Job Hunters Cry Foul Over Employers' Use Of Background Checks

job hunters background checksIf you've gotten a new job in recent years, you've probably been subjected to a criminal or credit background check. More than 90 percent of employers conduct criminal background checks on job hunters, and 60 percent do credit checks, according to a McClatchy Newpapers report.

But job hunters are starting to cry foul and are mounting legal challenges, arguing that they've been unfairly denied a job or fired after an employer's background check. And sometimes they're winning -- even against large companies.

This January, more than 300 workers were awarded $3.1 million after they filed complaints with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, alleging that Pepsi Beverages, a unit of PepsiCo, unfairly targeted them for background checks.

The EEOC said its investigation showed that Pepsi's screening policy resulted in those applicants with arrest records being denied permanent employment, even if they hadn't been convicted of any offense. It also denied employment to applicants who had been arrested or convicted of certain minor offenses.

But as the EEOC notes, using arrest and conviction records to deny employment can be illegal under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, when what's in them isn't relevant to the job, since it can limit the employment opportunities of applicants or workers based on their race or ethnicity. As part of the settlement, Pepsi revised its policy.

Former Domino's Pizza delivery driver Justin D'Heilly finds himself in a similar legal battle. The Minnesota resident was fired from his job in 2009 after a background check revealed some problems with his motor-vehicle history, though it remains unclear to him what was discovered.

"They never officially told me why," D'Heilly told McClatchy Newspapers. "I've never had any kind of disciplinary problems whatsoever, so to get that call out of the blue like that, you know, it just threw me off."

The news service reports that D'Heilly is now a plaintiff in a developing class-action lawsuit that alleges Domino's willfully violated the Fair Credit Reporting Act by running employee background checks without proper authorization, and by not sharing the reports with applicants and employees before taking adverse job actions against them, such as termination or denial of employment.

Domino's Pizza declined comment on D'Heilly's case, but a company spokesman told McClatchy, "We do not apologize for conducting criminal background checks."

The Society for Human Resource Management notes that workers have several rights when it comes to background checks:

  • Federal laws prohibit employers from considering bankruptcy when making employment decisions
  • Employers are required to get applicants and employees' permission to obtain credit reports
  • Individuals must be provided with a copy of a credit report (as well as their rights under the Fair Credit Reporting Act), if information in the report leads to dismissal or denial of employment
  • SHRM also notes that checks can occur even after an employment offer. Some employers will periodically conduct background checks on employees either at random or before considering an employee for a promotion, regardless of how long they've been employed.

The EEOC has begun increased scrutiny of the use of background checks by employers. The agency held a public meeting last July to determine if employers were using arrest and criminal records to unfairly deny employment to those with criminal backgrounds, employment website reports.

States are also moving to protect job hunters from employers' prying eyes. Seven states -- California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Oregon and Washington -- have laws limiting the use of credit reports in hiring. Other states, such as Colorado, are considering further restrictions on credit checks.

Sharon Dietrich, a legal-aid attorney in Philadelphia who represents mainly poor blacks in employment-discrimination cases, told McClatchy that such developments are heartening for job seekers.

According to Dietrich: "More and more people are coming to understand that large segments of our population are being rendered unemployable unnecessarily because of employers that simply say, 'You have something on your record. I don't want you working for me.' "

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When CEOS, bankers, stock brokers, Wall Street thugs, mortgage banksters, on and on and on are fired, put in jail and pay for their crimes maybe, just maybe I will believe in background checks, etc.
But when they do huge financial crimes and walk away, go right back into the game as if nothing happened, then NO.

There are many, many people unemployed in this country right now. How do they pay bills after being out of work for months or even years? If they are late paying it goes on their credit report. Then they cannot get a job because they could not pay their bills, because they lost a job in the first place. That is insane.

I personally saw news articles in 2012 that said employers were placing ads telling out of work job seekers to not even apply. This is not common sense, moral, ethical, right, decent, whatever you want to call it.
I hate to tell employers this, but not everyone is 22, right out of college with a perfect GPA, stellar credit history, no speeding tickets, flawless skin, perfect vision, and that silver spoon hanging from their mouth.
These scenarios are why we must have laws and regulations--for the nuts who will do anything immoral and unethical that their little ignorant minds can dream up.
If a persons history has nothing to do with their job---it is irrelevant. Employers are over stepping into the private lives of individuals when it is none of their business.

June 01 2013 at 5:14 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Commit a white-collar crime by stealing millions and you still can get a job and a mortgage. Steal a candy bar and you can't get a job cleaning bathrooms. I believed for years that honesty was the best policy until a friend told me different and proved it. He created a profile of a person applying for a job online with a minor arrest record and his application disappeared, though the company's policy was not to hold it against you. Days later he returned to the same site with the same qualifactions without the arrest and was deemed Best Qualify. The crime was"disorderly conduct" during a protest against animal cruelty.

March 26 2013 at 8:51 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

In Response To Beth's Comment:
You, My Friend, Are Absolutely, Totally, 100% Correct..
Bottom Line: People Make Mistakes..They Are Held Responsible..
They Pay Their Debt To Society..They Deserve A Brand New Start.. Saddest Of All: When One Is Framed To A Greater or Lesser Degree and Is Not Defended Properly Even Though Lawyers Are Paid Huge Sums Of Money. My Prayer: "Dear God, Please, Make A Way Where There Seems To Be No Way; Help Those Who
Truly Deserve A Brand New Start With Finding Employment and Reclaiming Their New Life..In Jesus' Name, Amen and Amen.

March 26 2013 at 2:01 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply


I have been in the restaurant industry for twelve years and I am trying my hardest to get out of it. I was recently denied employment from a large retail chain because the manager of the store told me I did not pass their criminal background check. Of course I was baffled by this information considering I have never been in trouble with the law in my entire life.

I am persistent and relentless when it comes to lies that question the validity of who I am as a person. I called every law department in Florida and finally found an answer.

Go to that link and then click the link that says 'Initiate a compromised identity claim'. This will send you to a form you can print to begin a FREE investigation by the FDLE as to what is showing up on your criminal background checks that is false and how to have it cleared. I am pretty sure that my identity has been stolen. Remember, paying to get a fingerprint check and prove the employer wrong will not solve the actual problem. You must take this form to a local law enforcement agency and they will take your fingerprints and then mail it to the state government agency. Do not EVER believe that you have to pay somebody to solve problems which were not caused by you. I find this to be absolutely ridiculous and I cannot believe that the government could even let things like this happen to people. Not only is it embarrassing and degrading but it is also extremely time consuming. I do not have 4-6 weeks to wait for a form to come in the mail from the retail chain's 'so-called' background check company to show me the lies that are listed about my background. When I fix this, and I WILL, they will get a big piece of my mind. I will not however work for a company that only pays $8.00 an hour and would not even tell me why they denied me employment.

I have contacted a few law offices here in Orlando and I plan on suing the state if they tell me this case is legit and can go somewhere. Sometimes in life you have to stand up and take action or else this will keep happening to other people. Its an endless cycle of abuse that we shouldn't have to take.

April 05 2012 at 11:06 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

It's one thing to be mistaken an another to be correct. It is horrifying to see what goes on. Certainly Homeland Security is correct to fear that terrorists could be in the country afterall the immigration system of visas for workers,students, and visitors is a real joke. Sad citizens get put through the wringer because their citizens, 40 and older, or have a handycap. Look at the job discrimination faced by people that served in the military.

March 23 2012 at 6:23 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

I have no problem with this. If the person was honest on their application. Why would people want to hire a thief?

March 23 2012 at 6:20 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to susan's comment

Because, in this country allegedly based on the teachings of Jesus Christ, we're supposed to forgive and allow for a second chance. It's like what happened to 68 year-old Wells Fargo customer service rep last year; he had been arrested back in the 1963, when he was 19, for using a slug, in lieu of a DIME (.76 in today's dollar), in a laundromat washer. He was sentenced to 15 days in jail, served two, and was fined $50 (= to about $380 today). Fifty years later, Wells Fargo fired him because he had been convicted of a monetary fraud. Over TEN freaking CENTS.

March 27 2013 at 2:36 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

There seems to be rules for citizens an a free pass for undocumented aliens and visa workers. Citizens have to jump through hoops while companies turn a blind eye to hiring foreign nationals who use false information or have no real traceable record!

Examples: Terrorist employed by Owens..... had a visa was the brian behind the first WTC disaster. Valcor executive gave secrets to another country. WMT used Aliens to clean their stores.

I have a ( now unavailable data base) from the Internet stored in xls which contains the addresses and phone numbers of companies raided for employing undocumented aliens in the 80's and 90's. I actually had applied to a few of these companies in the past before even seeing the data base. Citizens are asked to jump through hoops in some instances because the employer is looking for a reason to deny a qualified person to get their hands on cheap labor period.

March 23 2012 at 6:08 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
In My Opinion Only

Because the management and CEO got nothing better to do but mess up the little guys. Hopefully this guty takes out on the CEO as 1 down and 9,999 to go.

March 23 2012 at 6:05 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

What is really sad is when you make a mistake over 35 years ago and your criminal background check comes back to haunt you even though you haven't made any mistakes since then and you are fired from a job or not considered for a job because of it.

March 23 2012 at 6:00 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

I have no problem with checks for criminal backrounds. If information is used mainly to deny older workers a job by giving a business a list of excuses so they can discriminate without getting caught then data not necessary should be unacessable.

March 23 2012 at 5:43 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

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