On April 28, 2017, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) published a post on its business blog advising employers to keep it simple when it comes to employment background check disclosure and authorization forms. While the blog post is not legally binding, it provides some useful guidance on how to comply with federal background check requirements.
Employment background checks done by an outside vendor for a fee are considered “consumer reports” under the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). Pursuant to FCRA, employers are required to make a specific written disclosure to prospective and current employees and obtain their written authorization before obtaining a background check for employment purposes. Against the backdrop of a growing number of lawsuits around what the FCRA statute provides that disclosure and authorization forms may contain, the FTC’s blog post clarifies that the disclosure and authorization may be in a single document as long as clear and understandable wording is used. The FTC also advises keeping the form simple, however, and excluding extraneous information. The following are examples of what the FTC blog post states should not be in a combined disclosure and authorization form: