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IBA: New FCRA Background Check Requirements Effective Jan. 1, 2013

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halbert-jeffrey-mug Halbert

By Jeffrey B. Halbert, Stewart & Irwin PC

Employers utilizing consumer reporting agencies for purposes of conducting employee background checks are required to comply with specific requirements of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (“FCRA”). The FCRA provides very broad definitions for what constitutes a “consumer reporting agency,” “consumer report,” and “investigative consumer report.” In order to comply with the FCRA, employers obtaining consumer reports from consumer reporting agencies, must: (i) prior to receipt of a consumer report, make a “clear and conspicuous” written disclosure to the consumer (i.e., prospective employee), in a document that consists “solely” of the disclosure, that a consumer report may be obtained for “employment purposes”; and (ii) the applicant must provide advance written consent for the employer to obtain a consumer report for “employment purposes.”1

The FCRA also imposes additional disclosure requirements on employers obtaining investigative consumer reports (i.e., consumer reports based on personal interviews conducted by a consumer reporting agency, such as in-depth reference checks). The employer must disclose to the applicant or employee that an investigative consumer report may be obtained from a consumer reporting agency. The disclosure must include a statement informing the applicant or employee of his or her right to request additional disclosures of the “nature and scope” of the investigation, as well as the FCRA Summary of Rights. The employer must also certify to the consumer reporting agency that it has a “permissible purpose” for requesting a report and that it (i) has provided the required disclosures to the applicant or employee; (ii) has obtained written authorization from the applicant or employee; (iii) will not use the information contained in the report in violation of any federal or state equal opportunity law of regulation; and (iv) will provide the applicant or employee with a copy of the report and FCRA Summary of Rights in the event that an “adverse action” is taken on the basis of information contained in the report.

If an employer takes an adverse action against the applicant or employee, in whole or in part, based on information contained in the report, the employer must follow the two-step notification process. First, before the employer implements the adverse action against the applicant or employee, it must provide a “pre-adverse action” notice to the individual, which must include a copy of the report and the FCRA Summary of Rights. If after waiting the required time, the employer is prepared to take the adverse action against the applicant or employee, it must then provide an “adverse action” notice to the individual, which must include specific information contained within the statute, including contact information for the applicable consumer reporting agency.

The FCRA allows an applicant or employee to pursue a private cause of action against an employer for “negligently” or “willfully” failing to comply with any of the requirements of the Act relating to the individual. The statute of limitations for FCRA violations require that an action be brought by the earlier of (i) two years after the date of discovery by the plaintiff of the violation; or (ii) five years after the date on which the violation that is the basis of the alleged liability occurred. Available damages vary depending on whether the alleged violation is negligent or willful. An employer who negligently fails to comply with any requirement of the FCRA relating to the individual is liable for (i) actual damages sustained by the individual; and (ii) reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs. Employers who willfully violate the statute are subject to (i) actual damages or statutory damages ranging between $100 and $1,000; (ii) punitive damages; and (iii) attorneys’ fees and costs.

Responsibility for enforcement of the FCRA, for the most part, has been transferred from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to the newly created Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) as a result of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. As such, CFPB now possesses primary rulemaking responsibility for the FCRA and recently issued regulations requiring updates to FCRA notices being utilized for background check purposes. Prior to Jan. 1, 2013, employers must substitute the new FCRA Summary of Rights for those currently being utilized when (i) they enclose the form with the “pre-adverse action” notice; and (ii) provide the form with required disclosures for investigative consumer reports. Specifically, the CFPB has modified the FCRA Summary of Rights, Notice to Users of Consumer Reports of their Obligations under the FCRA and Notice to Furnishers of Information of their Obligations under the FCRA to make clear that the CFPB is the agency from which consumers may obtain information about their rights under the FCRA. The new forms can be found at Appendices K, M, and N to 12 C.F.R. Part 1022 and obtained online at www.ecfr.gov or www.consumerfinance.gov.

Given the intensified focus on background checks by other agencies such as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and newly issued state laws in Indiana and other states, it is incumbent upon employers to sufficiently assess their current credit and criminal record screening policies and procedures in order to ensure compliance with applicable laws.•

1Additional, but less stringent, rules apply in the context of investigations into employee misconduct.
 

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  1. It appears the police and prosecutors are allowed to change the rules halfway through the game to suit themselves. I am surprised that the congress has not yet eliminated the right to a trial in cases involving any type of forensic evidence. That would suit their foolish law and order police state views. I say we eliminate the statute of limitations for crimes committed by members of congress and other government employees. Of course they would never do that. They are all corrupt cowards!!!

  2. Poor Judge Brown probably thought that by slavishly serving the godz of the age her violations of 18th century concepts like due process and the rule of law would be overlooked. Mayhaps she was merely a Judge ahead of her time?

  3. in a lawyer discipline case Judge Brown, now removed, was presiding over a hearing about a lawyer accused of the supposedly heinous ethical violation of saying the words "Illegal immigrant." (IN re Barker) http://www.in.gov/judiciary/files/order-discipline-2013-55S00-1008-DI-429.pdf .... I wonder if when we compare the egregious violations of due process by Judge Brown, to her chiding of another lawyer for politically incorrectness, if there are any conclusions to be drawn about what kind of person, what kind of judge, what kind of apparatchik, is busy implementing the agenda of political correctness and making off-limits legit advocacy about an adverse party in a suit whose illegal alien status is relevant? I am just asking the question, the reader can make own conclsuion. Oh wait-- did I use the wrong adjective-- let me rephrase that, um undocumented alien?

  4. of course the bigger questions of whether or not the people want to pay for ANY bussing is off limits, due to the Supreme Court protecting the people from DEMOCRACY. Several decades hence from desegregation and bussing plans and we STILL need to be taking all this taxpayer money to combat mostly-imagined "discrimination" in the most obviously failed social program of the postwar period.

  5. You can put your photos anywhere you like... When someone steals it they know it doesn't belong to them. And, a man getting a divorce is automatically not a nice guy...? That's ridiculous. Since when is need of money a conflict of interest? That would mean that no one should have a job unless they are already financially solvent without a job... A photographer is also under no obligation to use a watermark (again, people know when a photo doesn't belong to them) or provide contact information. Hey, he didn't make it easy for me to pay him so I'll just take it! Well heck, might as well walk out of the grocery store with a cart full of food because the lines are too long and you don't find that convenient. "Only in Indiana." Oh, now you're passing judgement on an entire state... What state do you live in? I need to characterize everyone in your state as ignorant and opinionated. And the final bit of ignorance; assuming a photo anyone would want is lucky and then how much does your camera have to cost to make it a good photo, in your obviously relevant opinion?

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