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Did You Not Get the Job Because of Your Criminal History?

August 3, 2023 Workplace Discrimination

That May Be Illegal

If you have a criminal record, you are probably already aware that it can hinder you in finding a job. Data consistently shows that as hard as the job market can be for anyone, it is especially challenging for those with a criminal history—which amounts to approximately 70-100 million people in the United States.

Approximately 93% of employers conduct a background check prior to hiring—and if they find you have a record, they may not hire you. However, there are laws designed to protect your rights—and in some cases, this may be unlawful. Here are the rights you should be aware of.

Federal, State, and Local Laws Regarding Hiring and Criminal Records

It is legal for an employer to choose not to hire you because of your criminal record, but the prospective employee has rights, too. There are laws limiting the employer’s ability to make hiring decisions based on a past record, at the federal, state and local level.

At the federal level, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 states that employers can’t just reject you out of hand because of your record. There needs to be a valid reason, taking into account what type of offense you were charged with, its severity, how long ago it was, and whether it’s the kind of thing that would directly affect the job you’re being considered for.

If the offense in your history has nothing to do with the job you’re applying for; if it’s a fairly minor offense; or if it occurred a long time ago, the employer may be found to be discriminating against you if they don’t hire you for that reason. This is true throughout the country.

State and local laws, of course, vary depending on your location. Some states go further to protect the rights of ex-offenders. One of those is Pennsylvania, which has the Criminal History Record Information Act.

Under that act, employers are barred from considering certain information in your record. They are only allowed to take into account the following information when deciding whether to hire you:

  • Misdemeanor and felony convictions—not summary offenses or arrests that did not lead to a conviction.
  • Only convictions that are relevant to the job that you applied to.

In addition, if the employer made a decision not to hire you based on your criminal history, they are required to tell you the reasoning in writing.

In Philadelphia, the Fair Criminal Records Screening Standards Ordinance gives employees with a criminal record even stronger protections. In Philadelphia, employers are not allowed to ask about your criminal record when you apply for a job. They are not permitted to conduct a background check until after making at least a conditional job offer, and they are not allowed to take convictions into account that are over seven years old.

In Philadelphia, if an employer chooses not to hire you because of your criminal history, you have the right to see a copy of your background check—and you have a 10-day period to make the case to the employer why they should not consider your conviction in hiring you.

Further, if your record is expunged or sealed, you don’t have to disclose it to employers at all.

Have You Been Refused a Job Because of Your Record? You Should Speak to an Attorney.  

If you’ve been turned down in the hiring process because of your criminal record, you may have legal recourse. A knowledgeable Philadelphia employment attorney can help you gain restitution.

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.