How to Dispute a Background Check

How to Dispute a Background Check

By Tricia O'Connor

The economy is in the middle of a massive hiring surge and a labor shortage. There are many factors contributing to the dichotomy of the situation. But one part of the talent acquisition process remains clear – companies need to hire employees quickly and safely. A pre-employment background check is a critical piece of the hiring process. Background screening helps employers build safe workplaces and ensures employees are the right fit for an organization. But what happens if a background check has a mistake or incomplete information?

It’s important to know you can request to view your background check report, because if there is inaccurate information, you can dispute the results.

Here’s how the dispute process works.

Finding Inaccuracies in a Background Check

You can request the results of your background check at any time from the Consumer Reporting Agency (CRA) that conducted it. CRA is another name for a background screening company. You don’t have to wait to see if there is an issue, you can request a copy of your report at any time. The name of the CRA will usually appear on the consent form you sign for the employer, but if you don’t remember it, the HR representative can tell you who to contact. The background screening company should provide you with a copy for free and in a timely manner.

You can take these actions if you find out something is wrong on your background check report:

Credit Information – If something inaccurate turns up on your credit report, you can request a free credit report from any agency that complies with the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). You can then contact the CRA and ask them to change the information. You may need to provide additional information to verify your identity.

Education – Your school’s registrar or office of student affairs can confirm your standing and history. Call and ask them to contact the background screening firm to re-verify your education information.

Criminal Background Information – Cases of misidentification on a criminal background check can be cleared by contacting the courthouse where the supposed offense happened and requesting a security clearance. You may need to provide Personally Identifiable Information (PII) to verify your identity and pay a fee for this service. For FBI fingerprint report errors, go to its website and fill out the appropriate forms.

Employer Responsibility

Employers must comply with Authorization and Adverse Action – two of the biggest FCRA rules. Adverse action is a requirement of the FCRA. Violations will get reported to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

Along with the FCRA, the EEOC says employers should consider the nature and gravity of the offense, how much time has passed since the offense or the completion of the sentence, and if the offense has any relevance to the job that is being sought.

Although you CAN correct erroneous information, an employer is under no obligation to HOLD a job for you while you do this.

Three Steps to Take Adverse Action

Adverse action is the series of steps an employer must take if they make a decision to not hire, not promote, or to fire you based on negative information in your background check report. It also points out your right to dispute the contents of the results.

Before making any employment decision based on the contents of a background check report, employers must do something called pre-adverse action. Pre-adverse action involves informing the applicant or employee via letter that information in their report may be used to make an adverse employment decision.

In addition to this notification letter, employers must:

  • Give the applicant or employee a copy of the report.
  • Give the applicant or employee a “Summary of Your Rights Under the FCRA”.
  • Allow a reasonable amount of time for the person to correct any mistakes and to file a dispute if necessary.

Once the pre-adverse action notice is completed, employers can review the information and ask job applicants to explain any red flags. During this time, you can ask to correct any negative information in your report.

It’s essential employers give you adequate time to make sure you receive your pre-adverse action notification and have time to contact the CRA to dispute and/or correct any inaccuracies on your consumer report. The FTC recommends giving an applicant five business days, though that is not required by law. Some local jurisdictions have requirements or recommendations, often in accordance with ban the box laws or fair chance ordinances.

During this time, you will have the chance to contact the CRA that prepared the report as well as any court or organization that has reported negative information.

If you don’t dispute the report, or if there are not corrections made as the result of a dispute, employers may then take the adverse action. To do that they must:

  • Send the final adverse action notice telling the applicant or employee that final action is being taken because of information discovered in their background screening report.
  • Make sure everything is clearly stated: some local jurisdictions may have laws or recommendations that employers share what item(s) in the report caused the adverse decision to be made.
  • Provide another copy of their “Summary of Your Rights Under the FCRA”.
  • Provide the name, address, and toll-free phone number for the CRA that furnished the report.
  • Employers must let you know you can contact the CRA to get a copy of the report and to correct any mistakes, but employers also need to let you know the CRA did not make the employment decision.

Adverse action is not voluntary. It’s an absolute requirement for employers who use background reports from a CRA. Employers who fail to comply with every step may find themselves in court.

Your Screening Partner

Adverse action is a very specific and complicated part of the hiring process. Many states and cities now have their own laws, complicating matters even more. EBI’s compliance team can help employers stay FCRA and EEOC compliant.

EBI’s dynamic adverse action module uses artificial intelligence to make this complicated process simple and compliant. All your pre-approved adverse action letters live in our screening platform and can be sent with a few clicks of a button. Our module knows what to send and when it has to be delivered, so you don’t have to.

For more information on our award-winning background check services, contact us today.

About the Author

Tricia O'Connor

Tricia O'Connor

Writer. Digital marketer. Storyteller. An award-winning writer and editor, Tricia O'Connor is the Marketing Content Manager at EBI. Tricia worked as a broadcast and print journalist for nearly two decades writing and producing programming for high-profile networks like ESPN Radio, History Channel, and Hallmark Channel, as well as contributing editorial work to publications nationwide. Tricia joined the EBI marketing team in 2019 and is responsible for content strategy, development, and engagement. Tricia earned a master's degree in journalism from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University and is a proud undergraduate alumna of Wheaton College in Massachusetts.

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