Job candidate background checks: Know your rights

Job candidate background checks: Know your rights

As the general population continues to surge, the number of Millennials and new college graduates entering the workforce is exploding. The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) projects that 1.8 million students will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in 2015. In addition to the nearly two million grads this year, millennials officially surpassed Generation X to become the largest share of the American workforce, coming in at 53.5 million.

To better enable this population, employment opportunities programs are starting up, like Starbucks Coffee’s 100,000 Opportunities Initiative. The goal is to provide employment opportunities to this growing, yet often marginalized, group. With new positions and career tracks opening up, it’s important for this emerging workforce to understand their rights as candidates regarding background checks.

I recently connected with Chris Dyer, CEO and founder ofPeopleG2, to discuss the ever-changing laws dealing with background checks for job candidates. We also talked about how this new and growing demographic of young job candidates can navigate the hiring process and protect their rights.

“In general, consumers and candidates are becoming very savvy about their rights,” Mr. Dyer says. “It’s more apparent with the flurry of Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) class action lawsuits, which rose 26.8 percent in the last year, according to theConsumer Financial Protection Bureau. But even with increased awareness, there are tens of millions of millennials who aren’t up to speed.”

Job candidates need to know about these six important legal rights:

1. Applicants should receive a copy of A Summary of Your Rights under the Fair Credit Reporting Act

The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) is a federal law to regulate how a person’s information is used by consumer reporting agencies. The summary is pretty straightforward but if you don’t get a copy from the potential employer, there are complete reports available here.

2. A potential employer is required to obtain a release form to run a background check

The release form should include the name and contact information of the company running the background check. The candidate should keep a copy of this form, including all contact information, for any future questions or updates.

2. Candidates have a right to ask for a copy of their completed background check report

It’s a really good idea for the candidate request a copy to review and ensure all data is accurate and up to date. If anything inaccurate is on the report, take action immediately to rectify the errors, even if they are minor inaccuracies. To do this, the candidate can contact the background checking company directly to assist with corrections. It’s not easy to predict what an employer will or won’t consider as a disqualifier.

3. Always ask why you weren’t accepted for a position

The potential employer must disclose to the candidate if they didn’t hire them because of something they found on the background check. If the denial is based on something from your background check, there are options for countering the decision directly with the employer or with the background checking company. You can then rectify any errors or at least explain to the employer the issues they presented.

4. Potential employers are legally required to send a candidate a Pre-Adverse Action Letter

The letter must inform the candidate that an adverse action may be considered based on items found during the background check. An Adverse Action informs you that you have been denied employment based on information in your background check. It should include the agency used to run your background check and the agency’s contact information.

This is very important because it provides you a 5-day window (state regulations may vary from 5 days, but 5 days is the legal minimum) to counter any discrepancies and correct any errors. The background checking company then has a minimum of 30 days to investigate any disputed information. After the 5 days, if nothing is disputed and changed, then the potential employer must provide the candidate with an Adverse Action letter or notice.

5. Consumer reporting agencies must correct or delete inaccurate, incomplete, or unverifiable information

Be sure to keep all of your personal information current and correct. This includes maintaining a good credit score and a clean driving record, and working to remove any criminal infractions from your background. Get in touch with the reporting agency immediately if there are errors or data that need updating.

For the millions of incoming candidates navigating employment opportunities and entering the workforce, Dyer says, “Be prepared! Even employers can be dismissive of your rights and in some cases the local laws, so don’t be afraid to ask questions and always be your own advocate.”


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