Trying To Find A Job With A Criminal Conviction And Understanding What Your Legal Rights Are
If you have a criminal conviction on your record, you may experience difficulties in finding employment. Many employers are likely to be biased against candidates with a criminal history, regardless of the mitigating factors of that individual’s situation. The best way to succeed in a job search despite past convictions is to inform yourself about existing laws governing criminal background checks.
Employer Use of Criminal Background Checks
According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission , the Title VII law puts two restrictions on the ways that employers may use information about your criminal history. Employers are
not allowed to intentionally discriminate against someone with a criminal record on the basis of their sex, color, race, religion, or national origin.
Employers must also be mindful that adhering to a strict “no criminal record” policy may unintentionally discriminate against candidates of a particular national origin or race. Therefore, employers are obligated to document why a specific job requires a lack of criminal history.
The law prevents employers from applying a blanket exclusion of candidates with criminal records. Employers must decide on an individual basis whether a candidate’s previous convictions make him or her unsuitable for the duties of the specific job.
For example, in a blanket exclusion of candidates with criminal histories, a candidate who has one conviction 20 years prior would be treated the same as someone with multiple convictions within the past decade.
Title VII does not require employers to utilize individualized screening in every single case; instead, it is considered a guide to
“best practice” when making employment decisions.
An employer is allowed by law to access information about your criminal history for screening purposes. However, the details of the governing laws differ from state to state. There is a federal law called the Fair Credit Reporting Act that governs the procedures that employers have to follow if they use consumer reporting agencies to acquire information about your criminal history.
It is important to note that having been arrested does not carry the same weight as a conviction for a criminal offense. In general, the consensus is that a conviction is indicative of criminal conduct, whereas an arrest is not. In some cases, employers may be within their rights to decide that behavior leading to an arrest could disqualify an individual for a certain type of job.
What Can You Do?
Although there is currently no national criminal database that can be accessed by employers, it’s likely that your state of residence does provide easy acquisition of your criminal information. Monster.com advises anyone with past convictions to become familiar with their state’s regulations about what details can be accessed by employers.
For example, some states will only allow an employer to access information about felony convictions rather than misdemeanors, while other states may specify a statute of limitations past which the conviction will not be accessible by employers. State laws also regulate whether employers can have access to juvenile records.
As a job applicant, you’ll need to choose what criminal information to disclose to an employer. It’s best to base these decisions on local regulations. When you know how much employers are able to find out about your history, you can decide what to tell an employer up front. You can also ask the employer what information will show up in your background check, giving you an opportunity to provide a reasonable explanation for anything that does turn up in your record.