Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA)

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Updated: 4/13/2007 3:36 pm
Before hiring employees, many employers use credit reports either to gain a general knowledge of an applicant's financial honesty and integrity or to screen applicants for sensitive positions, such as cashiers or couriers. If companies choose to do so, they must adhere to the guidelines under The Fair Credit Reporting Act, which regulates the use of consumer credit reports as a part of background checks on applicants. The Act, also known as FCRA (F-C-R-A), is mainly designed to protect the privacy of information in credit reports and to ensure that information supplied by credit bureaus about consumers is as accurate as possible. Though the law specifically permits credit bureaus to release credit reports to employers for the purposes of hiring and promoting employees, employers are prohibited from using certain credit information to discriminate against applicants. For example, an employer may not discriminate against an applicant solely because a credit check reveals that the applicant has sought protection under the Bankruptcy Act. In other words, bankruptcy can't be used as a valid reason to deny employment. Before checking a credit report on an applicant, a company must clearly and accurately tell the applicant in writing that an investigative consumer credit report may be made that could include information on the individual's character, reputation, personal characteristics, or mode of living. The applicant should sign the disclosure document and return it to the employer. If employment is denied because of information found on a credit report, the job applicant must be informed of the reason and furnished with both a copy of the credit report and a summary of his or her credit rights. Employers who don't provide the disclosure when it's required or willfully violate any FCRA regulation may face punitive damages in a federal court.

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