Errant Louisiana Background Check Puts Heat on Employer

Errant Louisiana Background Check Puts Heat on Employer

Employment Background Check

The employment background check is a crucial step when you are ready to move an application forward. As an employer, it is vital to know your responsibilities. Image courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons.

Paul Panzer, a job applicant recently denied employment based on an errant employment background check, is moving forward in his lawsuit against the Louisiana-based firm Swiftships, which makes steel and aluminum hulls for “commercial supply and shore defense,” according to its website.

Swiftships made a few key mistakes in first hiring Panzer, then firing him before his first day based on faulty information from a criminal background check firm.

What Happened?

Panzer had initially emailed his resume to an email address listed on the Swiftships website. His application was submitted sometime in May 2015 after which he was interviewed and hired with a start date of June 1, 2015.

When he reported for work, however, Swiftships told him that he would not be hired, basing their decision on results from an employment background check provided by the firm SentryLink, which stated Panzer had previously been arrested “or convicted of a crime,” writes Judge Carl J. Barbier.

Panzer filed his suit on June 21 and later amended on Sept. 15, with the information that Swiftships had failed “to provide him with a copy of the consumer report and allow him the opportunity to contest the inaccurate information contained in the report prior to denying him employment,” the court documents claim.

Panzer also asserted that Swiftships had conducted background checks on himself and a slew of other applicants without providing the appropriate notices and disclosures as required by the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). While Swiftships argued that the case should not proceed to trial because Panzer was not making the allegation of an “injury in fact” and could not establish those criteria, Judge Barbier saw it differently.

Barbier wrote in his order that consumers have “a right to know” when they are being turned down “because of adverse information in a credit report and to correct any erroneous information.” He also believed that Panzer had suffered an “informational injury,” and could pursue damages against Swiftships.

Justia has Barbier’s 17-page order in its entirety, and it’s well worth a look for any HR professional faced with making hiring and firing decisions based on the information received from an employment background check.
Employment Background Check No 2Failing to follow proper employment background check procedures will result in litigation. Are you prepared to argue your case? Image courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons.

In the meantime, here are a few key takeaways.

1. An employment background check is not a one-sided instrument.

Conducting a criminal background check on an applicant is certainly a valuable tool for any business seeking the right candidates for a position, but they come with built-in protections — via the FCRA — that are as protective of the applicant as the employer.

2. Not every employment background check is infallible.

While a check is often an accurate determiner of an applicant’s history, mistakes can be made, and the FCRA is there to ensure fair deals for both parties, provided it is being followed.

3. It’s not a faulty employment background check that can hurt your business; it’s your handling of it.

Swiftships could have avoided damages had it simply provided Panzer with the appropriate disclosures prior to the employment background check, and then gave him the opportunity to contest the erroneous information before terminating him.

It might have slightly delayed the hiring process, but it could have also saved them the trouble of a lawsuit while landing them a quality employee.

As you conduct employee background checks for your company, keep FCRA reporting standards at the forefront of your mind and remember there are two sides to every story.

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