EEOC and FTC Offer Guidance on Use of Employment Background Checks

Document created by 1050210 on Nov 12, 2014
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Published Date: 04/28/2014


John; Gupton

By John Gupton


The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently co-published two technical assistance documents that explain how the agencies currently view the laws they are charged with enforcing (based on their current enforcement positions) regarding background checks performed for employment purposes. One document is for employers; the other is for job applicants and employees.


The documents are available on the EEOC’s website:


Background Checks: What Employers Need to Know
Background Checks: What Job Applicants and Employees Should Know


The agencies emphasize that employers need written permission from job applicants before getting background reports about them from companies in the business of compiling background information. Furthermore, they reaffirm that it is illegal to discriminate based on a person’s race, color, national origin, sex, religion, age (40 or older), disability, or genetic information, including family medical history, when requesting or using background information for employment, regardless of where the information was obtained.


At the same time, the agencies want job applicants to know that it is not illegal for potential employers to ask about their background, as long as the employer does not unlawfully discriminate. However, when people are turned down for a job or denied a promotion based on information in their background reports, they have the right to review the reports for accuracy.


The EEOC enforces federal laws against employment discrimination. More information is available at The FTC enforces the Fair Credit Reporting Act, the law that protects the privacy and accuracy of the information in credit reports. More information is available at