Some employers look into your background before deciding whether to hire you or whether you can keep your job. When they do, you have legal rights. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) enforces a federal law that regulates background reports for employment, and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces federal laws against employment discrimination. This publication explains these laws, and how to contact the FTC and EEOC if you think an employer has broken the law. There might be other rules in your city or state, so it's a good idea to check with someone who knows the laws of your area.
Questions About Your Background
An employer may ask you for all sorts of background information, especially during the hiring process. For example, some employers may ask about your employment history, your education, your criminal record, your financial history, your medical history, or your use of online social media.
Unless the employer is asking for medical or genetic information, it's not illegal to ask you questions about your background or to require a background check. (Employers aren't allowed to ask for medical information until they offer you a job, and they aren't allowed to ask for your genetic information - including family medical history - except in very limited circumstances.)
However, when an employer asks about your background, they must treat you the same as anyone else, regardless of your race, national origin, color, sex, religion, disability, genetic information (including family medical history), or older age (40 or older). For example, an employer cannot ask for extra background information because you are of a certain race or ethnicity.
Some employers also will try to find out about your background by hiring someone to do a "background report" on you. Two of the most common are credit reports and criminal background reports.
Special rules apply when an employer gets a background report about you from a company in the business of compiling background information. First, the employer must ask for your written permission before getting the report. You don't have to give your permission, but if you are applying for a job and you don't give your permission, the employer may reject your application.
If an employer gets a background report on you without your permission, contact the FTC .
Second, if the employer thinks it might not hire or retain you because of something in the report, it must give you a copy of the report and a "notice of rights" that tells you how to contact the company that made the report. This is because background reports sometimes say things about people that aren't accurate, and could even cost them jobs. If you see a mistake in your background report, ask the background reporting company to fix it, and to send a copy of the corrected report to the employer. You also should tell the employer about the mistake.
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