ERS Group Insights

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EEOC & FTC on Background Checks

- Monday, March 10, 2014

The use of criminal and credit background checks in employment decisions continues to come under governmental scrutiny as the EEOC and FTC join forces to clarify standards.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces laws against employment discrimination, while the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) enforces the Fair Credit Reporting Act, the law that protects the privacy and accuracy of information in credit reports. Together, the EEOC and the FTC have published two technical assistance documents; one for employers, entitled, “Background Checks: What Employers Need to Know” and one for job applicants and employees entitled  “Background Checks: What Job Applicants and Employees Should Know.” Both documents focus on two key principals:



  • 1) it’s not illegal to ask questions about an individual’s background, or to require a background check (except, in most cases, when requesting medical and genetic information); and

  • 2) when asking about an individual’s background, the employer must treat everyone equally, regardless of race, color, national origin, sex, or religion; disability; genetic information (including family medical history); and age.


  • The documents detail the rules employers must follow in conducting background checks and document the employer’s responsibility to comply with the federal laws enforced by the EEOC that protect individuals from discrimination. Both also underscore the role the FTC has when an employer obtains a credit, criminal or other background report from a company that compiles such information. Employers must notify and obtain written permission from the job applicant/employee before obtaining a background information report. The applicant/employee must also be given a copy of the report before he/she is rejected or fired because of information in the report, and additionally given the right to dispute the accuracy or completeness of the report.



    Contact ERS Group’s Employment Discrimination experts for more information.


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