Background Checks at Risk

Many of our clients use background checks to ensure that their new employees do not have a history that may lead to problems in the workplace.  Background checks by third parties are regulated under the Fair Credit Reporting Act as “consumer reports” or “investigative consumer reports.”  A consumer report can include checks on an applicant’s education, driving record, licenses, criminal history, and a financial credit history.  However, we generally recommend that financial credit histories not be obtained unless a person’s credit history is related to the specific job.  For example, we might recommend a credit history be obtained on an applicant for a position as a controller, but not as a mechanic.

S.B. 30 was recently introduced in the Ohio Senate by recently-elected Charleta B. Tavares (D-Columbus).  S.B. 30 would make discrimination by an employer against any person because of the person’s credit history an unlawful discriminatory practice under the Ohio Civil Rights Act.  It is unclear at this point whether the term “credit history” will be given the expansive definition that “consumer report” has under the Fair Credit Reporting Act or whether Sen. Tavares will pick up any other sponsors in the Republican-controlled Senate.  We will, of course, follow this bill with interest.

 Joe Gross

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