When someone is convicted of a crime, the purpose of the associated penalties is to make amends for the crime(s) committed, and ideally, began a path towards reforming their previous lifestyle, so that they may integrate successfully as a functioning, productive member of society. One of the first steps along this path is finding stable, reliable employment after serving their sentence.
Unfortunately, saying that finding employment with a criminal record is a daunting task would be the understatement of the year. The majority of employers conduct a background check for employment on at least some of their applications. When a criminal history does pop up, it can serve as a warning signal that prevents a well-intentioned person from getting a job they deserve.
Lack of Employment Opportunities and Long-Term Effects
It’s estimated that as many as 100 million Americans have criminal records, a number that equates roughly to 1 in 3. According to the Sentencing Project, more than 60% of formerly incarcerated individuals are still without employment one year after their release, and when they do find work, their rate of pay is estimated to be 40% less.
Add to this that half of those incarcerated in state and federal prisons are parents to minor children. A lack of meaningful employment opportunities means that more families are vulnerable to the cycle of poverty and the increased risk of repeat incarceration that comes with it.
Are employers within their rights to run criminal background checks and base their hiring decisions off the results? In many cases, yes. However, there are some exceptions and protections for those seeking employment with a criminal record.
Protections for Job Applicants
Criminal record background checks are done as an extra measure to ensure a safe working environment for everyone involved. Simply put, there are certain employment opportunities that would be poorly aligned with some crimes. That said, many people with criminal records are non-violent offenders whose past history should have no bearing on their future potential.
For this reason, specific protections for job applicants have been put in place. These protections include the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and Ban the Box laws in some states.
The FCRA places limits and guidelines on how criminal reports can be used in determining employment eligibility, including the fact that criminal records that are 7 years or older cannot be taken into consideration unless the position pays more than $75,000 a year.
California is one of 31 states that have adopted Ban the Box or fair chance policies. The law seeks to break down the employment limitations that keep those with criminal records “boxed in”. In California, the law states that any company having 5 or more employees:
- Cannot include on any application for employment questions regarding the applicant’s criminal history.
- Cannot Inquire about or consider the criminal history of an applicant before they receive a conditional employment offer
- Cannot consider or distribute information about an arrest that didn’t result in conviction or convictions that have been sealed, dismissed or expunged when regarding an application for employment.
The good news is that there are employers who hire felons, and many major corporations are standing up, providing those with criminal records a second chance and breaking down the misconceptions about hiring someone with a past criminal record.
We’re Here to Help
If you’re having trouble finding meaningful employment after a criminal record and feel you are being discriminated against, contact Elden Law Group for a free consultation. We’re here to help and answer your questions.