December 2012 Update

Jeff Rossen, an investigative reporter for the Today Show, investigates private consumer background check companies and finds that errors are common on background checks, causing people to lose job opportunities. Smart employers are aware of the unacceptably high rate of errors, and adopt procedures to ensure that job applicants have the opportunity to dispute a background check before a final decision is made. Click here to view a video of the report.

Like the Today Show investigative report, a recent article in "HR Magazine", which is published by the Society of Human Resource Management, discusses the common problem of mistaken criminal background checks, even when the check is produced by a reputable company or a law enforcement agency. Page 39 sets forth employer obligations under the Fair Credit Reporting Act. Compliance with the Fair Credit reporting Act is the best way to guard against making hiring decisions based on faulty information. Click here to read the HR Magazine, Background Screening article.

November, 2012 Update:
New York Society for Human Resource Management Publishes an Employer Manual on Hiring Applicants with a Criminal Record

The NYS SHRM has produced a manual entitled "An Employer's Guide to Compliance with New York Correction Law, Article 23-A," designed to "provide every employer in new York State an opportunity to read, understand, and take seriously their rights and responsibilities under this important law," so that employers "treat every applicant and employee with fairness and respect."

This manual is available at:

August, 2012 Update:
The FTC Steps Up Efforts to Enforce Regulations Regarding Employment Background Checks

Many employers use private companies, known as "consumer reporting agencies" to conduct background checks (including criminal history checks) of job applicants or current employees.  Yet, often these background checks are full of misleading and mistaken information, resulting in people wrongly losing job opportunities and employers making decisions based upon incorrect information.

Working in conjunction with the Department of Justice, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has taken steps to step up enforcement of these consumer reporting agencies, and in fact, have recently won a large, multi-million dollar settlement against one of the larger companies, HireRight.  The FTC has also created tool for employers and job applicants to develop a better understanding of issue around background checks and to know their rights and responsibilities. 

For more information, visit the FTC's website.

The FTC has also created a short video for employers and job seekers, entitled "What to Know When Looking for a Job".