Your rights: Criminal background checks for employment

If you are trying to secure employment after a criminal conviction, you may have issues due to criminal background checks. Learn more about your rights.

It is very common for employers in New York to ask applicants to submit to a criminal background check. However, many employers may be misusing the information received. Both the state and federal government have created laws to protect the rights of applicants when it comes to these background checks.

Can an employer ask about a conviction?

According to the New York Department of Labor, it is legal for an employer to ask an applicant if he or she has ever had a criminal conviction. However, employers may not ask if a person has been arrested or accused of any crimes, but an employer can ask about any pending issues.

Can employment be denied due to a conviction?

This is more complicated. Under New York law, a conviction cannot mean an immediate denial of employment. In other words, an employer cannot simply refuse to hire a person because he or she has a criminal record. There are exceptions. If the employer feels the crime the person was convicted for makes him or her a risk to its business, then employment can be denied based on the criminal record. In doing this, though, the employer must still make considerations, including but not limited to how long since the conviction, the person's age when convicted and how the crime relates to the job duties the person will have. Each applicant is entitled to having his or her case reviewed independently. Employers cannot have a blanket policy. For example, an employer cannot say it will not hire anyone convicted of theft and deny all employment to anyone convicted of theft. Determinations must be made per case.

Does an employer have to disclose a criminal background check is being conducted?

According to the Federal Trade Commission, employers must get an applicant's permission to run a background check. Furthermore, the employer must provide notice of the check separate from the employment application and explain the information will be used to make a hiring decision.

What does an employer have to do when denying employment based on the check?

If an employer denies employment based on the information in the criminal background check, it must provide the applicant with a written notice explaining why employment was denied. It must also give the applicant a chance to review the information received for accuracy.

If you are seeking employment after a criminal conviction, you may want to consult an attorney about your rights. This can help you to understand why employment may be denied and what you can do to increase your chances of finding employment.