What to Do When a Background Check Returns Negative Information

The Fair Credit Reporting Agency Act protects consumers by stipulating that anyone, employer, landlord, or loan officer, who denies you a job or services based on the results of your background check is required to provide you with the information so that you can contest it and fix any inaccuracies.

According to a recent news article, a background check company based in Indianapolis as well as a healthcare organization are in hot water due to an inaccurate background check that resulted in a woman being denied a job as a nurse. The healthcare organization denied the woman employment as a result of a background check that reported multiple felonies and a felony conviction for possession of drug paraphernalia and theft. But when the woman, whose criminal history was in fact spotless, asked to see her background report, she was simply informed that she would not be hired. According to her claims, as the company did not give her an appropriate chance to correct the misinformation, they were in violation of the FCRA provisions.

Common Background Check Inaccuracies

The woman’s case is unfortunately not uncommon as the National Consumer Law Center reports that screening companies routinely suffer these pitfalls when conducting checks:

  • mismatching people and criminal records
  • omitting crucial information about a case
  • revealing sealed or expunged information
  • misclassifying offenses

It is critically important to use screening companies that pull from state level repositories as opposed to only the FBI database and who crosscheck verifications especially when negative results are found.

Contact VICTIG

Talk to a rep to learn more about how to protect yourself from making decisions based of inaccurate background checks.

Understanding What Former Employers Can Say During Background Checks

Your applicants’ former employers may be constrained in what they can and can’t say to hiring managers about the applicant in question. Let’s talk about these constraints so that you’re are asking targeted questions that will produce the most valuable answers to you, all without treading into sticky legal territory.

What’s At Stake?

The rule of thumb during any hiring process and background check is to tread carefully around the topics of age, race, sex, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, marital status, parental status, etc. These are protected classes and any hiring decision based on these statuses, especially negative decisions, will land you into hot water very quickly. What’s at stake is your reputation and your assets.

But What is the Law?

Free speech is also protected, but it is not absolute, according to Paul Barada of Monster.com, and the consequences of what you choose to say should be carefully considered. Barada asserts that while there are no laws restricting what prospective employers can ask an applicant’s previous employers, the legal consequences of any hiring decisions based on those answers are very real.

How to Play it Safe

Some companies create internal policies (not laws) that limit what supervisors or colleagues can say about former employees. For example, they may be limited to stating only, or confirming the employee’s job title and dates of employment, but Barada states that there aren’t any legal consequences if they said more, as long as what they say is TRUE. And it is Truth, preferably documented, that will ultimately save your skins.

Barada states, “…as long as a former employer offers honestly held opinions about a former employee or states a documented fact about that person, there’s not much a former employee can do about it.”


What has been your experience when talking to former employers? Do you find “no comment” policies valuable or informative? Share in the comments, and let us know if you have any questions about how to properly question former employers.