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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. From back in the day before secularism got a stranglehold on Hoosier jurists comes this great excerpt via Indiana federal court judge Allan Sharp, dedicated to those many Indiana government attorneys (with whom I have dealt) who count the law as a mere tool, an optional tool that is not to be used when political correctness compels a more acceptable result than merely following the path that the law directs: ALLEN SHARP, District Judge. I. In a scene following a visit by Henry VIII to the home of Sir Thomas More, playwriter Robert Bolt puts the following words into the mouths of his characters: Margaret: Father, that man's bad. MORE: There is no law against that. ROPER: There is! God's law! MORE: Then God can arrest him. ROPER: Sophistication upon sophistication! MORE: No, sheer simplicity. The law, Roper, the law. I know what's legal not what's right. And I'll stick to what's legal. ROPER: Then you set man's law above God's! MORE: No, far below; but let me draw your attention to a fact I'm not God. The currents and eddies of right and wrong, which you find such plain sailing, I can't navigate. I'm no voyager. But in the thickets of law, oh, there I'm a forester. I doubt if there's a man alive who could follow me there, thank God... ALICE: (Exasperated, pointing after Rich) While you talk, he's gone! MORE: And go he should, if he was the Devil himself, until he broke the law! ROPER: So now you'd give the Devil benefit of law! MORE: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil? ROPER: I'd cut down every law in England to do that! MORE: (Roused and excited) Oh? (Advances on Roper) And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you where would you hide, Roper, the laws being flat? (He leaves *1257 him) This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast man's laws, not God's and if you cut them down and you're just the man to do it d'you really think you would stand upright in the winds that would blow then? (Quietly) Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake. ROPER: I have long suspected this; this is the golden calf; the law's your god. MORE: (Wearily) Oh, Roper, you're a fool, God's my god... (Rather bitterly) But I find him rather too (Very bitterly) subtle... I don't know where he is nor what he wants. ROPER: My God wants service, to the end and unremitting; nothing else! MORE: (Dryly) Are you sure that's God! He sounds like Moloch. But indeed it may be God And whoever hunts for me, Roper, God or Devil, will find me hiding in the thickets of the law! And I'll hide my daughter with me! Not hoist her up the mainmast of your seagoing principles! They put about too nimbly! (Exit More. They all look after him). Pgs. 65-67, A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS A Play in Two Acts, Robert Bolt, Random House, New York, 1960. Linley E. Pearson, Atty. Gen. of Indiana, Indianapolis, for defendants. Childs v. Duckworth, 509 F. Supp. 1254, 1256 (N.D. Ind. 1981) aff'd, 705 F.2d 915 (7th Cir. 1983)

  2. "Meanwhile small- and mid-size firms are getting squeezed and likely will not survive unless they become a boutique firm." I've been a business attorney in small, and now mid-size firm for over 30 years, and for over 30 years legal consultants have been preaching this exact same mantra of impending doom for small and mid-sized firms -- verbatim. This claim apparently helps them gin up merger opportunities from smaller firms who become convinced that they need to become larger overnight. The claim that large corporations are interested in cost-saving and efficiency has likewise been preached for decades, and is likewise bunk. If large corporations had any real interest in saving money they wouldn't use large law firms whose rates are substantially higher than those of high-quality mid-sized firms.

  3. The family is the foundation of all human government. That is the Grand Design. Modern governments throw off this Design and make bureaucratic war against the family, as does Hollywood and cultural elitists such as third wave feminists. Since WWII we have been on a ship of fools that way, with both the elite and government and their social engineering hacks relentlessly attacking the very foundation of social order. And their success? See it in the streets of Fergusson, on the food stamp doles (mostly broken families)and in the above article. Reject the Grand Design for true social function, enter the Glorious State to manage social dysfunction. Our Brave New World will be a prison camp, and we will welcome it as the only way to manage given the anarchy without it.

  4. When I hear 'Juvenile Lawyer' I think of an attorney helping a high school aged kid through the court system for a poor decision; like smashing mailboxes. Thank you for opening up my eyes to the bigger picture of the need for juvenile attorneys. It made me sad, but also fascinated, when it was explained, in the sixth paragraph, that parents making poor decisions (such as drug abuse) can cause situations where children need legal representation and aid from a lawyer.

  5. Some in the Hoosier legal elite consider this prayer recommended by the AG seditious, not to mention the Saint who pledged loyalty to God over King and went to the axe for so doing: "Thomas More, counselor of law and statesman of integrity, merry martyr and most human of saints: Pray that, for the glory of God and in the pursuit of His justice, I may be trustworthy with confidences, keen in study, accurate in analysis, correct in conclusion, able in argument, loyal to clients, honest with all, courteous to adversaries, ever attentive to conscience. Sit with me at my desk and listen with me to my clients' tales. Read with me in my library and stand always beside me so that today I shall not, to win a point, lose my soul. Pray that my family may find in me what yours found in you: friendship and courage, cheerfulness and charity, diligence in duties, counsel in adversity, patience in pain—their good servant, and God's first. Amen."

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