On March 10, 2014, the EEOC and the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) co-published two technical assistance documents that explain how the agencies’ respective laws apply to background checks performed for employment purposes. One document is for employers (What Employers Need to Know and Background Checks); the other is for job applicants and employees (Background Checks: : What Job Applicants and Employees Should Know). This is the first time that the two agencies have partnered to create resources addressing concerns in this key area.
The agencies emphasize that employers need written permission from job applicants before getting background reports about them from companies in the business of compiling background information. Furthermore, they reaffirm that it is illegal to discriminate based on a person’s race, color, national origin, sex, religion, age (40 or older), disability, or genetic information, including family medical history, when requesting or using background information for employment, regardless of where the information was obtained.
At the same time, the agencies want job applicants to know that it is not illegal for potential employers to ask about their background, as long as the employer does not unlawfully discriminate. However, when people are turned down for a job or denied a promotion based on information in their background reports, they have the right to review the reports for accuracy.