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Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA)
  • The FCRA is a subchapter of the CCPA.
  • To be covered by the FCRA, consumer reports must be prepared by a CRA.

The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) of 1970 protects individuals by requiring consumer reporting agencies providing information to adopt procedures that promote:

  • Confidentiality
  • Accuracy
  • Relevancy
  • Proper use of information

Employers requesting consumer reports, too, have responsibilities under the FCRA.

The FCRA is Subchapter III of a larger act called the Consumer Credit Protection Act of 1968 (CCPA).

How the FCRA affects employers

If employers comply with the FCRA, they may use consumer reports when they:

  • Hire new employees, and
  • Evaluate employees for:
    • Promotion
    • Reassignment
    • Retention

The FCRA is designed primarily to:

  • Protect the privacy of consumer report information, and
  • Guarantee that the information supplied by consumer reporting agencies is as accurate as possible.

Amendments to the FCRA have significantly increased the legal obligations of employers who use consumer reports. Congress expanded employer responsibilities because of concern that inaccurate or incomplete consumer reports could cause applicants to be denied jobs or employees to be denied promotions unjustly.

The amendments ensure that individuals are:

  • Aware that consumer reports may be used for employment purposes and agree to such use,
  • Notified promptly if information in a consumer report may result in a negative employment decision, and
  • Provided contact information for the consumer reporting agency that provided the information.

Consumer reports

A consumer report contains information about a person’s:

  • Personal and credit characteristics
  • Character
  • General reputation
  • Lifestyle

To be covered by the FCRA, a report must be prepared by a consumer reporting agency (CRA), a business that assembles such reports for other businesses.

Employers often do background checks on applicants and get consumer reports during their employment. Some employers only want their credit payment records, while others want driving records and criminal histories. For sensitive positions, it’s not unusual for employers to order investigative consumer reports, which include interviews with their:

  • Friends
  • Neighbors
  • Associates

Every type of report are consumer reports if they are obtained from a CRA.

Applicants are often asked to give references. Whether verifying such references is covered by the FCRA depends on who does the verification. For example:

  • A reference verified by the employer is not covered by the Act, and
  • A reference verified by an employment or reference checking agency (or other CRA) is covered.

In the Definitions Section of FCRA, the term Excluded Communications provides special procedures for reference checking. Otherwise, checking references may constitute an investigative consumer report subject to additional FCRA requirements.