In the ever-changing legal landscape of background screening, staying in compliance is more important now than ever. There are numerous laws at the local, state, and federal levels that dictate what a background screening company or other consumer reporting agency (CRA) can and cannot do. With so many things to consider when running a background check, it’s important to have a partner you can trust to help navigate you through the process. This blog will outline what Alliance 2020 does before, during, and after the background check to help make sure you’re running background checks compliantly.
What is the FCRA
The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) is the act that governs the background screening industry as well as other credit reporting agencies. Within it are specific laws and regulations pertaining to background screening that CRAs and their clients must follow. These include:
- Notifying the applicant that a background check will be ran on them and obtaining consent to run the check
- Disclosing to the applicant what the background check may/will entail and their rights in the process.
- Reporting only information that is permitted to be reported
- Providing applicants a copy of their background report if they so request
- If an adverse decision is made by an employer or landlord, allowing applicants to challenge the accuracy of information contained on their report
It’s important to note that the FCRA is very broad in scope and that these are just some of the requirements CRAs must abide by.
Before the Check: Applicant Authorization / Disclosures
Once the applicant has received an invite to fill out their background check questionnaire, they’ll provide their authorization to proceed in the process. Applicants are always given a summary of their rights under the Fair Credit Reporting Act to review. As the name suggests, this goes over the rights of an applicant, the responsibility the consumer reporting agency has to the applicant and the recourse the applicant has if the CRA makes a mistake or violates the FCRA. To note, this summary must be a standalone document from any of the other authorization forms.
There are various disclosures presented to the applicant as well. Background check disclosures are constantly changing with an increasing number of cities and states implementing new laws pertaining to background checks. The content in disclosures varies widely depending on where the applicant lives or is seeking employment, but generally, they outline what the CRA can/will do, the limitations the CRA has, and the rights of the applicant. Alliance 2020 always updates these as they change to make sure the applicant is informed and that our clients are in compliance.
During the Check
After the applicant has reviewed all the disclosures and consented to the background check, our work begins. With the applicant’s social security number, we’re able to pull the applicant’s address history using credit bureau data. This lets us know where we need to do our preliminary search. We’ll search directly at the county and potentially Federal levels and report any hits that occurred within the last 7 years. We’ll also run a National Multijurisdictional search to check hundreds of criminal watchlists and the national sex offender registry. 7 years is the standard lookback period due to laws in certain parts of the country, as well as EEOC guidance. All hits are verified at the source the information is originating from for maximum accuracy.
After the Check: Adverse Action Process
Once the background report is complete, the requestor will be notified and able to view the report. Most of the time, there is no adverse information on the report, and the applicant is either hired or approved.
In the event the report does contain adverse information that would make the applicant ineligible for employment or tenancy, the adverse action process is normally initiated. A pre-adverse action notice is sent to the applicant, whether by email or mail, letting them know that adverse information was found during the background check that affects their eligibility. This notice contains a copy of the background report and the summary of their rights under the FCRA, along with instructions on how to dispute the accuracy of the report if they feel it contains anything incorrect.
The FTC recommends that employers give applicants 5 business days to review the report and dispute any information contained within. If there is inaccurate information on the report, Alliance 2020 will work with the applicant to correct it. After sufficient time has been given, the client may send out the adverse action notice, a formal notice denying the applicant.
Why Alliance 2020 Is a Partner You Can Trust
For over 35 years, Alliance 2020 has helped employers, property management companies, and private landlords operate successful, FCRA-compliant background screening programs. We were the first company in Washington to become accredited by the Professional Background Screening Association (PBSA) at a time when only 2% of screening companies were accredited. With the laws around background screening constantly changing, having a partner who keeps you in compliance at each phase of the process is critical. If you have any questions about background screening compliance or looking to get started running background checks, contact us today