5 Tips on How to Survive an Employer's Credit or Criminal Records Check
What information about you can an employer gather?
More employers are gathering information on potential employees, as the information-gathering process becomes easier and cheaper. To gather information, employers use internet tools such as search engines, blogs, online forums, social networking sites, photo sharing sites and microblogs. Employers also find out information through more traditional means, such as criminal records and credit checks and job tests.
There’s not much you can do to counteract the effect a bad credit report or an arrest record might have on a prospective employer’s opinion of you. And there’s nothing illegal about an employer checking your credit. But if an employer uses credit checks to improperly discriminate against certain groups based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin, it is illegal. In the employment law world, it’s called “disparate impact.”
Disparate impact cases are quite difficult for employees to prove, though. Just be aware of which employers are more likely to run credit and/or criminal backgrounds checks on you - banks or employers who hire cashiers, for example - if you have problematic credit and/or criminal records.
1) When an employer is going to run your credit report, they must give you written notice beforehand. For many prospective employees, however, this notice may be just one of many pre-employment forms completed and signed. Read everything you sign!
2) If the company decides not to hire you because of your credit report, they have to give you a copy of the report, along with a disclosure of your rights under the Fair Credit Reporting Act.
3) Make sure you don’t lie to your prospective employer about something that might appear on your credit report or criminal record. Especially if you sign a piece of paper giving them permission to get a copy of your credit report and/or your criminal record. If you lie to your prospective employer, they can decide not to hire you or to fire you later on because of the lie.
4) Be ready to explain to your prospective employer why you have something negative on your credit report and/or criminal record, on the off chance that they give you the opportunity to do so. It would be better to provide the explanation before they retrieve the credit report and/or criminal record so that they are not unpleasantly surprised.
5) Be aware of what is on your credit report, especially if you think a prospective employer might check it. That way, if there are inaccuracies on the report, you can take steps to correct them. And you can notify your prospective employer of the inaccuracies and of the steps you have taken to correct them. Correction of inaccuracies on your credit report is something that may take time, so you may not be able to clear them up prior to your application for employment.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jennifer N. Weil, Esq.
Jennifer N. Weil, Esq. is an attorney practicing in New Jersey and New York.
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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer. For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.