Skip to Content
Philly Employment Lawyer Philly Employment Lawyer

Serving PA and NJ  | 

Free Consultation 267-273-1054

Applying for a Job With a Criminal Record?

February 2, 2024 Workplace Discrimination

Your Rights in Pennsylvania and Philadelphia

A criminal record can sometimes be a barrier to employment. Studies show that formerly incarcerated people have much higher rates of unemployment than the regular population—as many as 60% of the recently incarcerated are without a job a year after release, according to the New York Times.

However, those with a criminal record have certain rights when it comes to looking for employment—rights they need to be aware of as they start their job search.

Federal Protections for Job-Seekers With a Criminal Record

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 provides protections at the federal level for people with a criminal record who are seeking employment.

Under this law, the employer can’t just make a unilateral decision not to hire anyone with a criminal record. Employers have to take into account relevant information about your criminal history when making a hiring decision, such as the following:

  • How long ago the offense occurred
  • The severity of the offense
  • The type of offense and whether it directly relates to the position

If an employer chooses not to hire you because of your criminal history, they have to demonstrate that they had a good reason. If the court disagrees that the offense was a valid reason to choose not to hire, they may be found in violation of the law.

Pennsylvania Protections for Job-Seekers With a Criminal History

In addition to federal law, some states have their own laws that give additional protections to job seekers with a criminal history.

In Pennsylvania, employers are only allowed to consider misdemeanor and felony conditions in a job-seeker’s past. There are a range of things they are not allowed to consider, including:

  • Offenses that happened when you were underage
  • Summary convictions—less serious instances of petty crime, such as traffic offenses
  • Completed diversionary programs
  • Arrests that did not result in a conviction

If you do have a misdemeanor or felony in your past history, the law requires employers to consider the circumstances in a similar way as the 1964 Civil Rights Act. They have to take into consideration factors such as the seriousness of the offense, how long ago it was, and whether it is relevant to the job you’re applying for.

Philadelphia’s Ban the Box Law 

In Philadelphia, you have even stronger protections if you have a criminal history. Under this law, most employers in Philadelphia County have to comply with certain additional requirements, including:

  • They are not allowed to ask about your criminal history, either in job applications or your initial interview.
  • They are only permitted to run a background check after making a conditional offer of employment.
  • They can’t rescind a job offer based on your record if your conviction or incarceration was seven or more years in the past, unless the law requires that they don’t hire you.
  • They can’t turn you down based on an arrest that did not lead to a conviction, no matter when the arrest occurred.

Employers are allowed to ask you about your criminal history after making a conditional job offer, and they are allowed to refuse to hire you if you lie about your history. However, you don’t have to disclose a record that has been sealed or expunged.

If they do decide to rescind your job offer, they have to notify you in writing with a copy of your criminal record. In that case, you have 10 days to address it—by showing the record is inaccurate, or by explaining the conviction.

Rejected for Employment Based on Your Criminal Record? Speak to a Philadelphia Employment Attorney

If you have been rejected for a position based on your criminal history and you suspect the employer may have violated the law, you should speak to a knowledgeable employment attorney.

Your attorney can assess the situation, determine if laws have been broken, and gain restitution for you in court. Call us at 267-273-1054 or email us at for a free, confidential consultation today.

The information provided here does not constitute legal advice. It is intended for general purposes only. If you have questions about a specific legal issue, you should speak to an attorney.