Ex-convicts walk a difficult road of reintegration, especially when it comes to job searching. An estimated 92% of employers include background checks in their hiring processes, meaning that those with a criminal record may find themselves at the bottom of a list of applicants.
Citizens with a history of arrest enjoy some legal protections against discrimination, however. Many state and federal laws limit how employers may use criminal records.
Legal protections for job seekers
Two federal laws provide those with a criminal record some limited legal protections:
- Title VII of the Civil Rights Act: Signed into law in 1964, Title VII prohibits discrimination in hiring practices based on race, ethnicity or another protected class. Ex-convicts are not a protected class, but because people of color are over-represented in arrest and incarceration rates, employers that refrain from hiring anyone with a criminal record may be practicing racial discrimination.
- The Fair Credit Reporting Act: This law oversees accuracy in consumer reports, including records generated by background checks. These reports sometimes contain errors including expunged convictions, crime misclassification, multiple listings of a single offense or just incomplete information.
- Limited restrictions in Texas: Many state laws restrict how employers can use information obtained in a background check. Some states ask employers to consider if the crime has any bearing on the nature of the job, while some prevent employers from inquiring about arrest records at all. Texas law does not restrict an employer’s use of background checks but does place limitations on relevant information. If an ex-con applies for a position that pays less than $75,000 per year, the background check excludes arrests and convictions over seven years old. For positions with a higher salary, or jobs that are security-sensitive, a background check will include all convictions and records.
Take measures to protect oneself
Many people face hiring discrimination every day. Having an arrest record only complicates matters. Those who believe they were unfairly denied a job due to discrimination or record error have found success with the services of a local lawyer experienced in criminal law.