A man in Virginia has filed a $7.5 million federal lawsuit against the city of El Paso, Texas, claiming an incorrect criminal record violates his civil rights.
In the suit, John Shelby claims that by negligently linking another man's criminal record to his name, the city's police force has invaded his privacy and prevented him from earning a living, The Virginian-Pilot reports. Shelby was arrested once when he was 19 on trespassing charges that were later dropped. Six years later, in 1997, police arrested another man who gave Shelby's name, and added that man's offenses to Shelby's record. That same year, Shelby was turned down for a casino job when a pre-employment screening
turned up the criminal charges, he told the newspaper. Though Shelby's case shows background checks
are not always accurate, they can be a useful tool for employers as they screen job applicants. However, employers are required by law to inform applicants when they are conducting a background check
. If the employer decides not to hire the worker based on the screening results, he or she must tell the applicant why and provide the person with a copy of the report on which the decision was based.