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Whenever an employer uses a background investigation, check or credit report for employment purposes, employees and job applicants have certain and definite rights when the reports come from third parties such as credit reporting agencies, private investigators or criminal record databases. The Fair Credit Reporting Act provides for certain protections from adverse actions due to inaccurate information in such background reports so that an employee has an opportunity to review and correct any inaccuracies in background reports before losing a job or prospective employment opportunity. Even accurate reports can form the basis for a claim if the employer failed to abide by your procedural rights or if the termination, non-hire or other adverse action was because of an arrest or conviction record or garnishment action.


Wisconsin law also provides protections for discrimination based on arrest or conviction records.


Background Investigation in Employment

Whenever an  employer uses a background investigation subject to the Fair Credit Reporting Act, it must have 3 documents to use it lawfully.

1. An employer must get the written authorization or consent from the applicant or employee before obtaining a background or consumer report.

2. If the employer is going to make some employment decision affecting the terms or conditions of employment, such as not hiring an applicant, firing an employee, non-promotion or some other adverse action, the employer must provide a copy of the report and a statement of the consumer’s rights under the Fair Credit Reporting Act to the employee or applicant within a reasonable period of time before taking the adverse action. This is meant to give the employee or applicant time to review and correct any inaccuracies in the report and inform the employer of the corrections–hopefully preventing the adverse action from happening.

3. If the employer does take an adverse action based on information in the background report, it must then give the employee or applicant a notice of taking action based on the background report upon taking this action.

Documents Employers Must Have for Employment Background Investigations

Background Investigation or Background Check companies that are subject to the Fair Credit Reporting Act, has several responsibilities when it provides a background report that has public record information such as arrest or conviction records. It must do one of two things:

  1. At the time of providing the background report to the employer, it must also notify the employee, applicant or consumer that it has provided a report for employment purposes that contains public record information and it must also provide the name and address of the employer to whom it provided the report; or

  2. It must maintain strict procedures to ensure the report is complete and up to date. Items relating to arrests, indictments, convictions, suites, tax liens and outstanding judgments are considered up to date if the current public record status of the item at the time of the report is reported.

What Background Check Companies Must Do When Selling Background Reports for Employment Purposes Top of Page Click on the issues below for more information