Background Check FAQ

How likely is it that a potential employer will want to run a background check on me?

Recent studies have found that 70-90% of employers conduct criminal background checks on all job applicants.

What can be included in a “background check”?

A background check can include a traditional “credit report” as well as a criminal records check and a public records check for things like civil judgments, tax liens and bankruptcies. Some employers may also hire background check companies to check your references.

Do I have rights with respect to an employment-related background check?

Yes, you have many, whether that background check is accurate or inaccurate. See below.

Can a potential employer run a background check on me without telling me?

No. In fact, they not only have to tell you that they want to run the check, in a special document called a “disclosure,” they actually have to get your permission in a signed “authorization.”

What other rights do I have if my background check shows negative information, such as a criminal record or bad credit?

First, the employer cannot immediately take “adverse action” against you, meaning that you cannot immediately be removed from consideration for the position, or have a conditional offer of employment withdrawn.

Second, the employer (and sometimes the background check company itself) must give you a copy of your background check and a “Summary of Rights” under the Fair Credit Reporting Act. This is part of what is called a “pre-adverse action notice.”

Third, the employer must wait at least five days before taking any adverse action against you on the basis of the background check.

What should I do if there is inaccurate information on my report?

Immediately contact the background check company who performed the background check and inform them of their mistake. If possible, do this in writing, and provide whatever documentation you have to support your position.

You also need to inform the potential employer of the mistake and explain that you are disputing it.

What is the background check company required to do?

Under the law, the background check company must correct any inaccurate or incomplete information, and if it cannot verify that the information is correct, it must delete that information from your report.

What if I can’t get the inaccuracy corrected within five days of the pre-adverse action notice?

If the employer decides not to hire you after five days, they have to give you a “post adverse action notice,” which includes contact information for the background check company and a summary of your rights.

What are my options if I lost a job (or some other employment-related benefit, such as a promotion) because of an inaccurate background check?

You may be able to sue both the employer and the background check company for actual damages and other expenses, including attorneys’ fees.

What are actual damages in a background check lawsuit?

Actual damages can include your loss of income, out-of-pocket expenses, damage to reputation, emotional distress, anxiety, and inconvenience, as well as, in certain circumstances, punitive damages.

You are always entitled to an award of reasonable attorneys’ fees under the Fair Credit Reporting Act if you win. These are usually included in any settlement of the case as well.

What will it cost me to file such a lawsuit?

Nothing, unless you win. We take these cases on a contingent fee basis, which means you pay us not attorneys’ fees unless you get damages from the defendant or defendants.