Deep Background

Pre-employment checkers must take care in reporting crimes


October 13, 2016

A California federal judge has given a green light to a class-action lawsuit against a background-check company for allegedly violating the Fair Credit Reporting Act.  The plaintiffs’ allegation is that the company provided reports to prospective employers that included past drug arrests more than seven years old that did not end in conviction — and which therefore might have violated the FCRA.  In July 2016, U.S. District Judge William Alsup in San Francisco approved class certification in a lawsuit brought by a job applicant against a company called S2Verify.  The potential class consists of thousands of job applicants reviewed by S2Verify for nine companies from mid-2013 to early 2014 in which due-diligence reports mentioned arrests or indictments more than seven years old that did not result in conviction.  Noting that the FCRA bans such reporting, the judge ruled that “S2Verify published plaintiff’s stale arrests. S2Verify thereby sent restricted information about plaintiff into the world and as such caused injury to plaintiff’s privacy interest.”  The company had argued that the possible damage to any job applicants should be examined one by one, not in a large class.