Legal Options for Dealing with Employment Background Check Errors

Background check errors can cost you a job. The law is on your side.

Navigating Legal Waters: Suing Employer Background Check Companies with Confidence


In today’s interconnected world, the results of a background check can be the linchpin in your pursuit of employment, housing, loans, and more. Imagine the anxiety of a job applicant awaiting a background report or the frustration of someone mistakenly flagged with a criminal record. These situations aren’t just hypothetical鈥攖hey are real challenges faced by many. Navigating the complexities of such reports, governed by the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), can be daunting. Mistakes by reporting agencies or background check companies can unfairly alter the course of your life, questioning your integrity and undermining your opportunities.

This is where understanding your rights under federal law becomes crucial. Whether it’s obtaining a copy of your report, correcting a criminal history mistakenly attributed to you, or ensuring that an employer must fairly assess your background, knowledge is power. But knowing your rights is only half the battle; effectively advocating for them is another.

In this guide, we’ll dive into the critical aspects of background checks and your rights under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). We’ll explore common issues with background reports, such as inaccuracies in criminal records and the steps to rectify them. You’ll learn how to effectively obtain and review your consumer report, what to do if you find errors, and the nuances of dealing with reporting agencies. Moreover, we’ll outline the legal recourse available if your rights are violated, including how and when to pursue action against background check companies. This article aims to empower you with knowledge and practical advice, helping you navigate these challenges with confidence and clarity.

Common Background Check Companies

The three largest national consumer reporting agencies (CRAs) routinely conducting background checks are Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. However, hundreds of other lesser-known firms like Checkr, GoodHire, HireRight, and many others also provide background screening services. Each company operates under obligations defined by the FCRA.

There are even sub organizations that get your info, run a background check on specialized databases, then report these results to the screening companies that actually put this information in your background report. Most of these are not big companies, they report information, including false criminal charges, without confirming your information first. 

Understanding which background check company is causing issues for you is the vital starting point if disputes and legal action become necessary.

Your Rights Under the FCRA

The FCRA provides numerous protections regarding the accuracy and fairness of background checks. Key consumer rights include:

  • Requiring informed consent before running background checks
  • Ensuring background checks are accurate, current, and complete
  • Getting a copy of the report before an adverse action is taken
  • Obligating CRAs and employers to dispute and correct inaccurate information
  • Setting limitations for reporting and re-reporting negative items from the past
  • Defining permissible purposes for running background checks
  • Providing avenues for monetary damages when violations cause concrete harm

Without the FCRA’s enforceable rights, consumers would have almost no recourse against unfair, unregulated background check practices. Our article on identifying FCRA violations further details these protections.

Common Background Check Errors 

Unfortunately, incorrect or misleading information in background reports is extremely common. Our experience shows the most frequent issues include:

  • Criminal background check errors – Reports mixing up identities, including expunged cases, or aggregating records without details
  • Outdated records – Reporting dismissed, acquitted, or extremely old cases beyond the FCRA’s time limits
  • Verification failures – Failing to verify public record data leading to report inaccuracy
  • Mixed files – When you background check report contains information that belongs to someone else

Each error type creates severe, unfair consequences including lost job opportunities, denied housing or loans, or blocking licenses needed to work. Our mixed credit file guide explores the impacts of one common issue in further detail. Its important to note that these companies do public criminal history searches. Most criminal history records do not contain social security numbers, and may have some clerical errors. A potential employer does not know how sloppy these matching algorithms or the data they search are. This incorrect information can easily cost you a job. 

Disputing Inaccurate or Negative Background Report

If you discover an error or omission in your background check, immediately dispute it with the CRA following the process defined under federal law.

The FCRA requires the CRA to conduct a reasonable investigation, typically involving contacting the source of the disputed item. If found inaccurate or unverifiable, the CRA must correct or delete the information usually within 30 days. CRAs failing to comply may face FCRA lawsuits.

Send a written dispute by certified mail to the background check company. Do not log into their system. You may unknowing enter into an arbitration agreement. 

Our guide on contacting the background check provider outlines the basic dispute procedure and what to expect.

When to File a Lawsuit Against a Background Check Company

Lawsuits become necessary as a last resort when background check companies violate obligations under federal law or fail to correct verified reporting errors – especially when those mistakes cost opportunities like employment, housing, or licensing.

Grounds to sue may include:

  • Not correcting disputed information found inaccurate or unverifiable – The CRA confirmed an error but failed to fix or remove it after investigation
  • Allowing continued re-reporting of outdated, dismissed, or expeunged records – Despite consumer disputes, the CRA took no action to block legally obsolete information
  • Mixing applicant records through carelessness – The CRA conflated credit or background data from separate individuals
  • Providing background checks lacking proper consent – The CRA neglected to obtain appropriate authorization before furnishing backgrounds potentially violating privacy

Our deeper article specifically on suing Equifax illustrates examples of claim types against one major CRA.

Constructing an effective, winning FCRA lawsuit requires understanding rules of evidence, documenting harm directly tied to reporting failures, calculating provable damages, and negotiating reasonable pre-trial resolution terms when feasible.

Steps to building a rock-solid FCRA case include:

  • Consulting consumer law attorneys – Those with FCRA experience can evaluate claim validity and avenues for strongest impact
  • Gathering all documentation – Reports, dispute records, notes, emails, and application denials substantiate the case
  • Correlating errors clearly to losses – Missed jobs, lost housing, or licensing woes traced back to background mistake
  • Specifying damages – Calculate income loss, out-of-pocket costs, personal struggles to frame settlement requests

While simple cases sometimes reach quick resolutions, complex litigation can stretch years. Our guide focused on building an ironclad FCRA case explores this landscape in greater depth.

Available Damages Under Consumer Protection Laws

When an employment background check company issues a report with an error that keeps you from getting a job, you may be able to sue under the FCRA. The FCRA allows you to recover:

  • Actual financial loss – Lost wages from missed job offers plus job search costs, denied housing expenses
  • Pain and suffering – Emotional distress associated directly due to credit report errors
  • Punitive damages – Extra penalties levied against firms acting in reckless disregard for consumer rights.

In exceptional cases, million dollar rewards reflect the maximum punitive and pain/suffering combination. Much more commonly, four and five-figure settlements remain typical, especially with swift pre-trial resolution.

Inaccurate Background Checks and Your Rights

Avoiding background check surprises involves consistent vigilance:

  • Review reports annually – Order free annual disclosures from big three CRAs to identify issues early
  • Scan sites listing your records – Search PeopleFinders, TruthFinder, Instant Checkmate for unwanted publication of your data
  • Freeze credit reports – Locking down credit files avoids companies pulling reports without consent
  • Follow legislation updates – Congress continues strengthening the FCRA by extending state statutes of limitation for filing lawsuits against firms violating provisions

Staying informed on the ever-changing legal landscape builds power to advance and defend your rights. Our extensive guide on using the FCRA as an enforcement tool keeps you equipped as laws progress.


At Clanton Law Office, our commitment remains unwavering over a decade later: we work exclusively to protect consumers, never banks, credit agencies, or debt collectors. When background check errors arise, choose us with absolute confidence. We鈥檙e not just attorneys putting out fires; we鈥檙e steadfast champions leveling the playing field through vigorous fair credit reporting enforcement. Over seventy million Americans face credit report mistakes – but the law provides recourse. With our seasoned legal team, you can feel empowered to take action.

Contact Us

If you face lost opportunities due to a background check error, reach out for reliable legal guidance. Call Clanton Law Office at 210 226 0800 or contact us online via our website contact page. Our world-class team provides knowledgeable insight to advance your rights.


Q: Can a background check report contain incorrect information?

A: Yes, it is possible for a background check report to contain incorrect information. This may include mistakes on your background check, such as inaccuracies in criminal history or other personal information.

### ###

Q: What can I do if I believe my background check report contains errors?

A: You have the right to dispute incorrect information on your background check report. You can contact the background check company that provided the report and request to have the inaccuracies corrected.

### ###

Q: What should I do if a background check company has violated my rights?

A: If you believe a background check company has violated your rights, such as failing to follow proper procedures or including incorrect information, you may consider seeking legal advice from a consumer protection lawyer.

### ###

Q: Is there a federal agency that oversees background check disputes?

A: Yes, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) oversees the accuracy of background check reports and provides guidelines for individuals’ right to dispute information contained in these reports.

### ###

Q: What are the laws regarding background checks for employment purposes?

A: Various state laws govern the use of background checks for employment purposes. It’s important to be aware of the specific regulations in your state, as well as the federal laws that apply to background screening companies and employers.

### ###

Q: Do I have the right to dispute information that shows up on my background check report?

A: Yes, under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), you have the right to dispute any negative information that appears on your background check report. This includes inaccuracies in your criminal history or personal details.

### ###

Q: What if I have been denied a job due to incorrect information on my background check report?

A: If you believe you have been denied a job due to inaccurate information on your background check report, you may be entitled to take legal action. This could involve disputing the information or seeking advice from a consumer protection lawyer.

### ###

Q: What are my rights if an employer or potential employer is conducting a background check on me?

A: You have the right to give written permission for a company to run a background check on you, and you also have the right to dispute any incorrect information that appears on the report. Additionally, the employer must follow the guidelines set forth by the FCRA.

### ###

Q: Can I take legal action against a background check company for including false information?

A: If a background check company includes false information in your background check report, you may have grounds to take legal action, including potentially participating in a class action lawsuit if others have been similarly affected.

### ###

Q: What steps should I take if I suspect identity theft has resulted in inaccuracies on my background check report?

A: If you suspect that inaccuracies on your background check report are due to identity theft, it is important to take immediate action, such as notifying the background check company and seeking assistance from consumer protection legal professionals.


About The Author

Bill Clanton

Over the years my office has helped thousands of consumers who were cheated, ripped-off, and mistreated by debt collectors, credit reporting agencies, banks, credit unions, and car dealers. If you have a problem with a business being dishonest with you give me a call. I鈥檇 love to set them straight.