Criminal History Record Information Act
Our entire economic system is based upon the concept that employees work to earn money to support employees and their families. Individuals with a criminal history may have problems finding employment. Unfortunately, a criminal record can often be a significant barrier to being employed. Employers may decide not to hire employees based upon their past criminal history. Depending upon the nature of the crime and the job, this decision may be illegal.
For many jobs, laws do not exist to control an employer's decision about an applicant with a criminal record, thus, employers may have a great deal of discretion in determining whether or not they decide to conduct a background check, and if a prospective employee is an ex-offender, whether to hire the person. However, there are limits to an employer's discretion. The Criminal History Record Information Act, a Pennsylvania law, 18 Pa. C.S.A. §9125, provides that employers may only use an employee’s previous criminal history for limited purposes in deciding whether or not to hire an employee. Felony and misdemeanor convictions may only be considered by an employer to the extent to which they relate to a job applicant’s suitability for employment in the position for which the employee applied. Further, if the employer makes a hiring decision based upon a potential employee’s criminal history, the employer must notify the applicant in writing if the decision not to hire is based on whole or in part on criminal history information.
The Criminal History Record Information Act permits any person whose rights are violated by a potential employer’s violation of the law to file a civil action for damages caused by any violation. The employer can be responsible for damages, including all actual and real damages of not less than $100 for each violation, punitive damages of not less than $1,000 nor more than $10,000, if the action is found to be willful, and reasonable costs of litigation and attorneys' fees.
The Criminal History Record Information Act forbids criminal convictions from being considered as part of the employment hiring decision process unless the criminal conviction relates to the job for which the employee applied. The Criminal History Record Information Act does not apply to all jobs as there are certain occupations or fields where criminal background may preclude employment either in the entirety or for a significant length of time following convictions. For instance, the Child Protective Services Law (CPSL), which applies to job applicants for schools and child care and anyone with a significant likelihood of regular contact with children or the care, supervision, control or training of children, precludes employment of ex-offenders.
Examples of other jobs which have laws which either preclude employment either in the entirety or for a significant length of time may include aircraft/airport employee, armored car crew member, bank employee, employee benefits employee, nurse, nursing home/home or health care workers in long-term care facilities, police, port workers, accountant, architect, casino employee (gaming employee), chiropractor, dental hygienist, dentist, engineer, land surveyor, geologist, funeral director, horse racing industry jobs, insurance adjuster, emergency medical technician, mortgage broker, motor vehicle dealer, occupational therapist, optometrist, pawnbroker, pharmacist, physical therapist/athletic trainer, physician, psychologist, real estate appraiser, real estate broker, speech pathologist/teacher of the impaired, social worker, tax assessor, certain truck drivers and veterinarian.
We have represented employees who have been unlawfully denied jobs based upon their criminal history. If you have been denied a job based upon your criminal history, it is critical to have the entire situation reviewed by a qualified employment law attorney. We are most proud of our representation when someone with a prior criminal history has reformed his/her life, made a commitment to improving society, and is denied a job for which he/she was qualified based upon a criminal history, when suitability for the position cannot be based upon the criminal history.