News  American background check company under fire

HireRight error almost costs McGill student his job; truckers sue over falsified background check reports

HireRight, an American company that performs background checks on job applicants, is under scrutiny from several directions, including a former McGill student who claims that he was obstructed from a job in a retail store because of a background check report containing false information.

“HireRight performed a background report for a prospective employer of mine…and on the report were certain basic facts about me that matched those of a serious convict,” he said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

“I’ve never been in jail, I’ve never been arrested, but on that basis, my job offer was rescinded before I was supposed to start working. After weeks of contacting HireRight, the information was finally corrected and I got the job. I was lucky not to be desperate at that time, and everything worked out, but if it were someone who really needed the job…a few weeks could be whether or not they could feed their family.”

In this case, HireRight’s matching via name and birth date meant that a job applicant was matched with wrong information. Several recent lawsuits challenging HireRight’s policies have arisen from within the American trucking industry.

Trucking companies use a HireRight report called Drive-a-Check (DAC) to make hiring decisions. The companies themselves submit reports to DAC on employees and former employees that later resurface in background checks on the employees. The company is required by law to provide a copy of the background check to the job applicant.

In one lawsuit, it is alleged that the company regularly failed to provide the report to the applicant until after a decision had been made based on the report’s contents. There have also been allegations that trucking companies submit false reports to the DACs in order to control and blackball the careers of certain drivers.

Allen Smith, of trucker’s association The Truth About Trucking, first became aware of the issue when false information was submitted to his own DAC and added to the report without question or investigation.

“I was on a trucking company lease program, and I wasn’t getting the miles, so I was getting starved out. So I returned the truck, but before I did, I made $3,600 worth of repairs to the truck. And they ended up putting on my DAC that I turned the truck in in bad need of repairs. That’s when the light went off that this thing was really a problem,” said Smith.

Another trucker, Bahir Smith, filed a suit in 2010 claiming that HireRight is in violation of the Fair Credit Reporting Act, which requires that the company take reasonable measures to ensure that its information is accurate and notify the applicant as they are being investigated.

In February 2006, Smith was arrested and pleaded guilty to defiant trespass and public drunkenness. In 2009, he applied for a trucking job; when he received the report that had been provided to his prospective employer, it was nine pages long and listed the single February 2006 incident three separate times, making his criminal record history seem much more serious than it actually was. Because the report was not forwarded to him at the same time that it was given to his potential employers, by the time he received the report it had already been used to make a hiring decision.

For the next job he applied for, later in 2009, the report was 11 pages long and listed the incident four times. After a third 2009 job application, he received a report listing his convictions four times, and he initiated a class-action lawsuit.

Allen Smith has created an online petition demanding that “the U.S. Government enact legislation that will protect truck drivers” from falsified DAC reports.

Currently his petition has almost 2,000 signatures, many from drivers who claim that the companies they worked for submitted false information to their reports, which HireRight failed to confirm before adding the damaging remarks to a driver’s report.

“When the DAC services were first formed, it was a good thing. It was to provide the trucking companies with information about employees…but what it has become is a retaliation tool against drivers,” said Smith.