“Background Check done incorrectly – anything I can do?”

Question: I was offered a job by phone, and accepted it, pending a background check. The next day I received a phone call from the company’s HR Director in which he told me the offer was rescinded due to several items that appeared on my background check, including convictions for crimes in states I had never been to. I told the HR Director that I had never been arrested in my life, but he said there was nothing he could do; he had to offer the job to someone else.

I immediately did my own background check on myself, using the same company, and did find real problems for a person who had a similar name to my own, but not the same name or birth date. I emailed this new information to the HR Director, but he never responded. When I spoke again to the background check company, it turns out that the HR Director could have seen what I saw, but he apparently  failed to narrow down the registry to the very last step: to my own particular information. Could I sue the background registry company?  

Yigo, Guam

Answer: Dear Joshua, Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but the person who failed to be careful, at your expense, was not the background checking firm, but the HR Director, and you have no legal claim against him.           

1. So long as your not getting hired was not due to illegal discrimination, you have no claim for not being hired. No one has a right to be hired. There are lots of reasons an employer can decide not to hire a job applicant, some good and some bad. So long as an employer is not violating the law by basing its decision on unlawful discrimination, its reasons for not hiring you do not matter. If an employer is negligent or foolish – as seems happened here – you have no right against it for being that way.

2. If a Background Checking Company was negligent, you could have a claim against it, but it seems it was not negligent. From what you’ve written, it seems a reasonably diligent person could have found out from the Background Checking Company that you were not the same person as the person who was arrested. The Background Checking Company cannot be held liable for the prospective employer’s misuse of its data or its systems.

3. Since you seemed valuable to the HR Director once, perhaps he will consider you when another opening exists. Whatever your skills and attributes are, you seemed to be a valuable person to the HR Director once. That would suggest that your skills and attributes should be valuable to him again. Consider contacting him every once in a while about your interest, your availability, and – especially – your entirely clean Background Check. Keep it positive, and be persistent.

Joshua, thanks for writing in from Guam. I hope your job search will soon be more successful. When it is, I hope you’ll continue to use all of the resources we offer you to “navigate and negotiate” to job security and career success. 

Al Sklover


Repairing the World –
One Empowered and Productive Employee at a Time ™

© 2011 Alan L. Sklover, All Rights Reserved.

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