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What should I know about background checks at work?

Authored By: GeorgiaLegalAid.org
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Georgia laws on background checks at work

What should I know? +

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What should I know about employment background checks?

It is generally legal for employers to do background checks when hiring employees. Employers most commonly check your:

  • Criminal history, and

  • Credit report.

 

They may also check:

  • Your employment history,

  • Your social media history, and

  • Whether you are authorized to work. 

 

Employers may sometimes also ask you to tell them about your medical history.

 

Even though employers are allowed to do background checks, federal and state laws have some rules about:

  • how they can do those checks and 

  • what they can do with the information.

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What are my rights under federal law with employer background checks?

If the employer uses a company to do a background check on you, you have rights.

  • The employer must give you a written document that tells you they might use the information they get to make a decision about your employment.

  • The employer must ask you for written permission to do the background check. If you do not give permission, they cannot do the background check. However, employers do have the right to not hire you because you refused.

  • The employer has to give you a copy of the report if they think they might not hire, keep or promote you because of something in the report. 

    • They also have to let you know how to contact the company that did the report in case there is a mistake in the report. 

 

Rights when an employer does a criminal or financial background check

If the employer doesn’t hire or promote you because of something in your criminal or financial history, they must tell you:

  • About the company that did the report,

  • That you have the right to dispute information in the report. You can get an additional free report from the company if you ask for it within 60 days.

 

Employers are not allowed to discriminate when doing background checks. So, the employer cannot have have different requirements based on your:

  • Race, color, or nationality,

  • Sex,

  • Religion,

  • Age (if you are 40 or older),

  • Disability, or 

  • Genetic Information.

 

Employers might also discriminate if they do background checks on everyone, but then exclude people with certain records. 

 

Rights when an employer asks about medical conditions

You have rights if an employer wants to know about your medical conditions. Employers: 

  • Cannot ask for medical information until after they make a job offer. This includes:

    • Asking whether you have a disability or any questions about your disability,

    • Ask any medical questions, and 

    • Asking you to take a medical exam. 

  • Can require you to answer some medical questions or take a medical exam after giving you a job offer. But, they can only ask you these questions if they ask all people in the same job these questions. However, in most cases employers cannot ask for:

    • genetic information, or

    • family medical history.

  • Can only ask for medical information if:

    • They need the information to support your request for accommodation, or

    • If they reasonably think you might not be able to perform a job because of a medical condition.

  • Must keep medical information confidential.

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What are my rights under Georgia law with employer background checks?

In Georgia, employers can only request criminal history records from the Georgia Crime Information Center, through:

  • Fingerprints, or

  • A signed consent form.

 

The Georgia Crime Information Center cannot give employers records of:

  • Arrests or charges if there was no conviction,

  • Crimes where your sentence was overturned,

  • First offenses, if you completed probation. 

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What can I do? +

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What can I do if an employer violates my rights with a background check?

There are two federal agencies that can help if an employer violates your rights.

 

Contact the Federal Trade Commission

Contact the Federal Trade Commission if an employer:

  • Ran a background check without your permission, or 

  • Rejected your application because of something in the background check and did not give you notice.

 

Contact the FTC:

  • Online,

  • By phone: 1- 877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357) or 1-866-653-4261 (TTY)

 

You might also be able to file a lawsuit against the employer who violated your rights. Contact a lawyer to see if you have a claim.

 

Contact the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

Contact the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission if an employer discriminates against you. The EEOC is responsible for:

  • Investigating charges of employment discrimination,

  • Mediating claims, and 

  • Filing lawsuits.

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Last Review and Update: Mar 02, 2020