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Part of an employer's screening process for prospective employees often involves accessing consumer reports. Consumer reports can provide details such as your credit history, criminal records, civil suits, judgments and bankruptcies.
Before an employer can access your consumer report, it must obtain your written permission in a document separate from the job application form. Once it has initial permission, an employer usually does not need future permission to access your report again.
Employer background checks often include a copy of your credit report, which details your credit history. It can show details such as the age of your credit history, how many active lines of credit you have, the total amounts owed, payment history and any bankruptcy filings, judgments and liens. It can also include your credit score.
Employers place a lot of weight on a prospective employee's criminal records, which is why consumer reports contain conviction and arrest records. While state laws vary as to what arrest information may be obtained and reported, federal law allows for criminal convictions to appear indefinitely in consumer reports.
An employee is allowed to request a copy of his consumer report from the company providing the information to the employer. The Fair Credit Reporting Act does not, however, require an employer to furnish the name of the company providing the screening information or how to obtain your report.
Adverse action refers to any negative action—such as deciding not to hire you—an employer takes based on information in your consumer report. In this case, you are entitled to a free copy of your consumer report directly from the employer upon request.
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- Privacy Rights Clearinghouse: Fact Sheet 6b: "Other" Consumer Reports: What You Should Know about "Specialty" Reports
- Privacy Rights Clearinghouse: Fact Sheet 6: How Private Is My Credit Report?
- U.S. Department of Commerce - Minority Business Development Agency: Using Consumer Reports: What Employers Need to Know
- Privacy Rights Clearinghouse: Fact Sheet 16: Employment Background Checks: A Jobseeker's Guide
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