If you are in the job market, you have probably already filled out a number of applications. You may be wondering whether your prior arrests will show up on background checks, and just how to go about filling out these applications. This quick guide to Pennsylvania criminal background check laws will answer your questions. If you need additional assistance, please seek legal help from an experienced criminal defense attorney.
Ban the Box Laws
Ban the Box is an international campaign that is frequently interchangeable with the Fair Chance Act. Its proponents claim that although more Americans have criminal records because of tougher drug laws, it is increasingly harder to find a job with a criminal record. They have requested a ban on public sector employers asking questions regarding a potential employee’s criminal history until they make a hiring decision – the box refers to the checkbox on most applications that asks if the prospective employee has a criminal record.
Essentially, Ban the Box advocates wanted employers to make hiring decisions based on the merits of their qualifications, rather than have the qualifications and the hiring process tainted by the presence of a general knowledge of a criminal record. Currently, 33 states and Washington, DC have Ban the Box laws.
Opposition to Ban the Box
Some opponents say that Ban the Box laws waste employers’ time by not allowing them to screen out employees they would not hire anyway. In some cases, employers cannot run background checks until they make a conditional offer of employment, only to decide to withdraw the offer based on the contents of the background check. Other opponents claim the movement negatively affects prospective employees; some claim it has made employers less likely to hire minorities, and others cite the fact that job seekers may be wasting time pursuing a job that will not hire them anyway.
Ban the Box Laws in Pennsylvania
In 2017, Pennsylvania instituted a Ban the Box policy that removed the criminal history checkbox from all public sector job applications. Certain cities, including York and Philadelphia, instituted tougher versions of this policy. If you are applying for a job in Pennsylvania, particularly in Philadelphia, you may not need to disclose your criminal history.
Philadelphia is particularly strict. Employers here may not ask you about your criminal history on an application or during an interview. They may run a criminal background check, but only after they make you a conditional offer of employment.
Will an Arrest Show on Your Background Check?
Yes – all arrests should show on background check information about 24 hours after the arrest. Depending on the municipality, employers may run background checks during the interview process or after the employment offer. However, Pennsylvania law states that employers may only consider criminal convictions, and may not use arrests not resulting in conviction in any decision making.
If your arrest occurred more than seven years ago, employers cannot consider it. If your arrest resulted in a conviction, the employer must consider whether your offense is relevant to the job you applied for, and if your behavior would impact your ability to do the job. Employers must also consider whether your hiring would result in an unacceptable risk to their business or other people.
What if the Employer Withdraws Your Offer?
If you have an employment offer withdrawn on the basis of your criminal record, the employer must submit a written document outlining the rejection along with a copy of the background check. You have ten days to submit a rebuttal, evidence of rehabilitation, or proof that the record was wrong.
In general, if you are applying for a job in Pennsylvania, most employers cannot ask you about your criminal history unless they make you an employment offer. If you encounter a checkbox for criminal history, you do not need to check it, but keep in mind that a background check will reveal your criminal history later in the process.