An airport authority in Tennessee recently settled a lawsuit filed by former and current employees, who accused the employer of accessing personal data without their authorization. The case underscores the need to be fully versed in federal and local regulations surrounding background checks
and pre-employment screening
. Nine employees who formerly or currently work for the Smyrna/Rutherford County Airport Police sued Chris Sorey, the Wilson County commissioner, after he used the state's Criminal Justice Portal website to run background checks, The Tennessean reports. The website gives access to state government databases that track criminal records and driver's license information, but is only supposed to be used for law enforcement purposes. Sorey resigned in 2008, when the Tennessee Bureau of Investigations discovered his unauthorized access, and the employees filed the suit against Sorey and the airport authority in June 2009. Federal laws are strict about how far employers can go in the pre-employment screening process. The Bureau of Consumer Protection warns employers to observe the Fair Credit Reporting Act when conducting credit checks and requires companies to give job applicants written notice that their consumer reports may be used in the screening process.