What if you are accused of stealing from your employer at a retail store? Chances are, your alleged theft may hinder your later chances at landing a job.
When thinking of a consumer reporting agency, most people think of the big three credit bureaus - Experian, Equifax and Trans Union - and the credit histories they spit out about consumers. But there are other types of consumer reports, such as reports regarding employees who allegedly steal.
For instance, ChoicePoint, who at one time was part of Equifax, manages a collection of information called "Esteem" which is a workplace theft database. To populate its database with information, ChoicePoint collects reports from over 75,000 retailers regarding employees who allegedly steal from their employers Companies looking to hire new employees then buy reports regarding potential hires from ChoicePoint's Esteem database.
ChoicePoint is not the only one in this line of business. HireRight has compiled an employee-theft database to which 500 member companies contribute evidence of convictions, signed confessions, video surveillance or eyewitness statements regarding employee theft.
Also, the National Retail Mutual Association has collected more than 500,000 incidents of employee theft in its NRMA Retail Theft Database. NRMA obtains its information from client stores who have obtained a signed confession, a signed restitution agreement, a fully paid civil demand, a criminal conviction or other "documentary evidence."
What these companies don't take into account is that, sometimes, people plead guilty to things they did not do, because a conviction, no matter how wrongful, would impose a much worse sentence than the deal the defendant can get by pleading out. Many innocent defendants plead guilty to get probation where demanding trial also means risking jail time.
Just like the databases maintained by big three credit bureaus, the retail theft databases put consumers at risk of gross errors that could cost consumers a job and damage their reputations. Luckily, the retail theft databases are also subject to the requirements of the Fair Credit Reporting Act.
Consumers suspecting that a company may be reporting incorrect information about them to potential employers should request a copy of any and all information about them in the possession of the retail theft database companies named above. If an error is found, it should be disputed immediately and repeatedly until it is fixed or it becomes obvious that litigation is necessary to correct. At that point, consumers should contact a consumer attorney such as myself for assistance.