The Legal Action Center has filed three class action lawsuits to send a message to criminal background screening companies, in addition to employers and others who hire them. Sloppy background reports, and the failure to give individuals a chance to dispute them, will have serious legal consequences. Such illegal practices also result in less effective screening.
“Too many background screeners make mistakes that create havoc in the lives of people applying for jobs and housing,” said Sally Friedman, Legal Action Center’s Legal Director. “With these class actions, we are not only targeting companies that do background checks; we are also showing that employers and landlords cannot simply hand off to third parties the task of background screening. They can’t turn a blind eye to whether the reports are accurate and the process is fair and legal.”
All three class action complaints were filed in court in Manhattan by the Legal Action Center and Francis & Mailman, a Philadelphia firm that specializes in consumer protection litigation.
The complaints charge Sterling Infosystems (Sterling), one of the nation’s largest consumer background check companies, CoreLogic SafeRent (CoreLogic), another major industry player, and two Manhattan real estate companies: Halstead Management Company and Brown Harris Stevens with systematic violations of federal and state laws governing the background screening process.
The Class Representative in two of the cases, Kevin A. Jones, was denied a job by Halstead because a background report produced by Sterling reported the criminal convictions of Jones, who had a criminal record. The Class Representative in the third case was denied housing because a background report produced by CoreLogic illegally reported a felony conviction that had been vacated and sealed.
The lawsuits also charge these background screeners with:
- Failing to reinvestigate when individuals dispute their reports
- Illegally reporting race
- Failing to provide notices that can help individuals correct mistakes.
The Center urges employers and background screeners to avoid liability and get better results by consulting “Best Practice Standards –The Proper Use of Criminal Records in Hiring.” This guide was created by the Center’s National H.I.R.E. Network, along with other legal advocacy groups and experts from the background screening industry.