A Background Check Company Made A Mistake That Cost Me A Job: What Kinds Of Damages Can I Recover In A Lawsuit?

You’ve lost a job because a background check company reported inaccurate information about you.  All is not lost.  You may be able to file a lawsuit under the Fair Credit Reporting Act to obtain damages from the background check company.  What types of damages might be available?

  • Lost Wages. The FCRA allows you to recover the wages you lost due to an inaccurate background report.  The calculation of lost wages varies on a case-by-case basis.  It includes considerations about the salary or hourly wages you would have made at the job you lost, any lost bonuses or commissions, and how long it took to find comparable employment.
  • Emotional Distress. The stress of losing a job can be overwhelming.  When an inaccurate background report leads to denied employment, you can recover for the emotional distress that you suffer.  Oftentimes this is the most significant damage people suffer in FCRA employment cases.  Every person’s emotional distress is different.  Here are common experiences many people go through:
    • Stress about paying bills
    • Stress about inability to afford groceries and provide for a family
    • Humiliation about the inaccurate information and job loss
    • Anxiety about where to find a new job
    • Lost sleep
    • Depression and sadness
    • Lost appetite
    • Headaches
    • Loss of interest in hobbies or other activities
    • Worry that the background report will cause future job losses
    • Worry that the background report may be responsible for prior job denials
    • Frustration about a damaged reputation
  • Lost Time. The time spent trying to fix the harm caused by an inaccurate background report is compensable.  People can lose many hours trying to repair the harm caused by an inaccurate background report.  This includes time drafting dispute letters, disputing over phone calls, speaking with potential employers, talking to court clerks, applying for other jobs, and trying to contain the harm of the erroneous background check.  This is time that could have been spent doing things you enjoy, and it is a recoverable type of damage in an FCRA lawsuit.
  • Statutory Damages. The FCRA allows consumer to recover statutory damages ranging from $100 to $1,000.
  • Punitive Damages.  Punitive damages are awarded to deter future bad conduct by a defendant.  The FCRA specifies that punitive damages are available when a defendant’s FCRA violation was willful.  Willfulness is a legally complex concept.  It includes instances where the defendant intentionally violated the FCRA as well as when it acts in reckless disregard of the law.  The size of a punitive damages award is affected by many factors including the harm to consumers by the defendant’s conduct, the defendant’s size and net worth, and the egregiousness of the defendant’s conduct.