Ask the Lawyer received the following question (paraphrased for easier reading and clarity) from a reader on a legal matter that might be of interest to the entire audience.
I am a federal employee and I have a workers comp case for a repetitive motion injury and I just learned that my employer hired an investigator to follow me and see if I am truly limited. While I understand that they apparently do have the legal right to go this far, does my employer have the legal right to give the investigator my social security number to run a credit and background check on me? And does my employer have the right to run a background check on my significant other, who happens to work at the same place as I do? That seems like a real invasion of his privacy – he is essentially irrelevant to my worker’s comp claim.
Your employer can investigate it. Whether it can release your social security number depends on the routine uses to the Privacy Act as published in the Federal Register. Although I have not looked at those routine uses, I suspect that they probably allow the disclosure. Also, if your IG is looking at this, they have very broad authority.
Bill Bransford is managing partner of Shaw Bransford & Roth PC.
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Looking at your credit report without your permission would be a violation of the FCRA. There is no allowance to view your report to investigate, especially for non criminal activity. The government has a legal right to view it before you are hired but very limited authority after hiring.