- Associated Press - Friday, March 28, 2014

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - A Minnesota man who was fired from his job after a background check provided erroneous information to his employer will be allowed to proceed with a lawsuit against the company that conducted the background check.

U.S. District Judge Michael Davis ruled this week that three of Mahlon Martin’s ten claims can proceed toward trial.

Martin was fired from his job as a mortgage specialist at Wells Fargo in 2011 after a background check by First Advantage Background Services Corp. said he’d been in jail for impersonating an officer, The Star Tribune reported (http://strib.mn/1jeZFDo ). In truth, Martin was never jailed but put on probation for the misdemeanor, and the case was dismissed a year later.

First Advantage spokeswoman Lauren Kulik said in an email to the newspaper that her company has one of the strongest accuracy records in the industry.

The lawsuit is going forward as state lawmakers consider bills that would revise the state’s policy on expunging records, including criminal histories, with the goal of giving offenders who have reformed a second chance.

According to Davis’ summary of the case, Martin was arrested in 1997 when a sheriff’s uniform was found in his car. He pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of impersonating a police officer.

His sentence was suspended, and he served a year of unsupervised probation. The case was dismissed in 1998, but his conviction was not expunged.

Martin began working at Wells Fargo in 2009, and more than a year later, he began taking mortgage applications and negotiating loan terms. Under federal law, Wells Fargo can’t employ a mortgage originator who had been convicted of a crime involving dishonesty.

During a background check, First Advantage discovered Martin’s arrest, and said the record indicated he had been jailed for a year and given probation. Martin was fired.

He then went to court and had the case expunged. He sued in 2011 after First Advantage did not change its findings.

On Wednesday, Martin told the newspaper that after he was fired, he was unemployed for six months and he and his partner lost their medical benefits.

“At least I will have an opportunity to present my case to a judge and jury,” he said.

Wells Fargo was dropped from the lawsuit, under a mutual agreement between Martin and the bank.

Kulik, of First Advantage, said the company will “continue to refine our practices while setting the industry standard in accuracy and reliability.”

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