Employee Background Checks: Know Your Rights | Federal Trade Commission

This video helps job applicants know their rights when an employer buys their background report.

I'm Laura Stack, an attorney with the Federal Trade Commission. When you apply for a job, you know that the employer is going to look at your application and resume. Now here's something you might not know.

The employer may want to know more about your background. If they do, they may by a background report about you. This report can include your credit history, your criminal record, your employment history, and your driving record.

When an employer buys your background report, they have rules that they need to follow. At the same time when you apply for a job, you have certain rights.

An employer needs your permission to see your background report. Usually, you have to give your permission in writing. They may ask you to sign a form just for that. Sometimes the request for permission might be buried somewhere in the job application. Pay attention to the papers you are signing.

You have the right to say the employer can't check your background report. But if you do that, you might not get the job.

The employer doesn't need your permission to look you up online. She might be able to find out things about you on social networking and other sites.

Your credit report can be a very important part of your background report. A credit report has information about whether you pay your bills on time or late, how much money you owe, and if someone has sued you.

Before you apply for a job, get a copy of your own credit report. It's free. Call Annual Credit Report at 1-877-322-8228 to get a free copy of your credit report. When you get your credit report, you can see if all the information is correct and try and fix any mistakes.

You will see what the employers will see. It could be useful to be prepared. You might be able to explain a situation that might not look good to an employer.

Background reports can include criminal records. Here at the FTC, we've heard that some employers say you shouldn't apply for their job if you have a criminal record. But that could be discrimination. It is true that a criminal record might disqualify you from some jobs. But in most cases, employers are not supposed to rule out everyone who's been arrested or convicted.

If something like that happens to you, report it. Call the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or EEOC. The number is 1-800-669-4000. That will start your complaint. There are time limits though, so it's best to act fast if you see a problem.

So let's say you apply for a job, but the employer is thinking of not hiring you because of something in your background report. If the employer is thinking she won't hire you because of something in your background report, the employer has to give you a copy of the background report that she used. The employer also has to give you information about your rights.

You have the right to review your report. You might find things you can explain to the employer. You also might find mistakes you can fix. If you find mistakes and the background report company fixes them, you can ask them to send a new corrected copy of your report to the employer.

In the end if the employer decides not to hire you because of something in your background report, he's supposed to tell you. This is called giving you an Adverse Action Notice. The employer has to tell you that you have a right to free copy of your report and the right to dispute any information in the report that's wrong or incomplete. The employer also has to give you the name, address, and phone number of the company that wrote the report.

You can ask that company for a copy of your report. If you ask within 60 days of getting turned down for the job, you won't have to pay for the report.

If you're looking for a job, you're writing your resume and filling out applications. As you do these things, remember to get your free annual credit report. That way you'll know what the employers will see, and you'll have a chance to fix any mistakes.

To get your free report, call Annual Credit Report. The number is 1-877-322-8228. That's 1-877-322-8228.

And if you think an employer didn't follow the rules, report it to the Federal Trade Commission. Call 1-877-382-4357 to file your complaint. That number again, 1-877-382-4357. We'd like to hear from you.

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