I applied for a company as an indepent contractor/errand runner. They asked if they can run a
background check, a few weeks later they replied saying they could not offer me a position. I asked them to send me a copy of whatever report they used in order to come to that conclusion and they have yet to respond. Can they legally withhold the info that determined the outcome?
Employment / Labor Attorney
I don't think so. I think you are correct. The California Fair Credit Reporting Act is broader in scope than the federal FCRA. It covers third-party employment screeners, as does the FCRA. But it also covers employers who conduct background checks themselves -- something the FCRA omits.
The employer only has to give you a copy of any public records obtained in checking your background. This could include documents that pertain to an arrest (if it results in a conviction), indictment, conviction, civil judicial action, tax lien, or outstanding judgment. Such records can be obtained if an employer goes directly to the public source or uses an Internet site that collects public records and sells the information.
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Employment / Labor Attorney
The employer's obligation to justify its decision to not hire you if very limited. In your case, you were apparently not even going to be an employee, just an independent contractor. The employer/contracting entity need not have a reason why it determined to not hire you. Furthermore it is possible its decision did not involve any documents, but was based on many other possible reasons. As such, I would not hold your breath. As a final note, even if there is a legal obligation to provide some documentation that was referenced, the question you need to ask is whether it is work a boat load of your money to get those documents through legal process.
Good luck to you.
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Administrative Law Lawyer
California's laws about "background checks" can be very confusing to consumers and difficult even for employers to apply correctly. Employment applicants often believe that the limitations in CA Civil Code § 1786.18 apply, but this is often an incorrect assumption. §1786.2 specifically defines "investigative consumer reports" as reports in which information on a consumer's character, general reputation, personal characteristics, or mode of living is obtained... " In most cases, a pre-employment background check -- even an expensive and comprehensive one -- will not meet this definition and will not be limited by §1786.18. The practical bottom line is that it is never unlawful for the employer or the employer's agent to access public records, although there are some legal limitations on what the employer can do with the information from those records. This "gap," in the legislation leaves the consumer without meaningful enforcement powers in many instances. Even plain violations of the statutory prohibitions in this subject matter are rarely visible to the affected applicant.
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