A lot of companies will ask you to complete a mandatory background screening before offering you the job. Failing a background check can affect your employment. Worse, an error on a background check can potentially damage your reputation and cause emotional distress.
If your background report contains errors, do not panic. You have the right to dispute under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and can quickly rectify any errors.
Most Common Background Check Errors
Background check errors are common but not harmless. Some common background check errors are:
- Incorrect criminal history on background check
- Outdated information that should no longer show on the background check
- Mistaken identity, the criminal record of someone else is on your background check
There’s multiple ways these errors can appear on your background check, such as:
- Name, address, or birth date added incorrectly, either by your potential employer or by the background check company
- Mixed files - your background check got mixed up with someone else’s with the same or very similar name
- Automation errors. In the case the background check company is using AI, sometimes these programs can make errors which result in incorrect reports
Your Rights Under the FCRA
It’s important to know your rights if you believe you have been impacted by an error. Your rights under the FCRA are:
- You are entitled to a copy of you background check, no matter the result
- You must be notified if a background check will be used against you
- You have the right to dispute any errors on your background check
- Within 30 days of dispute, any errors on your background check must be investigated and corrected
- Employers must obtain written consent from you to run a background check
- You may take legal action against consumer reporting agencies and/or background check companies who violate the FCRA.
How to Dispute Background Check Errors
Background check companies have a part of their website dedicated to explaining the dispute process. You can dispute any item on your background check. You can file a dispute:
- By mail
- By phone
Mail is the preferred method to keep a paper trail. Make sure to send your dispute letter and documentation via certified mail so you can track its arrival.
How Long Does it Take to Dispute Errors on a Background Check?
Once you have submitted your dispute, the agency in question has 30 days to respond and correct any errors. However, this does not stop your potential employer from moving forward with another candidate in the meantime.
The agency who issued the background check legally has 30 days to correct it, so you must wait that period. The Federal Trade Commission does request that employers wait a reasonable amount of time for the dispute to be settled. However, the reasonable time frame is generally considered to be five days.
When Can an Employer Run My Background?
As mentioned earlier, employers must have consent from you to run a background check. Sometimes an application for employment may ask you to check a box if you have a criminal record.
However, many states have adopted the “ban the box” law, which prohibits employers from asking about your criminal history on an application. No matter what “ban the box” laws are in place near you, an employer can never run a background check without your consent, regardless of location.
Can I Sue Over Errors on My Background Check?
Yes, you could sue over damages caused by the error(s) on your background check. Damages could include:
- Loss of employment opportunities
- Loss of housing opportunities
- Damaged reputation
- And more
If you have suffered any kind of distress due to errors on a background check, it is always good to check in with your legal counsel. You may have a case.
From jobs to housing, background checks play an essential role. This is why errors on your background check can be devastating.
You can file a dispute to correct any errors you may have found. A successful dispute will remove all errors from your record. If you need help with the dispute process, seek legal counsel.