Sharon Koehler

Stone Industry Consultant

There are two scenarios to consider, when we look at background checks.

1 – You are an employer looking to fill a position. You advertise. You interview. Finally, one day, you find the perfect employee: knowledgeable in your trade or business, good references, likable, and seems intelligent. It looks like a great fit. The potential new hire fills out some forms and signs off on a DMV driving record check and background check. These are technicalities so you proceed on, grateful that you found someone. Then the background check comes back, and your perfect candidate gets thrown out because of what it says. There are a lot of arrests and convictions. Arrested and convicted of multiple charges, everything from burglary to assault. Your perfect employee is no longer your perfect employee, and you start looking all over again.

2 – You are looking for a job. You apply a lot of places. You go on a lot of interviews, but nothing seems quite right. Then one day, you have the perfect interview with what seems to be the perfect employer. Stable company, good pay and benefits, decent hours and what seems like a fair boss or supervisor. You fill out a lot of forms and sign off on a DMV driving record check and background check. Why not? You have nothing to hide. You’re excited and you get your hopes up. You are going to work for this place, and you are going to be happy. Then out of the blue, you get the call: “Sorry, not interested. Your background check is way too much for us to consider you.” You hang up stunned. What are they talking about? You never had anything more than a traffic ticket! What is going on? You call back, only to hear that your long list of arrests and convictions disqualifies you as a candidate for employment. You protest but it’s too late.

It all sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? But it happens a lot more often than you think. Over the last few years, background check companies have come under fire for inaccurate information. It is estimated that 72% of all employers conduct some sort of background check on prospective employees, and unfortunately it is also estimated that 50-80% of those reports contain errors. 

The most common errors are:

  • Mistaken identity
  • Outdated information
  • Incorrect criminal information.

Be aware that a background check can  contain errors – and more often than you might think.There are multiple reasons for all these errors. However, most errors are human errors. It may be a court document not entered correctly or a transposed number in a social security number, a birthdate or even an address. It could also be a name mix up: Jon instead of John or Cassandra vs Cassaundra.  Maybe the background check company didn’t access all the databases they needed to, or maybe the person doing the check just didn’t do their due diligence that day to make sure everything was correct. Or it could just be that you have the same name as a criminal and no one caught the error that put their record on your background. 

So, if this happens to you, do you have any recourse? The simple answer is YES!

Back in 1970, the federal government enacted the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). It was done to promote accuracy in credit reporting, but background checks fall under it, as well. 

The FCRA gives you rights in these matters:

  • A background check cannot be run on you without your WRITTEN consent.
  • An employer must notify you if you are disqualified due to your background check.
  • You have the right to receive and read a copy of your background check. 
  • You do have the right to dispute a background check.

Any information that is incorrect or disputed must be removed or corrected within 30 days from the date the dispute is filed.

If the reporting agency has made an error, violated FCRA rules, or if you have lost a job due to background check errors, you may be able to take legal action as well. 

If you do discover an error on your background check, you can and should file a dispute with the reporting company in question. Most companies have a section on their website to start the dispute process. (Apparently even they know there are problems.) If they don’t have a dispute process, then you can file by phone or mail. During this process you must keep in mind that they only have 30 days to resolve the dispute, BUT, just because you solve it with one company doesn’t mean it won’t pop up with another company. 

Once you discover the error and you file a dispute, the next step is to find the source and go back and get it corrected there. If you don’t, it may continue to pop up on other reports by other companies. How difficult that process is depends on who made the mistake and when. It may be as simple as a phone call, or it may take some time, correspondence, and due diligence on your part. The background check company may also be willing to help you or at least get you headed in the right direction.

Once the dispute or mistake is corrected, you can ask the reporting company to send an updated report to the potential employer that received the inaccurate report. They may have already found someone for the position you applied for, but you may be able to apply again if they have any positions open in the future.

As much as we want to think that this could never happen to us, it can, and it does. Everyday. Just know that you have rights and that there are things you can do to protect you and your future. 

Please send your thoughts on this article to Sharon Koehler at