Background checks are a routine part of an employer’s hiring decision. Background checks can include information about an individual’s: work history, driving record, criminal history, use of social media, credit information and education. Because of the type of information included within a background check report, an inaccurate report can have significant consequences on an a job application. To guard against this, laws such as the Fair Credit Reporting Act (“FCRA”) have been promulgated to protect individuals from inaccurate background check reports. The FCRA requires that credit reporting agencies (which includes background screening companies) have, among other things, reasonable policies and procedures in place to ensure maximum accuracy of background check reports. Failure to institute reasonable polices or to adhere to those policies in place would result in a violation of the FCRA. This is what allegedly occurred in Williams v. First Advantage LNS Screening Sols. Inc., No. 17-11447 (11th Cir. Jan. 9, 2020).
In Williams, Plaintiff Richard Williams instituted a lawsuit against First Advantage Background Services (“First Advantage”) for violating the FCRA. Williams applied for a job with Winn-Dixie Stores, Inc. (“Winn-Dixie”). As a part of the job application, First Advantage provided Winn-Dixie with a background check report for Mr. Williams. The background check prepared by First Advantage, however, included criminal records of an individual named “Ricky Williams”. Because of the false criminal record information included in the background check report, Winn-Dixie did not offer Mr. Williams the position that he had applied for. The inclusion of the information by First Advantage was alleged to be a violation of 1681e(b) of the FCRA, which requires companies such as First Advantage to institute policies and procedures to ensure maximum possible accuracy of its reports.
At trial, the jury returned a verdict in favor of Mr. Williams and awarded $250,000 in compensatory damages as well as $3.3 in punitive damages. First Advantage appealed the jury’s damage award to the 11th Circuit. The 11th Circuit affirmed the award of the $250,000 in compensatory damages award but reduced the punitive damages award to $3.3 million.
If you believe you have been subjected to an inaccurate background check report that may have violated the law, it is important to seek the guidance of a skilled FCRA and Consumer Protection Attorney as soon as possible. To schedule a consultation to discuss your situation with one of our attorneys, contact The Kim Law Firm, LLC today by calling 855-996-6342.