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Employers must follow strict rules when they perform criminal, financial and employment background checks for hiring, retention, promotion and reassignment purposes.

At the federal level, companies and agencies must comply with the Fair Credit Reporting Act, or FRCRA. In Ohio, state laws restrict when employers can collect criminal background information and how they can use what a check reveals.

When employers fail to comply with FCRA or Ohio background check laws, employees and job applicants can file lawsuits to collect lost wages and punitive damages. A judge may also order the company or agency named as the defendant to change its background check policies and procedures so other people do not have their rights violated. Such cases are not easy to win, however.

Extensive evidence is needed to show that a company or agency acted unfairly and illegally. At The Friedmann Firm, our Ohio background check attorneys are willing to dig for that evidence on behalf of mistreated employees and job applicants.

 

Workers’ Rights and Employers’ Legal Obligations Under Federal Law

FCRA requires employers that use background check companies to do all of the following:

  • Inform an employee or job applicant that a background check will be conducted;
  • Tell the employee or job applicant what the background check will entail, such as financial records and criminal history;
  • Obtain written permission from the employee or job applicant to perform the background check;
  • Inform the employee or job applicant of any hiring, promotion, or reassignment decision based on the results of the background check;
  • Provide the employee or job applicant with a pamphlet titled A Summary of Your Rights Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act; and
  • Explain to the employee or job applicant how to obtain a copy of the background check report on which the employment decision was based.

The employee or job applicant should have a way to challenge and correct information in the background check report. It is a matter for a court to decide whether an employer must reverse an employment decision based on errors in the report.

Beyond these procedural requirements, a company or agency must treat every employee and job applicant fairly and equally when it comes to conducting and using background checks. No company or agency can legally subject people to background checks just because of their race, ethnicity, nationality, sex, age, or religion. An employer also cannot subject an applicant for a specific job to a background check unless the employer subjects every applicant for that position to the same background check.

A final consideration is that employers must have specific and legally defensible reasons for collecting any genetic or medical information from job applicants. Justifications for requesting this information are extremely limited.

 

Ohio Laws Regarding Background Checks

All employers in Ohio must comply with FCRA. State law also prohibits companies and agencies from asking job applicants to disclose criminal histories when they first apply. Employers can only do criminal background checks once they have extended job offers. Then, any criminal history can only be used to deny employment if an arrest or conviction is relevant to the person’s likely job duties. For instance, numerous traffic tickets should not, by themselves, cost an accountant a job opportunity.

If an employer in Cleveland or northeastern Ohio failed to follow the rules for conducting background checks or discriminated against you in requiring a background check, contact a Friedmann Firm Cleveland employment attorney. We offer confidential consultations on background check cases, so call us at (440) 703-8550 or connect with us online.