What Happens If You Fail Your Background Check after a Job Offer?

Last Updated:
April 7, 2023

Sometimes, everything can go smoothly during the hiring process. Use it for an interview, submit to a background check, and receive a job offer from your prospective employer, presuming that your background check returns positive results.

But what happens if you fail your background check after receiving a job offer? If this happens, things can get a little more complicated, and you may even lose the job offer under some circumstances. Let’s take a closer look.

What is a Failed Background Check?

A failed background check is any instance where you submit to a background screening (usually performed by a third-party agency or company), but the background screening reveals information that a prospective employer doesn't like or that disqualifies you from employment.

For example, say that you apply for a new job position and are highly qualified for the job in question. You have the right degree, the right skills, and the right experience. Your prospective employer is thrilled with your interview, so they offer you a job, contingent on your background check returning no disqualifying information. You accept.

The background check goes through, and unfortunately, it returns erroneous information. Specifically, the background screening says that you have a criminal conviction, even though you have never been arrested in your life. You know that it’s likely because the background check company mistook your identity for someone else’s.

That said, you still failed the background check, and your employer is now forced to retract the job offer or reconsider the terms of employment. As you can imagine, this is disastrous, so it's important to know what to do and how to proceed after receiving an adverse action notice.

Can You Fail a Background Check After Receiving a Job Offer?

Yes. Lots of companies will offer job positions to qualified candidates while they wait for a background check process to complete. Background checks can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks to finish, and in some cases may be even more delayed. In the meantime, companies will offer candidates jobs in order to lock those candidates down.

Because of this, you can think that you essentially have a job and will start soon, only to be unfortunately surprised when a background check report comes back with negative or inaccurate information. If this happens, you need to file a dispute with the background check agency quickly in order to maximize the chances of recovering.

What Comes Next?

Failing a background check after receiving a job offer can feel disorienting and confusing. But remember that employers and background screening agencies have to follow specific processes and sequences of steps in order to abide by the law (and the terms under the Fair Credit Reporting Act or FCRA).

Employers Should Review Your Background Check Results

Most employers, upon receiving a candidate's failed background check report, won't immediately rescind a job offer for a qualified candidate. Instead, they will review the background check report and see what exactly failed.

In some cases, an employer may decide to ignore negative or false information on a background check. For example, if your employer notices a very old misdemeanor conviction (whether it is accurate or not), they may decide to continue with your job offer because you are such a qualified candidate anyway.

But if an employer decides to deny you an opportunity for a job on the basis of background check information, they are legally obligated to provide you with a document called an adverse action notice.

You May Receive an Adverse Action Notice

The FCRA requires employers and credit agencies to provide consumers with adverse action notices if they are denied opportunities on the basis of their background or credit information.

An adverse action notice, put simply, is a document detailing:

  • You were denied a job or financial opportunity
  • You were denied the opportunity on the basis of your background or credit information
  • The contact information of the background screening agency responsible for the information

That last bit of information is very important for you, the consumer. With that information, you can determine which background screening company may have cost you a job and contact them immediately.

You Have Rights Under the FCRA

Under the FCRA, you do have certain rights you should leverage immediately.

If you receive an adverse action letter from a prospective employer, then notice that you were denied employment because of erroneous, outdated, or otherwise inaccurate background check information, you should file a background check dispute letter with the screening agency that performed the background check service.

A dispute letter tells the company that you disagree with the information they provided and that you think it is wrong for one reason or another. The FCRA enables you to file a dispute letter whenever you receive an adverse action notice.

Furthermore, the FCRA requires background check agencies to investigate any disputes that they receive within 30 business days. Within a month, the agency in question needs to investigate the information you point out and correct it if it is inaccurate in some way. Then the agency has to respond to you and tell you its ultimate decision within five business days.

In many cases, pointing out inaccurate or false information on your background check report is enough to get the background check agency to fix the matter. The agency will inform your prospective employer, and your employer may decide to continue with your job offer. 

Since this positive outcome is definitely possible, it’s a good idea to contact your employer after receiving an adverse action notice and explain your side of the story. For instance, if you think the information that led to your job denial is inaccurate, tell them that. Employers are legally required to hold off on employment decisions while a background check dispute is in progress. 

What to Do After Failing a Background Check After Receiving a Job Offer

Failing a background check after receiving a job offer can be stressful. But it's important to stay calm and follow this step-by-step process.

Review the Adverse Action Notice

First, review the adverse action notice you received from your employer. The adverse action notice shouldn’t be too long or complex, but it may help to review it with knowledgeable legal representatives who are well-versed in background check disputes, like Fair Credit.

Your adverse action notice should break down that you were denied and the contact information of the background check agency. But your employer is not obligated to tell you exactly what information it used for the denial. Therefore, you may need to speak to your employer or guess as to what information led to you losing your job offer. 

Some employers may provide you with extra details, like pointing out exactly what background check info led to their negative decision.

What if you don’t receive an adverse action notice? Your employer (prospective or otherwise) is violating the FCRA. In that case, reach out to your employer and ask for an adverse action notice. If they deny you, you could have grounds for a lawsuit against that company.

File a Dispute Letter with the Background Check Company

Once you have your adverse action letter, you should know which background screening agency you need to contact to file a dispute. To do that, visit the background check company’s main website. Each company should have a website with an online filing portal or tool. 

This is the ideal way to file a background check dispute letter with a screening agency, as the screening agency will receive your information immediately and can begin its investigation quickly.

However, you can also usually physically mail a dispute letter to a background check company. This takes a little extra time, but it might be ideal if you don’t have a steady Internet connection or for other reasons.

In either case, your dispute letter should include:

  • An explanation of the situation
  • A copy of your adverse action notice
  • A breakdown of the erroneous, false, or outdated information that you want to be corrected

Again, an experienced law firm in this area can be of invaluable assistance. Fair Credit, for example, can help you file your dispute letter capably and quickly, ensuring that you include all the necessary information and don’t include any errors that can slow down the investigation process.

If a company needs more information to continue with its investigation, it could request it from you and pause the investigation, meaning you spend more time working through this issue instead of working for your new employer.

Speak to Your Employer

After filing your dispute letter, be sure to speak to your employer and tell them that you have opened a dispute case with the background check company in question. Again, this informs the employer that they can’t outright deny you your job offer until the dispute is complete.

If your employer really wants to hire you, this should be no trouble. They should be more than willing to wait for a few weeks for the issue to be resolved before extending you a job offer once again. 

Contact Legal Representatives

In a perfect world, you would file a dispute letter, and the background check company would find the erroneous information, correct it, and inform your prospective employer immediately. While this does happen in some cases, in others, background check agencies don’t adhere to the rules laid out by the FCRA.

For example, a background check agency may not perform an investigation once it is aware of inaccurate information. Such an agency might ignore your dispute letter or perform the investigation less than thoroughly.

In these situations and more, it’s a good idea to contact legal representatives right away. The right legal specialists can provide invaluable assistance by:

  • Helping you gather evidence that background check information is inaccurate or out of date
  • Assisting when filing a dispute letter or providing substantiating extra information to the background check company if requested
  • Providing sound legal counsel so you understand your legal options, including the possibility of a lawsuit
  • And more

Legal representatives can ensure that you make the right decision for your career, your family, and your finances. That’s why it’s a good idea to contact Fair Credit today.

Can You Sue a Background Check Company?

Yes, provided that they are violating the FCRA.

For example, if a background check company receives a dispute letter but doesn’t investigate the matter you raise within 30 business days, it’s violating the FCRA and your rights as a consumer. In this instance, you may have grounds for a successful lawsuit.

But filing a lawsuit against a background check company can be difficult, even in the best of circumstances. You have to prove that the background check company caused material damage to you or your finances by resulting in a job offer denial or recension. You also have to prove that the company violated your rights as a consumer.

If you are successful, you could recover up to $1000 in damages in addition to other compensation to cover attorney fees and related expenses. You might recover even more if your rights were violated to a significant extent.

That said, you’ll have a much easier time achieving a successful lawsuit if you work with knowledgeable attorneys. Fair Credit’s legal experts can help you throughout the lawsuit process and can tell you whether filing a lawsuit is a good idea given the circumstances and details of your case.

Wrap Up

If you fail a background check after a job offer is extended to you, don’t give up. You might be able to keep the job offer if you file a dispute letter and notice erroneous or inaccurate information from your background check results. Correcting that information could set the record straight immediately and allow you to start working for your new employer ASAP.

But if your background check screening agency doesn’t correct inaccurate information or otherwise infringes on your rights under the FCRA, you could have grounds for a lawsuit. Contact Fair Credit today for more information.

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