Don’t Let Background Checks Ruin Reputations

Jennifer Gladstone

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reputationA mother in Minnesota says a background check conducted by her child’s school ruined her reputation. Lori Wosmek was a dedicated school volunteer.  The school performed background checks on her over the years and called her often to help out everywhere from the classroom to the football field.

In 2012 it was time to do another check. Normal procedure. But all of a sudden, Wosmek realized people were treating her differently. She wasn’t getting called to help and people stopped talking to her… many wouldn’t even look her in the eye.

Eventually she got a letter from the school saying she was no longer an approved volunteer. They included a copy of her background check to explain why. The report said she had been convicted of criminal vehicular homicide!

Not only was the report incorrect, but instead of notifying her as soon as they got the information, Wosmek says the school district employees spread the information around town for five months. The school denies this, but Wosmek is still suing the district and the company that made the mistake.

The moral of this story is that mistakes can happen, but it is how you deal with the information that is of the utmost importance. If Wosmek was a job applicant, the school district would have been required to go through a proper adverse action process that would have given her the chance to correct the mistakes and save her reputation.  But, according to the FTC the term “employment purposes” in the FCRA is interpreted liberally and may include people who are not technically employees.

There are several laws regarding adverse action under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). Best practices always lean towards complete transparency.  It is best for all concerned to let people see their reports and to explain their right to dispute any findings. If you have any questions about how this could apply to your company, consult with your legal team.

In Wosmek’s case the company that performed the faulty screen corrected the mistake, but the damage had already been done. She says she still hasn’t been asked to come back as a volunteer. Mishandling information can put everyone in a lose-lose situation.

eBook: How Long A Good Background Check Should Take

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Background Checks

Jennifer Gladstone

Posted By: Jennifer Gladstone

Jennifer Gladstone is a news anchor and journalist with more than 20 years of experience in front of the camera. She's worked in several markets, large and small, and has performed nearly every task needed in a newsroom. As EBI’s Screening News Editor, she keeps EBI’s customers and blog subscribers up to date on the latest screening news and legislative alerts affecting companies of all sizes.

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