At SentryLink we are often asked why we require an employee’s mailing and e-mail address before displaying reports. For an answer to this, we need only to look at a recent class action lawsuit filed against an employer: Amazon Hit With Another Background Check Class Action Lawsuit.
According to the lawsuit, Amazon initially offered Theo Feldstein a job. They then ran a background check on him through Accurate Background Inc. In this case, accurate was a misnomer — there were criminal convictions incorrectly listed on the report. Amazon withdrew the job offer, without giving him a chance to get things corrected, or providing him with a copy of the report as required by the Fair Credit Reporting Act. Feldstein claims he “happened to find out” that a background check had been received on him by Amazon. (It’s been a bad year for Amazon: a similar lawsuit was filed in April 2015.)
This is not the way things are supposed to happen. Job applicants have the right to know that they have been investigated, and that negative information may have been provided. The sad fact is, public records are imperfect. With thousands of county courts across the country, many of them not automated, errors can and do occur. Even worse are problems of identity confusion; as social security numbers are increasingly removed from case records, the risk of finding someone else with the same full name, date of birth, and even residence history increases.
How can we fix this? Follow the law, let your applicants know what is going on, and give your applicants a fair chance to make corrections. A good place to start is the summary of FCRA obligations. Organizations like the Society for Human Resource Management can help you development a consistent HR policy.
*We are not lawyers; this article should not be considered legal advice.