Originally created 03/12/06

Corporate HR can be mum on investigations



Q: I recently interviewed for a job with a national insurance company and was notified by letter I would be hired, contingent upon passing a background check. Three days before my scheduled start date, I received a call saying I flunked the background check and would not be hired.

When I asked why, I was told the company did not have to tell me. I know my credit history isn't perfect, but my understanding of the Fair Credit Reporting Act is that I should have been notified of the source for the decision.

How can I find out what happened, so I can make sure doors aren't closed to me in the future?

A: Assuming the insurance company acted legally, you can be assured you did not flunk the background check because of your credit history, says Harry Wessel, a workplace issues reporter for The Orlando Sentinel. The law requires companies to disclose the source of adverse actions against employees or potential employees, but only if the information came from an outside consumer-reporting agency.

Employers do not have to disclose the reasons behind adverse actions if they were based on their own investigation, said Dorothy Green, a labor-and-employment lawyer with Gronek & Latham in Orlando, Fla.

For example, if a reference or employer said something negative about you during the company's own background investigation, the company would not have to disclose that to you.

The Catch-22, as Ms. Green puts it, is that, if the company did base its decision on your credit history, you'd have no way of knowing. But since most large companies are careful to follow the letter of the law, it's likely your credit reports were not the reason you flunked.