.S.C. § 1681) (“FCRA”), mandates that employers follow rigid notice rules when they take action against a current employee (such as denying a promotion or firing), or deny a job to a potential new hire based upon a criminal background check or credit report. Each instance of a violation carries a steep penalty. Employers that are found in violation of these law can be required to pay actual damages, punitive damages, and a statutory penalty of up to $1000 for each instance of wrong-doing. Some of the most common violations include:

Prior to running a background check:
• Employees and applicants must give their express written consent; and
• Employers must give employees and applicants a stand-alone single page disclosure which does not contain a liability release.

Prior to a firing or denying employment based on a background check:
• Employers must provide applicants and employees alike with a copy of the report in which the employer is relying on; and
• Employers must give applicants and employees notice of intent to take adverse action against them, and provide a reasonable period of time to allow the applicant or employee to contest the report.

If you were denied a job, fired, or disciplined by an employer and believe that your employer improperly ran or relied upon a criminal background check or credit report, please contact Nick Migliaccio or Ben Branda at 202-429-2290, or by email at to see if we can help you.