Private Background Checks
The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) is the federal law that controls the commercial reporting of criminal record information. The law applies to private companies providing the information and employers who use the reports.
- You have a right to know when your background is checked – Employers must have your permission to do a background check on you. Some information, however, such as felony convictions, may be available without your permission and/or available on the Internet.
- You have a right to know when information from a background check is used to deny you employment.
- You have a right to know where the information that was used against you came from – You must be told how to contact the company that gave the report to the employer.
- You have a right to a copy of the report used against you – It can come from the employer or you can request it for free from the company that created the report.
- You have a right to dispute the information in the report if it is not accurate – The Consumer Reporting Agency that created the report must investigate your claim within thirty (30) days. You can also request that the company send a corrected report to the potential employer.
The Fair Credit Report Act is enforced by the Federal Trade Commission. Call 1-877-382-4357 if you have questions or want to file a complaint. In Georgia, call the Office of the Attorney General at 404-656-3300.
When your record is restricted, it will no longer appear on your official Georgia criminal history record maintained by GCIC. However, private background companies may still report the restricted charges. Information about your charges remains available at the office of the clerk of court and at the jail or detention center; these records remain public, so it is not against the law for private background check companies to provide them to potential employers.
If your restricted record shows up on a private background report, contact the company and request that your report be updated to eliminate information about restricted charges. You will likely need to provide the company with a copy of your approved restriction application or a copy of the disposition in the case showing eligibility for restriction. Many companies will comply, but some may refuse to restrict the records if they are publicly available.
Under the new law, effective July 1, 2013, you can request that the clerk of court and the jail/detention center restrict these records so that private companies may not provide them to employers. If you get the records sealed at the clerk’s office, you can challenge the accuracy of the information reported by the private companies and have it removed. Send the company a copy of the court order sealing the records. After your report is corrected, ask the private company to resend it to you and to the potential employer.
If incorrect or duplicate charges appear on your report, contact the private background company immediately. Provide a copy of the final disposition in your case. Federal law requires that private background check companies investigate your complaint within thirty (30) days, and you must be notified of the results of the investigation. Ask that an updated report be sent to you and to the potential employer.
Many for-profit websites publish mug shots, along with the accompanying arrest information. Internet mug shot companies acquire this information from arresting agencies. Many websites advertise that they will remove your mug shot for a fee, but your photo may reappear on another website owned by the same company. Generally, the for-profit websites are not subject to the same laws and regulations as private background check companies.
In 2013, the Georgia General Assembly passed a law to address mug shot companies that charge a fee to remove photos when the underlying arrest did not result in a conviction. Under the new law, mug shot companies may not charge you a fee to remove the photo if your arrest is eligible for restriction or if it has been restricted. The law requires you to send a written request to the mug shot company to remove your photo. The request should include your name, date of birth, arrest date, and the name of the arresting agency.
In 2014, the Georgia General Assembly passed another law to address this issue. The new law, effective July 1, 2014, prevents mug shot companies from accessing booking photos for the purpose of publishing the photos online and charging a fee for removal. The new law also prohibits the online posting of mug shots by law enforcement agencies.