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Let applicants respond to background-check results

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in Employment Background Check,Human Resources

Issue: You can be held liable for rejecting job applicants because of inaccurate background checks.

Risk: Defamation, invasion of privacy and wrongful-discharge lawsuits await.

Action: Never fire or reject applicants until you give them a chance to explain any black spots on their background report.

It's true that your company could be held liable if it rejects an applicant based on inaccurate data in his background check. But don't stop doing background checks simply because you fear "getting it wrong."

If a blot appears on a job candidate's background check, give him a chance to challenge the finding. The Fair Credit Reporting Act says you must notify applicants in writing if they've been fired or denied a job because of background-check information.

Also, remind managers to keep any pre-hire check information confidential.

Recent case: A Hilton hotel in Illinois conducted a background check on Edward Socorro, an employee who applied for a sales director job. On his application, Socorro truthfully answered that he'd never been convicted of a crime. But the background check conducted by an outside investigation company said he'd served six months in jail.

Without disclosing the investigation's results, Hilton asked Socorro about his criminal history, and he repeated that he had no criminal record. The hotel promptly fired Socorro, saying he lied on his application. To make matters worse, hotel officials then blabbed to others that he was fired because he was a convict. Socorro sued, alleging defamation and invasion of privacy, and the court let his case go to trial. (Socorro v. IMI Data Search, Inc., No. 02

C 8120, N.D. Ill., 2003)

Good resource: the Federal Trade

Commission's free online booklet, Using Consumer Reports: What Employers Need to Know. Go to www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/ pubs/buspubs/credempl.htm or call (877) 382-4357.

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