Can employer refuse to hire me if I don't consent to a credit check?

December 19, 2013 19:52 by Consumer Ed

Dear Consumer Ed: 

At a job interview I was asked if I would give my permission for the company to pull my credit report.  I know my credit is not very good, so I did not consent to this.  Now I'm concerned that refusing might cost me this job.  Can a company deny someone employment on this basis?

Consumer Ed Says:

Yes, an employer can deny employment based either on your refusal to let it see your credit report, or on the contents of the credit report itself.  In 2012, a bill was introduced in Georgia to prevent employers from firing, refusing to hire, or otherwise discriminating against someone because of his or her credit report, but the bill didn't pass.

This isn't to say that an employer can look at your credit report without your permission-it can't.  But an estimated 60% of employers perform credit checks.  Commonly, employers are looking for signs of irresponsibility, and some are worried about the potential for employee theft (although this is more common in fields like banking and finance).  Employers may also be concerned that an employee's worries about his/her debt will have an impact on job performance.  This concern is unfortunate, since many recently laid-off people have fallen behind on their bill payments precisely because their income has decreased.  Many employers consider an applicant's credit history because they are looking for a pattern showing that the applicant is able to pay, and actually does pay his or her debts, as a sign that the employee is a responsible person.

An employer must receive your written permission before it can obtain a copy of your credit report; this permission must be in its own document separate from any employment contract.   Giving this permission may give you some anxiety, especially if you know you have some negative credit history.  However, this might be a good time for you to go ahead and explain any negative information in your credit report.  You need to remember that if you don't give your permission, the employer is likely to (and is allowed to) reject your application on that ground. One caveat:  If you're applying to jobs over the internet, do not give your credit report out.  These requests are scams; any legitimate business can obtain credit reports from the major credit bureaus, and doesn't need for you to provide that information through a website.

If you give permission for the employer to look at your credit report, and it rejects your job application based on your credit, federal law requires that employer to notify you of this reason, and show you the report.  You can then obtain a copy from the reporting agency for free within 60 days of such notice from the employer.  If you find errors in the report, see www.consumer.ftc.gov for information about how to address this problem.

If you suspect your credit history is hampering your job search, here are some tips to help improve it:

 

  • Make a budget. Live within or, if you can, below your means.  Incorporate late bill payments into your budget.
  • If you have been denied credit, you may request a free credit report.  Learn why you were denied credit.  If you find any errors, contact the reporting agency to dispute the information-they must correct errors.
  • Make a list of what and to whom you owe.  Contact creditors to discuss payment options and begin catching up with late payments.
  • Look for ways to combine bills.  This may include transferring a credit card balance to another credit card with a lower interest rate while simultaneously reducing the number of credit cards you have.
  • Look for ways to decrease your spending.
  • Look for ways to increase your income.
  • Do not use credit until you have paid off most, or all, of your debt. Consider cancelling or hiding your credit cards for this period of time. 

 

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Arrest for a dismissed case still showing up on background check

June 20, 2013 18:34 by Consumer Ed

Dear Consumer Ed: 

I was recently turned down for a job because of an arrest last year. The case was dismissed and my record was supposedly expunged. Why did it still show up on a background check, and how do I go about getting all of these records removed so it will not affect my future employment?

Consumer Ed says: 

In Georgia, an expungement only affects the criminal record maintained by the Georgia Crime Information Center (GCIC), and the relevant state and local agencies.  So an expungement order served on GCIC doesn’t necessarily remove the booking records from the arrest held at the local police or sheriff’s department.

The employer might have found out about your arrest from a private background check.  Some, but not all, private background check companies will remove expunged information if you contact them (usually for a fee—especially online “background check” sites).  If the employer used a private company for your background check, they should have provided you with information about this company and how to get in touch with them.

Regardless of how the employer found out about your arrest, you don’t have the right under Georgia law to deny the fact that you were arrested.  This is true even if you have had the arrest and charges expunged.  This is why, if a potential employer asks, it’s best to just be honest.  You can explain the circumstances involved and make sure that the employer knows that you were not convicted of any crime and have completed the expungement process.  If you deny that you were arrested and that arrest appears on a private background check, you might be turned down for other jobs or face termination after you are hired. 

Remember, you should keep copies of all relevant documents that prove that your record was expunged.  If you would like to get copies of your GCIC records, contact your local police department or sheriff’s office.  You will need to bring your ID and about $20 for any associated fees. You should also ask them if you can have the local arrest file expunged. There may be a fee to do so of around $25 to $50.

For more information on how to access or contest your criminal record, visit http://gbi.georgia.gov/obtaining-criminal-history-record-information.

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Background Checks

December 26, 2012 18:33 by Consumer Ed

Dear Consumer Ed: 

I was turned down for a job because my application responses did not match the background check.  I want to see what information came up on me. Where can I get ahold of the same background information that businesses pull?

Consumer Ed says: 

You haven’t said what type of job you applied for and, since different businesses have different practices, it’s impossible to identify exactly what your potential employer searched for or took into consideration in deciding not to hire you.  However, following are some ways you can find the information that a potential employer may have seen when conducting your background check:

  • Order a copy of your credit report.  TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian, the three nationwide credit reporting companies, are required to provide you with a free copy of your credit report once every 12 months upon request.  To order, visit annualcreditreport.com or call 1-877-322-8228;
  • If you have a criminal record, have been involved in court cases, and/or have been adjudicated bankrupt, visit the courthouse where any proceedings took place and inspect and copy the pertinent files;
  • Obtain a copy of your driving record from the Georgia Department of Driver Services;
  • Hire a company that performs background checks to conduct one for you, upon you;
  • Ask neighbors and work colleagues if your potential employer contacted them, and what information was requested;
  • Conduct a search using your name through the major search engines online;
  • If you have created profiles on social networking websites, review those profiles;
  • Ask to see a copy of your personnel file from a previous or current job; and/or
  • Request previous background check reports that your employers conducted.


Generally speaking, several different pieces of information are accessible to potential employers when they perform background checks.  The Georgia Crime Information Center (“GCIC”) is authorized to make criminal history records available to private businesses when the businesses provide your fingerprints or provide your signed consent.  The GCIC can make criminal records available without your fingerprints or consent when the identifying information provided is sufficient to identify you and when the records are requested electronically.  This only applies to the electronic dissemination of criminal history records for in-state felony convictions, pleas, and sentences.  Additionally, the military may disclose your name, rank, salary, duty assignments, awards and duty status without your consent.  On the other hand, a potential employer must obtain your written consent and notify you in writing in order to run a credit check on you, as per the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

The following are additional pieces of information that could be included in a background check, especially since some of the information is public record:  

  • Driving records
  • Court records
  • Workers' compensation
  • Bankruptcy
  • Character references
  • Neighbor interviews
  • Property ownership
  • State licensing records
  • Past employers
  • Personal references


There are certain pieces of information that will not be included in your background check.  Under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, educational records such as transcripts, recommendations, and financial information are confidential and will not be released by the school without your consent.  The Employee Polygraph Protection Act prohibits most private employers from using lie detector tests, either for pre-employment screening or during the course of employment. The law includes a list of exceptions that apply to businesses that provide armored car services, alarm or guard services, or those that manufacture, distribute, or dispense pharmaceuticals.  Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, employers cannot discriminate based on a physical or mental impairment or request your medical records. Businesses can, however, inquire about your ability to perform specific job duties.

 

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