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EEOC and FTC Offer Joint Tips on Use of Employment Background Checks

March 20, 2014

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The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the U.S. Federal Trade Commission have co-published two technical assistance documents explaining how the agencies' respective laws apply to background checks performed for employment purposes. 

One document is for employers while the other is for job applicants and employees. This is the first time that the two agencies have partnered to create resources addressing concerns in this key area.  

The documents are available on the EEOC's website: Background Checks: What Employers Need to Know and Background Checks: What Job Applicants and Employees Should Know.

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. They reaffirmed 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 say they 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.    

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