Many of us applying for jobs routinely sign off on the paperwork to grant background checks. But how many of us actually follow up and request to read the results? After reading this story, you’re never going to pass up that chance again.

A screening company and school district are both getting slammed with a lawsuit by a Minnesota woman who claims an error on her background check cost her a prestigious volunteer position and ruined her reputation. Here’s the gist of what Lorie Wosmek says happened to her:

  • Wosmek begins volunteering in her sons’ classrooms and coaching for one of their football teams in the Remer School District
  • She had submitted to routine screening before, but a background check in 2012 turned up a supposed criminal vehicular homicide conviction. The information was wrong.
  • Employees and fellow volunteers throughout the district start to treat Wosmek strangely
  • FIVE MONTHS LATER Wosmek finds out she’s no longer approved as a volunteer while on a field trip and, later, a letter arrives from the school district with a copy of the incorrect background check results.
  • Wosmek eventually files a lawsuit and, in court filings, the company who conducted Wosmek’s background check admits the vehicular homicide conviction was a mistake.

So what’s the big takeaway from this story? It depends on if you’re the employee or the employer. Let’s start with the former.

Employees – You can ask to see the results of your background check report at any time from the agency who conducted it. The name of the agency was likely on the consent form you signed during pre-hiring. If you don’t remember it, you can certainly ask the employer to supply you with the name of the screening agency. The screening agency should provide you with a copy of your results for free and in a timely manner.

Sometimes, it’s a good idea to run a background check on yourself. That way you know if anything is wonky before you start a formal job search and can take the appropriate action to correct any erroneous information. Active Screening is happy to help you with this task.

Here’s what action this article from Chron you can take if something is wrong on your report:

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

Education – Call your school’s registrar or office of student affairs to confirm your standing and history with them. Then ask them to contact your screening agency to re-verify the information.

Criminal Background Information – Cases of misidentification (such as with Wosmek) can be cleared by contacting the courthouse where the supposed offense happened and requesting a security clearance. You may need to provide personal identifying information to verify your identity and pay a fee for this service. If the error occurred through an FBI fingerprint report, you’ll need to go to its website and fill out the appropriate forms.

It’s important to know that you CAN correct erroneous information, but that an employer is under no obligation to HOLD a job for you while you do this.

Employers – Two of the biggest FCRA rules that employers repeatedly fail to comply with are Authorization and Adverse Action. Violations of these routinely get even the most seasoned and robust American companies into trouble with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the government agency responsible for overseeing the proper use of FCRA.

Adverse Action is, essentially, when an employer decides not to hire an applicant based on the information in the background check. This is what apparently happened in Wosmek’s case (the process is the same for volunteers). But there are some steps that employers must take to comply with FCRA and stay in the FTC’s good graces. Before you tell the candidate you’re not hiring them based on information collected in the background check (in itself, called Adverse Action), you must give the applicant:

•A pre-adverse action notice that includes a copy of the background check you used to make your determination

•A copy of “A Summary of Your Rights Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act.” Your screening agency should supply you with this.

Once this pre-adverse action notice is completed, the candidate can review the information and explain or ask for a correction of any negative information. If this doesn’t happen within a reasonable amount of time, you can move forward with your Adverse Action notification:

•You must tell the applicant in person, in writing, or electronically that he was rejected because of information in the report

•Include the name, address and phone number of the screening agency

•Inform the applicant that the screening agency didn’t make the hiring decision and doesn’t know why you weren’t hired

•Ensure the applicant knows that she can dispute the information in the report, ask for a correction and request a free report from the same agency within 60 days.

It’s crucial for employers to remember, and adhere to, the steps of this process in the ORDER THEY MUST BE TAKEN.

We’d love to hear from you about this story. Have you ever requested a background check on yourself? What did you find out? Employers – what do you feel is a reasonable amount of time to inform a candidate of negative information and allow them to respond? Send us your thoughts below.

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