For people with criminal records, there are many policies and laws that may get in the way of you gaining employment.
Unfortunately, the consequences of a criminal conviction are not over after sentencing. You’ll have to take steps to make yourself eligible for certain employment opportunities. If you want to move on from your past and build your life, this article should help you.
Why Employers Do Criminal Record Searches
According to a 2010 survey by The Society Of Human Resource Management, 92 percent of employers have conducted a criminal background check on some of their applicants.
Why? Mainly because they are conducive to safety in the workplace.
Background checks protect company property and protect the elderly and handicapped from being exploited financially and by sexual predators. A lot of employers also conduct background checks to protect themselves from civil liability.
Companies that work with children must make sure they are not going to hire someone who has a conviction for criminal sexual conduct.
If a child is victimized by a predator, and the company that hired the predator did not do a background check, the parents of the child will likely file a lawsuit.
Banks will not want to hire a person who has been convicted of embezzlement.
Do you want to work in law enforcement?
Individuals who want to work in police, security, or as a corrections officer need to know that these government employers are required by law not hire people who certain convictions on their record.
What Companies Can Check
If you have a criminal conviction on your record, you will be relieved to know that there is no national database a company or person can check for a felony conviction. However, most states make criminal convictions available to the public.
The Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) system gives anyone who conducts a search through this database access to the records found in federal courts. PACER allows an employer to view any case, be it criminal or civil, that a person has been involved within federal courts.
According to Paul Stephens, who is the director of the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse:
“Under federal law, criminal convictions are reportable indefinitely, unless your state provides otherwise.”
There are some protections given at the state level when it comes to employers checking criminal background histories. Several states only allow employers to look back five years for a criminal conviction. Other states allow employers to only consider misdemeanor convictions when it comes to employment.
If you were charged with a crime but not convicted, federal law under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) allows employers to examine arrest records going back seven years. Thankfully, several states do not allow their employers to consider cases where a person was arrested but not convicted.
Your potential employer is allowed to check your driving record at your local DMV. Your driving record will enable a company to access any speeding tickets, moving violations, or drunk driving convictions you may have gotten.
There is a liberalization movement across the country when it comes to denying employers the ability to consider a person’s criminal background as part of their hiring process. Numerous states are passing laws that make it illegal for a company to ask if you have a prior conviction or arrest on their record.
Just recently, the federal government passed a law called The Fair Chance to Compete for Jobs Acts of 2019. This law was part of the National Defense Authorization Act.
Under this law:
- Federal agencies (the executive, legislative, and judicial branches) and contractors with federal connections such as federal defense and civilian contractors are not allowed to seek information on conviction and arrest history until a job offer has been issued to the applicant.
- People who are seeking a job in law enforcement that have access to classified or national security are exempted from this newly passed law.
- The U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) will issue regulations implementing aspects of this law.
- The OPM will adopt procedures for private contractors and applicants, which will allow for complaints to be filed that alleged violations of the law.
- The penalties will be escalating but can only be imposed after there has been an initial written warning. If the violation is severe enough, federal agencies are allowed to suspend payment to the contractor. They will not issue the payment until the employer has made the changes required to get them into compliance with federal law.
- After two years from the signing of the law, federal agencies will be able to use all the tools necessary to enforce these regulations.
How Your Background Can Affect Your Job Hunt
Employers will take positive factors into consideration when looking at your criminal background history.
These mitigating factors are:
- How severe the crime was.
- When the crime happened
- What type of job you are looking for.
If you got caught smoking marijuana, a company will probably not hold that against you. While getting caught stealing from a previous employer will look bad, the fact that this crime took place over 20 years ago when you were a teenager will also be taken into account.
Crimes that are related to the job you are applying for are the ones that will very likely be used to disqualify someone from the job. If you are looking for an accountant job and have a prior conviction for embezzlement on your criminal record, it is very unlikely you will get the job.
Anyone that is worried about what is going to show up on their background should run a criminal background check on yourself before you submit an application.
In Michigan, a person can find this information by searching ICHAT.
Problems With Criminal Background Checks
Always check for any information that is not accurate in your report. The companies that complete background checks make a lot of mistakes.
Here are a few common mistakes to look out for:
- Reporting an arrest but then not reporting that the charges were dropped.
- Showing convictions that were sealed or have been expunged.
- Listing a single criminal charge numerous times.
- Listing a misdemeanor conviction as a felony and mistaking people with similar names.
When it comes to explaining to your potential employer about your criminal background, give an explanation that is brief. Clearly describe what happened and how you have changed from this experience and what you learned from it. Tell your potential employer that you want to be a positive force to society and how this job is such an opportunity for you.
Legal Protections for Applicants
Applicants can find legal protections from two laws: The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
FCRA demands that agencies that report information to consumers must follow various guidelines. Arrest records must not include any information that is more than seven years old. However, if the job pays over $75,000 a year a company may go back further than seven years. Records that deal with convictions are not limited by FCRA.
Reporting agencies must take steps to provide information that is accurate. This means the need to update the information on a regular basis. FCRA also requires employers who use a third party to conduct a background check to the written permission of the applicant. If the employer plans to refuse employment based on the information gathered during the check, they must provide a copy of the report and information about how to dispute the report.
If your report has an error, you need to report that error directly to the company that did the background check. If they refuse to fix the mistake, you can file a complaint with the FTC at FTC.gov. Or you can call at 1-877-382-4357.