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How to dispute background check errors that cost you a job

By law, prospective employers must let you fix employment background check mistakes

Updated on Author: Sergei Lemberg

Updated on Author: Sergei Lemberg

Employment background check errors typically aren’t on your mind when you apply for your dream job. You know you’re in the clear. You survive the interviews. Your future employer is excited about hiring you and says that she just needs a quick background check. Then, a week later, you receive a notice from a credit bureau about an adverse action on your credit report that describes a criminal conviction that is not yours. That’s followed by a letter stating that you’ve been passed over for your dream job. How could this happen?

What Should I Do If I Am a Victim of an Employment Background Check Error?

Immediately, you need to determine if the employer strictly followed the required procedure for employers in the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). Several major companies have been sued in class action lawsuits for not complying with these requirements. Some have settled, for example, Avis for $2.7 million, Target for $8.5 million, and Uber for $7.5 million. Cases are pending against others including Amazon, Home Depot, and Starbucks.

Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Before it requested my consumer report, did the employer give me a written, stand-alone notice that it might use the information from the consumer report in making their employment decision?
  2. Did the employer get written authorization from me to obtain your consumer report?
  3.  Before it sent me the letter rejecting my job application, did the employer send me a copy of the report and a copy of A Summary of Your Rights under the Fair Credit Reporting Act?  This serves to give me time to review the report and notify the employer if it is correct.
  4. Did the employer subsequently give me an adverse action notice containing the name and contact information of the consumer reporting agency that prepared the report and statements that this agency did not take the unfavorable action against me and that I have the right to dispute the report and to get a new report?

If the employer did not follow these procedural steps, you may have a claim against it. You should consult an experienced employment lawyer. You may be entitled to civil penalties in the amount of $1,000 and actual damages (including emotional distress). In addition, punitive damages, plus attorneys’ fees and costs, may be recovered where there is “willful noncompliance” with the Act.

Common Mistakes On Employee Background Checks:

Background checks are susceptible to errors. Individuals who handle public and private data about you can make mistakes and computer systems can also fail to to be accurate. Here are some of the most common causes for inaccurate info showing on your report:

  1. Wrong or incomplete data in original documents
  2. Typos such as number transposition
  3. Copying, filing, and search mistakes
  4. File corruption in computer system
  5. Duplicate information
  6. Outdated negative information
  7. Mistaken identity
  8. Identity theft

How Do I Dispute Background Check Mistakes?

  • First, demand a copy of the report from your employer who must give it to you. Frequently, an employer hires a consumer screening company to compile the report. If so, the employer must give you the name and contact information of the company.
  • Second, check the report for errors. Some errors result from clerical mistakes, such as transposing numbers or misreading handwriting, confusion caused by similar names, incorrect or incomplete data provided by the applicant, outdated credit information, or identity theft. If the employer or screening agency made the mistake, it must correct it immediately.
  • Third, if it did not make the mistake, you must obtain the correct information from the source. The employer may have requested credit, criminal, and education reports. For example, you will contact the credit report agency to correct erroneous information in your credit report and may have to contact a law enforcement agency or court to correct a false criminal report.
  • Fourth, provide this information to the employer and to the screening company. Demand that they change the report and provide you with a copy.

Be Proactive to Avoid Workplace Background Check Errors

  • Check and correct your credit report annually,
  • Consider buying a background check on yourself from a reputable screening company before you apply for the job you want or need. This gives you time to correct false information before it robs you of a job opportunity or shreds your reputation.

Contact an Experienced Labor Law Attorney if You Believe You Are a Victim of Employment Background Check Error

To get the money you deserve, call Lemberg Law at 475-277-2200. Our employment lawyers will review your case and give you no-nonsense answers to your questions.


About the Author:

Sergei Lemberg is an attorney focusing on consumer law, class actions related to automotive issues, and personal injury litigation. With nearly two decades of experience, his areas of practice include Lemon Law (vehicle defects), Debt Collection Harassment, TCPA (illegal robocalls and texts), Fair Credit Reporting Act, Overtime claims, Personal Injury cases, and Class Actions. He has consistently been recognized as the nation's "most active consumer attorney." In 2020, Mr. Lemberg represented Noah Duguid before the United States Supreme Court in the landmark case Duguid v. Facebook. He is also the author of "Defanging Debt Collectors," a guide that empowers consumers to fight back against debt collectors and prevail, as well as "Lemon Law 101: The Laws That Lemon Dealers Don't Want You to Know."

See more posts from Sergei Lemberg
  • Austin

    Disputed my background check due to a 10-15 year old traffic “conviction” thus regarding them to not hire me do to it, had hiring manager send it in because she is on my side. And it’s been weeks months and no response to my dispute and I gave up another job offer to take this one. It was “the better choice” I thought. Because we are suppose to be fighting their reason and I have no response to my dispute. Is that not illegal? State of Minnesota.

  • Tara J

    I was not hired do to a drug charge I have never been arrested had a charge talked to a cop I’m clean I told them they were wrong to fix and let the company know they haven’t

  • Victor

    This just happen to me yesterday / today I was hired on to Booz Allen Hamilton under an MBO Contractor position as a web developer… My boss left for another job and I took the reigns and gained the experience needed to do her job… Did the job for two months and they offered me a position on Booz Allen Hamilton. I had a gut feeling this was a bad idea but my new boss let me know it would be smooth sailing to get hired I asked my former boss about it and she said it was a great opportunity. I took it. I applied added my resume which got me hired onto BAH – MBO in the first place… Did my job as a lead developer interim for another 2 months when they talked about discrepancies. They asked me about self employment I told them I tried to network and get business by emailing calling and giving business cards for several months before my first employment I did not receive any clients. I thought the experience of learning networking and talking with potential clients was valuable so I kept it on the resume. I tried showing them business cards and old emails which I had very few left since it’s been awhile. I didn’t have any income nor did I setup any LCC . That ultimately led to the rescinding my offer from Booz Allen Hamilton. Then promptly firing me from MBO. Not happy.

  • Sheryl

    Checkr is reporting inaccurate information about my drivers license. I’ve already taken care of the driver’s license suspension I had. I didn’t know I had a suspension until Door Dash deactivated my account. I have full coverage progressive insurance and didn’t know that they took my S’R 22 off. And that’s why my drivers license where suspended. When I checked my checkr portal. It was saying that my temporary drivers license that the dmv gave me until my original license was mailed to me was the problem. So I sent photos of my current drivers license and insurance. Which are both currently updated. They then said I had a suspension so I called Springfield dmv to check I was told that they where updated. But checkr is still reporting my drivers license as suspended and the dates they have on my report haven’t came yet. We are still in January of 2021. How can they date my suspicion still active strating date 02/02/2021. That’s the craziest part of this problem. I not abe to work because of this problem.


    I have been denied or ignored for literally 1000 applications throughout my 15 years while dealing with only felony drug charges. Ive actually had a job or two mostly with temps. I’ve even gotten hired but then let go a few days in when I put on the app I had felonies. Now as a result I would give up and relapse so I do have random felonies here and there. I was released 1 yr ago, and by now I seriously have given up, I randomly tried to apply in the gig industry and for the first time was I presented a background report. Going down the rabbit hole I definitely now know I’ve been discriminated against but how am I supposed to prove it??? I mean no one told me about these reports not even my parole officer!!!!! Wtf is the job of a parole officer for!?!?! These are the first things they should help you with!!!!! It’s just a joke and people say we don’t try!!!!! Well it’s nice to know now that I’ve been judged and never given a chance because of old info, wrong info, and inaccurate info. Even wrong info from the d.m.v.
    Now I’m seeing 600 companies does reports, why is it my responsibility to call 600 places, pay for there wrong/misinfo reports. I understand there is risk with a felon, but I’m not violent or stealing. This all started with a conviction over some meds. I even have a felony for literally one pill!!!!! I also found misdemeanor dismissed charges that were never presented at that same arrest, for meds I was allowed to have. Even the police said I could have it. I was 2 strips of Suboxone, medication to help you get off drugs!!!!! What the hell is going on anymore. And Trump say he doesn’t understand whv we don’t even try to find employment, he’s said they just stay in the basement of the parents house. Gee I wonder why?

  • Kim

    On September 25, 2019, I received an offer from USPS. On September 27, 2019, I accepted the offer and completed the background check the same evening. I received an email on October 24th stating the following, As a result of a review of the responses you provided when consenting for the Postal Service to conduct a criminal background check, we have determined you did not disclose all criminal convictions or pending charges. As a result of this nondisclosure, you are not eligible for employment with the Postal Service at this time, and we must rescind the job offer.
    After receiving my rescind the offer, I ordered a copy of my background check. Once I had received and looked over the investigative report, they had reported I had a criminal charge on my record. I contacted the court about the specific charge reported. They informed me they removed my case from my record in 2015. They provided me with all the documentation about this specific case. Because they did not confirm the charge on my record, I surrendered the excellent opportunity with this company. This case not only affected the opportunity at USPS, but I lost other job offers. I was confident that my background check was clean, so I rejected other opportunities for employment.

  • Ivan L

    A person with the same DOB & First and Last Name with criminal record & jail time at Arizona Penitentiary is all the time link to my profile. Denied jobs & housing and leasing.
    His middle name & SSN is Different though.

  • Jessica W

    Job offer recessed after incorrect background screen results. Was told this was the reason and to disputed it when I asked hr. They corrected it but got email last night because of check no longer was considered

  • Eli

    I went to a job interview thinking I was going to get a job placement. The job tricked me into paying a background check out of my own pocket by saying that the money will be for my state license. Now I can’t cancel a background check. What should I do now?

  • Josh M

    I applied for a job and in the second interview I was asked if I had anything on my record I told him no so they did the background check and he told me if anything came back and I did not explain it to him now that they would not hire me so they did the background check I had something on there that I adjudicated withheld which means it was Shield and that I did not plead guilty in the background check company messed up and sent the information to the company that I adjudicated guilty which means they told them that I plead guilty to a felony when I never did so I had the background check company fix it and I ended up getting a letter saying that after they received the updated version they were going to go ahead and not hire me because of what they pretty much seen on the first one they didn’t even take into the account that the first one was voided and now I’m without that job that I really wanted and was excellent pay because the wrong information was sent to them the first time

  • Alex C

    I wasn’t hired due to a felony charge on background check I have never been charged with any felonies

  • Dona w

    My granddaughter has the same complete name spelled the same all that but of course she is of a mixed race and different s. S number and different birthdays but she applied for a job they ran a background check on her but my felony charges and info showed up on her background check so there for she couldn’t get that job and she said she can’t pull up some info she needed from the irs as for its showing my stuff with hers again I need help to fix this so that it will stop causing her issues thanks

  • Mark F

    I have a grand theft by check that is 29 years old,and a felony meth possession 7 years old. I was not given the promotion at dollar tree. The guy they gave it t has a felony DUI less than 3 years old.

  • David B

    I just received a phone call from a recruiter from a company I am applying to, and he told me that my background check came back with a felony GTA back in 2012. I have never been arrested, let alone charge of a felony. The recruiter then informed me that he wasn’t supposed to disclose that information, and that he will be sending me a letter informing me of the background check findings. I am confused, because I have literally just receive confirmation (2 weeks ago) from the Department of Homeland Security that I passed a pre-employment background check for a TSA job as well. What can I do about this other background check? I am very worried/ upset that I will not only lose this potential job, but also have damaging records on my personal background.

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