employment background screening; fair credit reporting act; FCRA; applicant rights; litigation

Seeing Double Has Avis in Trouble

Auto rental company Avis is the latest in a long line of companies to find themselves the subject of a lawsuit for violating part of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). In her complaint, filed this week in a California federal court, Denise L. Watkins says that Avis Budget Group, Inc. violated the FCRA by failing to provide her with a stand-alone disclosure of its intent to conduct a background check, and then the company failed to provide her with a copy of that report before rescinding the job offer that had her moving from Nebraska to Los Angeles.

In the summer of 2016, Watkins applied for a job with Avis in a Los Angeles branch and was subsequently offered the job, pending a background check. She had told Avis about her only prior criminal charge, a misdemeanor, and was assured that it wouldn’t prevent her from being hired.

That background check ultimately turned up an “extensive” criminal history that actually belongs to Watkins’ twin brother. “While plaintiff’s twin brother shares her date of birth, he has a different Social Security number; his first name is Dennis, not Denise; his middle name is Keith, whereas plaintiff’s is Lashawn; and he is a man, while plaintiff is a woman,” the complaint says. “Had [the credit reporting agency that provided the report, also named in the suit] used reasonable procedures to match the criminal history it included in plaintiff’s report, it would have omitted the criminal history of plaintiff’s brother.”

Watkins claims in her suit that Avis and the CRA that performed the background check understood that background screening disclosure, required by the FCRA, should be presented on a document consisting “solely of the disclosure” because of the extensive litigation that has already been heard by the courts in other cases. Watkins also says in her complaint that “[p]roviding a copy of the criminal background report as well as a statement of consumer rights before making a final adverse employment decision arms the nation’s millions of job applicants with the knowledge and information needed to challenge inaccurate, incomplete, and misleading public-records-based reports.” Further, the complaint reads, “The FCRA is designed to permit individuals whose reports are inaccurate with ample time to identify the inaccuracies and correct them before the employer has made an employment decision.”

Avis would certainly not be the first company to find itself in this position. Major companies across all industries have been impacted due to language included (or omitted) on their background check authorization and disclosure forms. Just a few examples are grocer Food Lion ($3 million settlement), The Home Depot ($1.8M), Dollar General ($4M), and Whole Foods ($803,000), while other companies like Pizza Hut, Paramount Pictures, Xerox, and Amazon are (or have) fought their own FCRA battles over employment background screening.

As an NAPBS-accredited consumer reporting agency, The Cedalius Group is the background screening provider you can trust. We have the information you need to ensure that your disclosure and authorization forms are airtight and we can review your adverse action processes to make sure that your company is not vulnerable there, either. Call us today at 404.963.9772 to discuss how we can help you make the best staffing decisions possible while maintaining the strictest FCRA compliance.

The Cedalius Group offers insight into the background screening industry for educational purposes. We always recommend you consult with your legal counsel to determine practices that best suit your business needs.