When you have a criminal history, it is hard to get a fair shot at a job, even though you have already paid the price for the crime. Here are some ways you can protect yourself.
While employers are not prohibited from seeking a background check, they cannot use background checks in a way that discriminates:
- An employer cannot treat job applicants with the same criminal records differently because of their race, color, religion, sex, or national origin;
- An employer cannot subject people of a particular race, color, religion, sex or national origin to background checks but not other groups.
- An employer cannot refuse to hire applicants with criminal histories in a way that negatively impacts people of a particular race where the exclusion is unnecessary to carrying out the job.
- A background check that automatically excludes all people with criminal history or that covers more than a five-year period may violate laws against race discrimination.
If an employer does conduct a criminal background check, it has to follow the procedures required under federal law:
- An employer must provide you with a notice alerting you that a background check may be obtained;
- The notice must be in a separate document (i.e. not buried in fine print in the middle of an application);
- The employer must obtain your permission to conduct a background check (usually by signing);
- If something comes back on your background check, an employer must provide you with a copy of the background check report and a description in writing of your federal rights.
- An employer must give you an opportunity to dispute the findings of the background report before taking adverse action against you.
- The information on your background check must accurately reflect your criminal history.
If you are a low-wage worker (employed or temporarily unemployed) and experiencing problems with your background check, you may call Heartland Center for Jobs and Freedom for a free consultation. We are a nonprofit organization that helps low-wage workers access the legal and organizational support they need to protect their rights and connects low-wage workers to employment lawyers when needed.