Can I Sue a Background Check Company for Errors?

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16 Apr, 2024
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man sitting on his workplace thinking about suing company for background check

A background check company must face the consequences when it causes damage. A lawsuit is one of them.

When a background check company makes an error, you get hurt. Whether it’s a criminal background check mistake, wrongful employment history, false credit report, or any other background check error, the company that made the mistake should be held accountable. Find out if you can sue and how to get compensated.

Yes. You can sue a background check company for errors. Laws and the legal system exist to protect people from harm and compensate them when they are. If you were in a car accident, took a medication with unexpected side effects, or slipped and fell on a spill in a grocery store, you would consult an attorney to discuss the circumstances, assess the damages, apply the laws, and, if appropriate, sue the individual or the company responsible for your physical harm. When a background check company makes an error and sends an inaccurate background check report to a potential employer, an insurer, a landlord, a mortgage company, or whatever other gatekeeper has asked to see your background, the consequences can be just as devastating (financial, reputational, professional, and emotional damage) so you should take similar action- contact an attorney!

For instance, as a background checks lawyer, I’ve seen the harm a person must endure when a background check shows false criminal records or a background check with wrong employment dates makes you look dishonest to a potential employer. So when someone comes to the firm and says, “My background check is wrong,” we listen, we assess the circumstances, and, if appropriate, we initiate a background check lawsuit on their behalf.

Can you sue a background check company for a false background check? Yes. Absolutely. Someone did something wrong that caused you harm. You can sue them. Consider the following:

  • Their background check errors caused you harm. Like a broken leg or a lung disease, and the law says they should pay you for the damage they caused. 
  • Facing the possibility of a lawsuit, background check companies know they must obey the law and treat people’s lives carefully. A lawsuit against a background check company tells that background check company that mistakes are unacceptable.
  • The background check company is incentivized to fix whatever problem caused the wrong info on the background check.
  • We often hear, “Will a lawsuit affect my background check?” No. Background check companies should not retaliate against you because you stood up for your rights.
  • Many times, the background check company will offer a background check lawsuit settlement before you even go to trial.

Incorrect information on background check reports is a big problem. This article describes how you should handle it, how to sue a background check company, and how we can help you handle it:

Most Common Background Check Errors

Background checks must be accurate. Any mistake means whoever reviews the report receives an inaccurate portrait of you. An incorrect background check report can cause you to lose your job or not get the job, apartment, house, insurance, or loan you deserve. Nevertheless, inaccuracies do appear in in reports by many companies, including in Checkr background checks. Any incorrect information on background check reports, no matter how big or small, can devastate a person’s career.

A false background check can happen for many reasons. Here are the most common background check error causes:

  • The background check company makes a clerical mistake. A simple misspelling or misplaced number in a Social Security Number address can cause someone else’s criminal history to appear on your report. If your background check has wrong information at the outset, the info from the background check is wrong.
  • Identity theft can create false information on background check reports.
  • Criminal background check errors arise when the background check company scours unreliable and outdated public records databases, county criminal databases, state criminal databases, or even federal criminal databases.
  • When an employee’s credit information is irrelevant, outdated and inaccurate, credit report information can appear.

Inaccurate Background Checks

No matter how the background check error got there or what the background check incorrect information might be, the result is the same. The error in the background check creates lost opportunity, distress, embarrassment, and possibly even a life-altering situation for you.

The effects of wrong information on background check reports are so harmful that a federal law called the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires background check companies to use reasonable care to ensure each report is accurate. They are subject to an incorrect background check lawsuit when they don't.

Mishandling of Private Information

A lawsuit against a background check company can arise when a background check company gives your information to the wrong person. Background check companies access vast amounts of sensitive personal information, including criminal records, employment history, and credit scores. A background check company with inadequate data security can lead to breaches where your personal information is exposed to or stolen by cybercriminals or other unauthorized parties. Additionally, inaccurate reporting results can happen when the background check company fails to update records or mixes up individuals with similar names. Such mishandling can cause significant harm. For individuals, it can mean unjust damage to their reputation, loss of job opportunities, and undue stress. You can sue a background check company for mishandling your information.

FCRA Violations

Can I sue for FCRA background check violations or errors? Yes. The FCRA is a federal law designed to ensure that the information stored and sold by consumer reporting agencies and background check companies is accurate, fair, and private.

Common claims against background check companies under the FCRA include failing to get your permission before conducting a background check, using outdated or inaccurate information in their reports, or not providing a copy of the report to the individual when an employer or landlord takes an adverse action (such as denial of employment or housing) based on the report.

Summary of Your Rights Under the FCRA

The FCRA gives consumers many rights:

  • The right to access your background check report. 
  • The right to dispute inaccuracies in your background check report. 
  • The right to decide who sees your background check report. 
  • The right to seek damages and get compensation when a background company violates these rights.

In addition to your rights, the FCRA requires background check companies to follow strict procedures to investigate a background check dispute and outlines methods for consumers to get compensated when the background check company does not. 

How To Dispute Background Check Mistakes

It’s hard to know what to do if your background check is wrong. If you have any concerns, questions, or issues with your background check report, your first step should be to contact Consumer Attorneys. We are consumer protection attorneys who know how to dispute a background check and, if necessary, sue the background check company. Contact us. One of our attorneys will review your case and determine the best next steps for you.

One of those next steps may be disputing the background check wrong information. To do so, review your background check report. The FCRA requires background check companies to give you one for free annually. Ask for the report if you’ve already faced an adverse decision because of a background check, whether from incorrect information on criminal background check reports or an employment background check error.

Write a letter to the background check company, advising them how to fix the background check errors. Include documents supporting your dispute. Send the letter and evidence to them via certified U.S. mail. This preserves your right to sue for inaccurate background check reports later on.

How Long Does It Take to Dispute a Background Check?

The FCRA requires a background check company to investigate the error, correct it, and respond to you within 30 days. For example, if you dispute an incorrect criminal background check report that mistakenly reports an arrest you had five years ago as a conviction, the background check company must find the source of the incorrect criminal record background check, correct it, correct your report, and tell you that it has done so.

Can You Sue a Background Check Company for a False Report?

If the background check company ignores your dispute or the damage has already been done to you, your employment opportunities, your mortgage application, or any damage whatsoever, then different avenues to sue a background check company presenting a false report may be available. For example, the answer to questions like “An error in a background check cost me my job. Can I sue?” or “Can I sue for a false background check report?” “Can I sue for a wrongful background check?” and “Can you sue for an incorrect background check?” is: “it depends!” Each case is unique and fact-specific, so we can only provide definitive answers once we hear your story. But know that we do our best to hold background check companies accountable for the damage they do to people.

That’s why it’s essential to talk to one of our consumer protection attorneys right away.

Contact a Consumer Protection Attorney

Can I sue background check providers for an incorrect background check report? Yes. And we can help you every step of the way.

There are several ways to begin the conversation.

  • Visit our website and chat with a live representative.
  • Visit our website and fill out a form for a background check attorney to contact you later.
  • Email us at [email protected] and request a meeting with a background check attorney.
  • Call us at 1-877-615-1725.

We have represented thousands of people impacted by false information on criminal background checks, false employment history verifications, mistakes on resume background check reports, and any problem with background checks. We are attorneys who fight for your rights and hold companies accountable when they hurt you.

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Daniel Cohen is the Founding Partner of Consumer Attorneys
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Daniel Cohen
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Daniel Cohen is the Founder of Consumer Attorneys. Daniel manages the firm’s branding, marketing, client intake and business development efforts. Since 2017, he is a member of the National Association of Consumer Advocates and the National Consumer Law Center. Mr. Cohen is a nationally-recognized practitioner of consumer protection law. He has a wealth of proven legal experience in the US in: collective claims, representing visually impaired people who believe their rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act have been violated in both the physical and digital environments, corporate governance and dispute resolution. Read more

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