Using the Fair Credit Reporting Act to Vet Job Candidates

Credit reports are not public records, but employers wishing to vet job candidates for high profile positions may seek consent of a candidate to review their credit record.  Provided the employer follows the guidelines set forth by the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), they may use this information to look at the candidate's personal financial history as a reflection of money management skills. The Baltimore Sun reported on Brian D. Morris' appointment as deputy CEO of the Baltimore City school board despite his self-admitted personal financial problems.  The position gives Morris oversight of the school system's operations and finances.  The school system's CEO, Andrés Alonso, stated that he did not consider Morris' personal finances, and that he was hired based on their previous relationship during Morris's tenure as the Baltimore City school board chairman:

  • "This is a person who has been in public service for almost a decade, who has been in many positions of responsibility.  My experience of his work has led to nothing but admiration."

Had Alonso decided to background Morris's financial history before hiring him, the FCRA considers employment decisions a permissible use for requesting a credit history.  The employer must notify the candidate that he is requesting the report and obtain written authorization to do so.  The employer must then provide a copy of the report to the candidate and notify him if he will not be hired based on information in the report.  For the Federal Trade Commission's full guidelines, read their PDF here.

For a more in-depth review of one's financial history, public records can provide another resource for employers who are trying to learn about a candidate's financial history.  The Sun cited their review of dozens of court records that document Morris's history of judgments against him in favor of creditors, related to such things as rent payments, medical bills and failed business ventures.  Simple due diligence searches would also bring up any bankruptcies or tax liens in a candidate's past.