If you are offered a job or are investigated at work, your employer may request a background check. It is important to know what is acceptable and when you should contact the Federal Trade Commission or Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
What Information Can An Employer Request?
Employers can request information about your criminal, driving, work or credit history when they need it. There are only a few rare instances where they can request information about your medical or genetic history. Employers should not use medical history against you. They may ask if you can perform job duties and to demonstrate it. For example, you may be asked to lift 50 pounds or drive a forklift.
When Can An Employer Use Information Against Me?
When the nature of a job clashes with an applicant’s history, this can be a legal reason for discrimination. For example, a school could not hire a registered sex offender or a person with a history of several felony crimes against other people to work with children. To provide more examples, a bank may not hire a financial adviser with poor credit, and a public transit company may not hire a bus driver with a bad driving record. Employers can request background checks that focus on criteria for a new hire or the reason why an employee is being investigated, and they can use that information to make employment decisions.
Where Can I Go For Help If An Employer Uses Information Illegally?
Employers cannot ask you if you have a disability or for details about it if you volunteer the information. If you are asked this during an interview, contact the EEOC. Employers cannot fire you or refuse to hire you because of a medical condition except in rare cases. Keep in mind that employers must always receive your written consent to conduct a background check. If you did not give consent, contact the FTC. If an employer uses information in a background report against you, the employer must tell you this, give you a copy of the report and tell you how to contact the reporting agency. If there was a mistake, contact the agency. You should also tell the employer about the mistake. For one free annual copy of your credit report, visit AnnualCreditReport.com or call 877-322-8228.
If you are a job seeker or an employee under investigation, remember that you have rights. While many employers are careful about following laws regarding background checks, some are oblivious to these laws or blatantly disregard them. If you were treated unfairly because of background information, contact the EEOC or FTC immediately. Contact the EEOC at 800-669-4000 and the FTC at 877-FTC-HELP.