Overview: The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) governs the use of consumer credit reports as well as investigative consumer reports for employment purposes. To conduct these third-party employee background checks of job applicants or employees, companies must comply with a number of steps under the FCRA. Chief among the steps are the Act's notice and consent requirements.
The FCRA mandates not only that employers notify all job applicants and employees beforehand if they wish to conduct a background check, but that employers obtain their written consent.
In addition, employers that decide they might deny employment or take other adverse action based in whole or in part on the findings of a background check first must send a pre-adverse action letter to the applicant or employee. This notification also must provide a copy of the report, a summary of FCRA rights and information on how individuals can challenge the report if they wish to do so.
HR professionals should be aware that several states have counterparts to the FCRA. Many mirror the federal legislation, but some impose additional requirements.
Trends: A number of states, including California, Illinois and Connecticut, have enacted laws in the last few years limiting the use of credit checks to certain types of jobs such as those involving financial data or sensitive information. A host of similar measures have been introduced elsewhere, so this is a trend that bears watching.
Author: David B. Weisenfeld, JD, Legal Editor
Updated to reflect New Orleans, Louisiana credit check history law.
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