The Fair Credit Reporting Act

The Fair Credit Reporting Act (“FCRA”) promotes the accuracy, fairness and privacy of personal information in the files of consumer reporting agencies. Consumer reporting agencies assemble information related to individuals on behalf of credit card companies, banks, landlords, and employers.

Consumers have rights under the FCRA. For most individuals, these rights include the following:

  • You must give your consent, in writing, for consumer reports to be provided to potential employers or current employers.
  • You must be told if information contained within your consumer report has been used against you. For example, if you are denied a job because of what is contained within your criminal record, that information must be reported to you.
  • You have a right to dispute incomplete or inaccurate information in your consumer report.
  • Consumer reporting agencies must correct or delete inaccurate, incomplete or unverifiable information, usually within 30 days.
  • Consumer reporting agencies may not report outdated negative information, such as bankruptcies more than ten years old.
  • You have a right to know what is in your file at a consumer reporting agency.
  • You have a right to ask for a credit score.
  • Access to your file is limited. In order to request information contained within your consumer report, a person must have a valid claim. Usually, requests are limited to creditors, insurers, employers, and the like.
  • You have a right to seek damages from consumer reporting agencies who violate your rights.
In addition to the FCRA’s requirements, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) has said that an employer’s use of criminal history may sometimes violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This can happen, the EEOC says, when employers treat criminal history differently for different applicants or employees.The EEOC’s guidelines covering an employer’s use of criminal background information are extensive, but the most important consideration are:

 

  • the nature and gravity of the offense
  • the time that has lapsed since the offense, and,
  • the nature of the job.

To aid in compliance with Title VII, the EEOC guidelines provide employers with examples of best business practices. The EEOC’s guidelines, Consideration of Arrest and Conviction Records in Employment Decisions Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, can be found here.