Brown, LLC litigates claims under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (“FCRA”). The FCRA is a comprehensive federal law aimed broadly at regulating the use of employees’ and consumers’ credit history and background reports. The FCRA gives you the right to know when your background check is being obtained, and to make sure that it does not contain any false information. The FCRA Lawyers at Brown, LLC only take these cases on contingency, meaning there’s no money up front and the firm is only paid if they win your case. We offer free initial consultations about FCRA matters at 1 (877) 561-0000. While the FCRA applies in a variety of contexts – loans, mortgages, leases, its protections are especially strong when it comes to employee background checks. The FCRA requires that before obtaining an employee or applicant’s background check, an employer must:
- Provide to the employee or applicant a clear and conspicuous disclosure—in a standalone document—that a report may be requested; and
- Secure written consent from the employee or applicant to obtain the consumer report.
Pay attention to the form your employer uses to secure your consent to a background check. If your employer includes extraneous language on the form (such as a release of liability), or presents it to you together with all of your other application paperwork, your employer may have violated the FCRA, entitling you to a significant recovery. If an employer received your background checks and decides to terminate or not hire you, the employer must provide the following two documents to the individual before taking any such action:
- A copy of consumer report relied upon; and
- The Federal Trade Commission document, “A Summary of Your Rights Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act.”
Finally, after providing you with this information, your employer must provide you with the following information after it makes a final decision to terminate or not hire you:
- The consumer reporting agency contact information;
- A statement that the consumer reporting agency is not the decision maker and cannot inform the individual as to why the adverse action was taken;
- A statement of the individual’s right to obtain a free copy of the consumer report; and
- A statement of the individual’s right to dispute with the consumer reporting agency the accuracy of any information in the report. These requirements are intended to ensure that when your background check or credit report are considered for employment purposes, you have knowledge and an opportunity to correct any inaccuracies. If you background check mistakenly contains information about another individual, or negative information (other than convictions or bankruptcies) that is more than seven years old, you may have a claim under the FCRA.
Brown, LLC is committed to recovering the full remedies authorized under the FCRA, which include:
- Actual damages (e.g. lost wages, etc.);
- “Statutory” damages ranging from $100 – $1,000 per violation;
- Punitive damages; and
- Attorneys’ fees and costs.
If your case is brought as a class action, you may be eligible to receive an “incentive” award for serving as the lead plaintiff. It is common for FCRA claims to be brought as class actions, in which thousands of individuals are affected by the same underlying violation. Several recent examples include:
- A federal court in Virginia denied summary judgment on two FCRA class claims by an applicant whose offer of employment was revoked due to a consumer report, finding that the document containing the disclosure also had other language, including a waiver of liability.
- A federal court in New York refused to dismiss a putative class action alleging a property management firm, which had criminal record checks done before hiring staff, violated the FCRA by failing to make a proper pre-background-check disclosure and then revoking a job offer before providing a notice of the named plaintiff’s FCRA rights and a chance for him to dispute the background check, which inaccurately reported four criminal convictions.
- Judgment against Johnson & Johnson for an applicant whose offer was rescinded based on incorrect information before she was given a required FCRA notice.
- A national grocery retailer (parent of Food Lion, Bottom Dollar Food, Hannaford, and others) agreed to pay $3 million to resolve FCRA claims by a class of nearly 60,000 employees and job applicants.
- In 2011, Vitran Express, Inc., a freight company, paid $2.6 million to settle Ohio class actions claims that it improperly obtained criminal background checks on job applicants. The named plaintiff in the case, Thomas Hall, alleged that Vitran ordered a criminal background report from a consumer reporting agency as part of his job application even though he had not authorized the company to do so. The report identified a different “Thomas Hall,” but someone with the same first name, middle initial, last name, and date of birth as the named plaintiff, as having 27 felony convictions. Based on that report, Vitran refused to offer Hall employment.
To learn more, please call Brown, LLC at 1 (877) 561-0000 to speak with a FCRA lawyer to know your rights.