In 2012, Anya McPherson was working as a temporary data entry clerk for Canon Solutions America (known at the time as Canon Business Solutions). In April of that year, the company approached McPherson asking her to apply for a more permanent position with the company. She got the job but shortly afterward was informed, via a phone call from human resources, that she had failed her background check. The routine background screening had uncovered a 12-year-old felony in McPherson's past. The same day she received the call, McPherson was also terminated from her position.
McPherson ended up filing a class action lawsuit against Canon, citing the illegal and improper use of background checks that had led to her termination from the company. McPherson claimed that Canon had violated the Fair Credit Reporting Act by not providing her with a copy of the background check report used to make the firing decision. The company also did not furnish McPherson with the information on the company that had run the background check, which she would have been able to use to obtain a free report. As a result, McPherson says that she was never given a chance to dispute the findings of the background check report.
In addition to the simple illegality of the FRCA violations, McPherson believes that she would not had been fired by Canon had the company given her a chance to explain. It is not clear from news materials precisely what sort of felony charge McPherson had on her record that lost her the job with Canon. However, the plaintiff has claimed repeatedly that, if Canon had gone through the proper channels with her background check, she would have been able to point out that her offense was eligible for expungement. Whether McPherson has had her felony records expunged since her departure from Canon is also unclear.
Now, the class action suit looks like it is officially coming to an end. McPherson, her lawyers, and their class appear to have come to a mutually agreeable out-of-court settlement for the case, and the lawsuit is being dismissed. Still, there's a lesson to be learned here, not just for employers, but for job seekers as well. The first lesson is that companies, both big and small, need to follow the FCRA to the letter of the law. Long, drawn-out legal battles like the one between McPherson and Canon are costly, not just monetarily but also to a company's reputation.
Secondly, employees or job searchers need to remember to be vigilant and truthful about their history. While McPherson might have eligible to have her felony expunged, she didn't go through the process of doing so before an employer found it and she had to face consequences. On the job application for the permanent position at Canon, records show that McPherson checked "no" when asked if she had a criminal record. Since her felony was not sealed or expunged at the time, McPherson answered that question dishonestly. It's a reminder to ex-offenders that "eligibility" does not equal "expungement." If you want to find out if your record is eligible for expungement, visit www.myclearstart.com
About Michael Klazema The author
Michael Klazema is Chief Marketing Technologist at EY-VODW.com and has over two decades of experience in digital consulting, online product management, and technology innovation. He is the lead author and editor for Dallas-based backgroundchecks.com with a focus on human resource and employment screening developments.