Massachusetts Suit Against Background Investigation Firm to Proceed

A Massachusetts firefighter-applicant who was initially denied employment due to problems with his background report, has survived a motion to dismiss his suit against the contractor who performed the background investigation.

Gerald Meuse filed suit against National P.I. Services, LLC, claiming errors in the background check provided to the Everett Fire Department caused him to be passed over in 2019. Meuse was later offered a position with the department, but declined to take it.

The suit originally accused National P.I. Services, LLC, of three counts of violating the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act. Meuse later amended his complaint to include a state law violation of of Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 151B, § 4(9). That law limits the inquiries that employers or their agents can make into a prospective employee’s background.

Here is the language in question from Chapter 151B:

  • § 4 It shall be an unlawful practice: …
  • (9). For an employer, himself or through his agent, in connection with an application for employment, or the terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, or the transfer, promotion, bonding, or discharge of any person, or in any other matter relating to the employment of any person, to request any information, to make or keep a record of such information, to use any form of application or application blank which requests such information, or to exclude, limit or otherwise discriminate against any person by reason of his or her failure to furnish such information through a written application or oral inquiry or otherwise regarding: (i) an arrest, detention, or disposition regarding any violation of law in which no conviction resulted, or (ii) a first conviction for any of the following misdemeanors: drunkenness, simple assault, speeding, minor traffic violations, affray, or disturbance of the peace, or (iii) any conviction of a misdemeanor where the date of such conviction or the completion of any period of incarceration resulting therefrom, whichever date is later, occurred 3 or more years prior to the date of such application for employment or such request for information, unless such person has been convicted of any offense within 3 years immediately preceding the date of such application for employment or such request for information, or (iv) a criminal record, or anything related to a criminal record, that has been sealed or expunged pursuant to chapter 276.

National P.I. sought to have the case dismissed, and objected to Meuse’s motion to amend his complaint. National P.I. argued the delay in making the new claim was unfairly prejudicial and that Meuse’s suit was now moot since he had been offered the job by the Everett Fire Department.

The US District Court for the District of Massachusetts refused the dismiss the suit, finding that questions of fact exist as to the possible errors in the background report submitted to the Everett Fire Department. The court also concluded that Meuse adequately alleged an economic injury (delay in hiring) and reputation harm. Here is a copy of the decision.

Here is a copy of the Second Amended Complaint.

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 45 years of fire service experience and 35 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014, 4th ed. 2022) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.

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