Court Finds in Favor of Defendant in Background Check Violations Case
The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania determined that AMCS Group, Inc. did not violate background check law by revoking a job offer after uncovering an applicant's conviction via an online search.
After undergoing an interview process that lasted a few months, the plaintiff (Mostafa Aram Azadpour) was offered a position with AMCS and signed an agreement on May 1, 2018 to become a vehicle technology consultant for the company. Subsequent to executing the agreement, AMCS conducted an online search of the plaintiff's name which purportedly revealed information that incited the employer to revoke the offer.
Four days following the execution of the job offer agreement, AMCS pulled their offer. The plaintiff received an email from AMCS stating that "after our background check that is part of our process was completed I was informed I cannot follow through or proceed with the offer. This was a surprise and very disappointing." Attached to the email was a letter stating that "after further consideration" the company was "rescinding its offer of employment to you and/or terminating any such employment effective immediately."
Upon emailing AMCS back the same day requesting a copy of the background check, the plaintiff received a response from AMCS' HR department stating "[a]s you know we didn't actually do a background check - it was a Google search that revealed the items of concern." Later, the individual that would have been Azadpour's supervisor sent an email indicating that he had "mistakenly referenced a formal 'background check,'" which incited the plaintiff applicant to take legal action.
The plaintiff's allegation in this case was that AMCS violated Pennsylvania's Criminal History Record Information Act (CHRIA) by pulling an offer after uncovering (via a web search) that the plaintiff had been convicted of a misdemeanor. State law only prohibits employers from misusing "criminal history record information," which is described as information "collected by criminal justice agencies." As such, an employer is not in violation of the CHRIA if it learns about a candidate's past criminal history through means other than "criminal history record information."
The plaintiff contended that by simply entering his name into a publicly available Internet search engine, a criminal history would be revealed as a matter of public record. Since the CHRIA does not "shield an applicant's prior misconduct from an employer's hiring determination when the employer learns about the misconduct through a means other than the applicant's criminal record information file," his contention was not applicable.
Employers are encouraged to review internal vetting, screening and job offer protocols to ensure compliance with both state and federal laws pertaining to the use of criminal history record information. To mitigate risk of exposure, employers should also review the quality, accuracy and authenticity of the sources being accessed when screening applicants.
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