How Much Can Potential Employers Ask About You?

by dave on June 15, 2012

in Criminal Justice

NPR ran a story last week by the same title, discussing what exactly employers have a right to know when they are thinking about hiring you. More and more are conducting criminal background checks, but some are also checking credit reports and even social networking habits. Just how far can they go and how can a criminal conviction affect your ability to get a job?

According to their report, 90% of employers conduct criminal background checks on potential hires. Most of them do this to maintain the safety of their other employees and customers. As the NPR report points out, if you go on to commit an offense on the job, the employer can be held liable. Not only that, if your crime of choice is embezzlement or theft, they could themselves be victimized.

But when they find a criminal conviction that occurred decades ago or was completely unrelated to anything that could affect your job, can they use that to deny you a job? Technically, no.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission revised it’s guidelines last month to make things clearer for employers. Basically, they are to only use the cases that are “directly relevant to the position” you are seeking. Also, employers should only be looking at actual convictions, not instances where the charges were later dropped.

While these guidelines are nice, there’s little doubt that employers often let a criminal record play a larger role than it should in determining who should get the job. Take an instance where two applicants are equal in every regard, but one has a 5 year old conviction for theft, who do you think will be hired?

A criminal conviction can haunt you for years, even if it’s only for a misdemeanor theft or a DUI charge.

Employers will continue to get background checks. The obtaining of criminal records isn’t likely to change. However, it would be beneficial if the new guidelines changed how the records were used.

There isn’t a whole lot that can be done to rid yourself of the negative repercussion of a criminal conviction. Pardons are rare. The key to minimizing the effects lies in avoiding a conviction altogether.

If you are charged with something like assault or a weapons offense, employers can automatically assume that you are a risk. But even if your record includes something like DUI, an employer might opt for someone without a record rather than you.

We can put you in contact with a criminal defense attorney in your area that may be able to help.


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