Can my employer run a credit check on me?

If you've had financial issues, you might not want a potential employer to know--and you sure don't want the jerk that's your boss to know your private business. But more often employers and potential employers are pulling credit reports on you. This is especially common in workplaces where you may handle money, like a bank. Under the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), an employer can only perform a credit check on you if you have given your permission. They may get it by adding a line into your job application, something like "by signing below, you authorize Acme Inc. to obtain credit reports." If you are already employed and not sure whether your boss has authority to run a credit report on you, you can ask your human resources department.

But here's the tricky part for employers. If they decide to take an "adverse action" (i.e. not hiring you, not promoting you, or firing you) as a result of information contained in a credit report, there are rules they have to follow:

  • The employer must provide you with a copy of the report they used before they take the adverse action

  • The employer must provide you with a notice explaining which credit reporting agency supplied the negative information, and that you have a right to dispute the accuracy of your credit report

  • You are entitled to a free credit report within sixty days of the adverse action--even if you've already gotten your free credit reports from Just contact the credit reporting agency to order it

If they fail to give you the required notice, they may have violated the FCRA. Violations can result in being awarded actual damages, statutory damages between $100-$1000, and attorneys fees, which means you may only have to pay your attorney if you win your case.