With more than 300,000,000 people living in the United States, someone out there has the same name as you. In fact, there are lots of “you” out there. Not only do others have the same name, or a name very similar to you, there is a good chance they also share the same birth date. Add to this the current problem of identity theft and you can have a real problem when it comes to background checks by prospective employers.
Major criminal background companies trafficking in the reputations of truck drivers often jeopardize employment opportunities by erroneously reporting applicants’ criminal and employment histories. These inaccuracies can include falsely reporting an applicant as a felon, reporting an applicant being convicted of a misdemeanor although the charge was dismissed, or reporting an applicant as having an accident history.
With the economy bottoming out and recovery on the horizon, analysts are predicting an increased demand for trucker drivers to transport the backlog of freight. A recent UPI article explained that while a 10% increase in trucking positions is expected, the current driving workforce is insufficient to meet this demand. Couple these new jobs with stricter hiring standards, and the qualified applicant pool becomes a shark tank full of hungry drivers seeking re-employment. And throughout this process, truckers still face the perennial problems associated with inaccurate criminal background and employment records reported to prospective employers.
Background reporting companies have a duty under federal law to follow reasonable procedures to ensure maximum possible accuracy when providing background reports. Unfortunately with a population of more than 300,000,000 people, and loosely followed procedures, it is likely that the reporting agency will confuse an applicant named “Terence M. Jones” from Los Angeles with “Teri Z. Jones” from Philadelphia. Matters become problematic when Ms. Teri Z. Jones is a convicted felon.
Some reports can be inaccurate with respect to criminal charges that never result in convictions, or which are reduced to a lesser offense. For example, Terrence M. Jones may have been charged with a “bogus” domestic violence offense because his wife wanted the upper hand in a divorce. Through his attorney, Terrence may have successfully defended against the charges, or may have pled to “disturbing the peace,” a minor misdemeanor in many jurisdictions. Reporting agencies will sometimes report that Terrence was “convicted” of both the domestic violence felony and disturbing the peace.
Today prospective employers receive criminal background reports and employment records instantaneously via the internet. Many employers then immediately decide against hiring an applicant using the information without first providing the applicant with notice that the decision was based on the report. Several days later, the applicant may receive a copy of his report in the mail, which falsely details a criminal history. This alone violates federal law.
Federal law requires that applicants receive a copy of a negative criminal background report at the time it is provided to a prospective employer. Further, employers must provide applicants with notice of intent to decline employment when the decision is based on a criminal background report. Truck drivers are notoriously subjected to violations of these laws by reporting companies and employers. Remedies lie within the federal court system, and can include statutory damages, lost wages, emotional distress, and attorneys’ fees.
The law firm of Stumphauzer | O’Toole dedicates significant time and resources to the representation of truck drivers adversely affected by inaccurate background reports, or who lost job opportunities because a carrier failed to follow mandatory requirements related to the use of background reports. The authors of this article can be contacted at email@example.com.