Many employers are cautious of hiring a job candidate who has a criminal record. Although it may seem like a matter of the employer lacking trust in a person with a criminal history, it tends to be more of an issue of liability for employers who do not want to be held responsible for any future incident that may be seen as linked to the past criminal actions of someone on their staff. Given this viewpoint, it is understandable that an employer may want to investigate job applicants’ past when it comes to a criminal history, but are such inquiries themselves illegal?

Are Employers Ever Allowed to Ask about a Criminal History?

The answer is yes and no. Employers are not permitted to ask about a job applicant’s criminal history in the job application phase or in the initial interview. However, later in the process, questions about a criminal background are allowed.

Some employers in law enforcement and related fields are excluded from restrictions on such questions, even at the beginning of the process.

Why Would an Employer Fear Liability in a Future Incident Involving an Employee with a Criminal Record?

If a crime were to occur on company property or during a work shift involving the individual with a criminal history, the employer may find a finger pointed at them for enabling the work-related crime by hiring a former criminal. For example, if a job applicant were to have a history of physical violence, an altercation with a co-worker that results in serious injury might lead to a lawsuit against the employer for negligent hiring.

What Should Applicants with a Criminal Record Do When Applying for a job?

Job applicants with concerns about how a criminal background check will affect their chances should obtain a copy of their criminal record to see exactly what it contains. When asked in later interviews about your report or your criminal history, you should always answer honestly. Holding back the truth or outright lying could be held against you, even by an employer willing to overlook your past mistakes.

How Do Employers Acquire an Applicant’s Criminal Record?

Sometimes a routine online search will bring up information about a candidate’s past, but usually employers obtain the applicant’s permission to perform a background check through a consumer reporting agency, which must abide by the rules of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).

The FCRA requires employers that decide not to hire an applicant on the basis of a credit agency’s background report must provide the applicant with a copy of the report along with the employment denial notice.

What Should I Do if the Background Check Information Is Wrong?

If the record includes erroneous information, you should get it cleared up right away by contacting the agency that issued the report. The agency must investigate within 30 days. Within five days of the investigation’s conclusion, you should receive the results of the investigation in writing.

However, the inaccurate information at the heart of the issue may still exist, so knowing where the credit agency got that information is crucial. You should set the record straight with the source of the error, so it is not found again in the future by another reporting agency or employer.

Cherry Hill Employment Lawyers at Burnham Douglass Fight for Fair Hiring Practices

If you were subjected to unfair or discriminatory hiring practices, you may have a case against the employer who treated you unfairly. Certain questions and issues are off limits in a job interview. If you were asked invasive or inappropriate questions that you believe cost you a chance at a job, reach out to the Cherry Hill employment lawyers at Burnham Douglass. We can help you hold the employer accountable for illegally discriminating against you. Contact us online or call us at 856-751-5505 for a free consultation. We are located in Marlton and Northfield, New Jersey, and we serve clients throughout South Jersey, including Camden County, Burlington County, Atlantic County, Gloucester County, and Mercer County.