Many prudent employers use background checks in connection with the hiring process, and rely upon that information when deciding not to hire anyone they deem unsuitable for the position.  However, an employer may violate federal and state laws if the background information they rely upon has a discriminatory impact or effect.   The Fair Credit Reporting Act, which is enforced by the Federal Trade Commission, requires employers to follow certain procedures when obtaining background information from third-party companies, and other federal laws enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission do the same. 

The Fair Credit Reporting Act is not exactly an exciting read.  So how can an employer properly utilize background information, and how does a prospective employee know whether his or her rights have been violated without having to endure reading it?  Thankfully, the FTC and the EEOC have have jointly released two simple guidance documents that help answer this question. 

The employer guidance is available here, and the employee guidance can be reviewed here.

Hopefully, these two documents will help employers avoid running afoul of the law, and help job candidates to learn about how that can  happen.