stripping and background checks
(this is US specific)
I started looking into background checks after clarawebbwillcutoffyourhea pointed out that being an employee of a club would show up on a background check the same as an independent contractor that was issued a 1099. Like many strippers, I think, I had heard that being an employee and getting a W-2 was basically a guarantee that stripping would go on your record somewhere. I’d heard this repeated so often I’d just sort of accepted it as fact.
I realized I didn’t really know jack shit about background checks, and I can’t be the only one. I decided to do some research and figure out how they work and what really will and will not show up on one and then share what I find for anyone else who might not know.
Before anything else, I need to say that I am NOT an expert on this. I did a lot of research but this is a subject where there really isn’t a straight, easy answer. First, there is a lot a false or partial information floating around. I sorted through a lot of bullshit. Second, there isn’t one standard database all background checks run though. Not all companies subscribe to the same databases. What information or databases are available varies from state to state, as do laws stating how and when this information can be used. I’ve gotten the general gist of how it works, but if you have information specific to a certain area please share it.
Typically, if they’re doing anything deeper than a Google search of your name, employers will pay an outside company to perform a background check. These companies will pay for access to various public-record databases, will request relevant records, and may even have people go in person to check records not available online. Background checks conducted by an outside company are regulated by the Fair Credit Reporting Act. Under the FCRA these background checks are referred to as “consumer reports” and the businesses that supply them “consumer reporting agencies”.
You do have rights under the FCRA. For example, consumer reporting agencies can only give your report to an employer with your written consent. If someone uses the information in the report to make a decision against you- whether it be for a loan, insurance, employment, etc- they must inform you. You have the right to know what’s in your file.
Basically, a background check can potentially return any information that is public record. The main types of background checks done are on criminal records and credit reports. But they can also include things like court records, professional licensing, and workers’ compensation claims. Rather than go through every piece of potentially included info, I want to focus on the ones that seemed most relevant to working as a stripper.
But before I do that, I want to say that just because something is public record and could be included on a background check, doesn’t mean it will. With the exception of things like criminal record and sex offender registries, a lot of what a background check does is verify the information that you have provided is accurate. Most background checks aren’t going to go much deeper than the standard credit report and criminal records. They certainly aren’t going to comb through every piece of public record in every city and state just in case you’re hiding something. My goal is to share the information I’ve put together, not make people unnecessarily paranoid. So please, do not take the words “public record” to be synonymous with “will definitely show up on a background check.”
Credit report. This is probably the most important one. Most of the instances I found where stripping showed up on a background check was because of this. A dancer used their job at the strip club as proof of income when applying for a loan or an apartment, and the information was saved to their credit report. If you are worried or unsure what’s on your credit report, you can check it for free and without hurting your score. If it reveals something about dancing, you can file a dispute to try and get it removed. You can file a dispute online through whichever company you use to view your report. If the information can’t be verified as accurate within 30 days, it is removed (or should be- I’ve seen claims that it takes longer). If this doesn’t work, at least you can prepare yourself with a cover story (bartender, waitress, hair/makeup lady).
Licenses. Business licenses are considered public record in most, if not all, states. Depending on state laws, this could include dancer licenses as well. However, there are a couple things to keep in mind. First, when background checks are done to look into licensing, it’s typically to make sure the applicant has the licenses they claim to, not to turn up ones they didn’t mention. To find a dancer license, they would probably need to specifically request these records, which isn’t extremely likely. If the dancer license was issued in a different area, especially if it was a different state, the chances of someone requesting records for that specific license in that specific area is even smaller.
Workers’ compensation claims. While something that probably doesn’t apply to most dancers, with the recent lawsuits and push for employee status in some areas I thought it might be important cover. This is a tricky one- initially I found claims that workers compensation claims were public record and subject to inclusion on background checks. This is true, sort of. In some (most?) states, workers’ compensation claims are public record. However, because the Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits employers from discriminating against people with disabilities and those who have made valid workers’ comp claims, inquiry into these records can only be done after a conditional job offer has been made. Under the ADA they can only fire/not hire someone if it reveals they are not able to complete job duties with reasonable accommodation, or they lied during a (”lawful, post-offer”) inquiry into their condition or workers comp history. How this would play out in terms to outing a past as a stripper rather than disability, I can’t say.
Tax history. It is possible for an employer to retrieve past tax returns, W-2 and 1099 transcripts from the IRS. However, you must sign an IRS document (form 4506-T) giving them permission to have this information. I couldn’t find any hard figures on how common this is. Anecdotally it seems rare, but is apparently more common in some industries than others (such as the financial sector). Working as an employee and working as an independent contractor for a club that issues 1099s (which any club that uses funny money should) carry the same risk of being outed in this regard.
Previous residences. While not outing you directly, you may have problems with a background check if you lie about where you’ve lived. I think this is something that may be relevant to strippers because we often have employment gaps we need to explain or fill in. If you claim you were living in one area (saying you were helping out family, or to use a cover job) but a background check reveals you were living in another area at that time, you may have to explain the discrepancy. Shouldn’t be too hard to come up with a cover story, but it’s good to be prepared.
I want to mention something that won’t show up (probably)- participation in a class action lawsuit. I got curious about this when I saw “court records” mentioned as something that can be included in background checks. With recent lawsuits against clubs, I wondered if this should be cause for concern. Obviously when you are a named plaintiff on a lawsuit there will be record of that, and in many cases with strippers bringing lawsuits on their clubs, media attention. But in the case of class action lawsuits, what about everyone else included in the class? Unnamed members of the class are referred to as “absent class members.” It was hard to find information on this, and all I turned up was a question posed to a free legal advice site , but the answers were pretty unanimous that the list of absent class members DOES NOT become public record. (Ironically, one attorney mentioned that a list of those who opted out might.)
That about covers it. I want to reiterate- I’m not an expert, and laws that impact public records and background checks varies from state to state and possibly even city to city. I've done my best to determine what information is accurate. I've provided links to the sites I found most helpful, along with shortened URLS to make typing them in less of a chore. All the information I've presented here should be covered in these sources. Please don't hesitate to do your own research, especially to find out about any public records laws that may exist specific to your area.
A summary of your rights under the FCRA (pdf):
short link: http://goo.gl/sEh5sa
FCRA complete text (pdf):
short link: http://goo.gl/M4vt0K
Employment background check Fact Sheet (includes list of the kinds of records they may include):
short link: http://goo.gl/z5pqBM
Disputing Errors on Credit Reports
short link: http://goo.gl/5TAhrn
Americans with Disabilities Act Q&A
short link: http://goo.gl/3uSKKV
Veri-Tax FAQ: 4506-T Processing
short link: http://goo.gl/iMBQ2H
“Are ALL plantifts in a class action lawsuit public record?”
short link: http://goo.gl/Pbrp5i