Imagine being denied a job because of an indiscretion you had in your past some 20 years beforehand? What about a charge brought against you that failed to result in a conviction? Or, a conviction completely unrelated to the type of work you are applying for?
These are very real scenarios and prospective employees, denied employment, are no longer sitting idle but rather examining their options to pursue damages under Pennsylvania’s Criminal History Record Information Act (CHRIA). The CHRIA is a tool to help employers and prospective employees alike understand what a criminal history check may mean for both parties. CHRIA applies to all races and doesn’t require proof that a prospective employee was denied employment based on disparate impact.
In an increasing percentage, employers are requiring criminal background checks from their prospective employees. For many employers, the results can often affect a hiring decision. However, under CHRIA, and Philadelphia’s Fair Criminal Record Screening Standards Ordinance, employers who violate the ordinance may lose their access to criminal record information, and be found liable for damages up to to $10,000. Philadelphia’s ordinance states that an employer cannot consider any conviction that is more than seven years old. CHRIA is intended to get employers to look deeper into a person’s background check and understand the nature and gravity of the crime, whether or not a person was convicted, and the pertinence to the job, along with an applicant’s qualifications, before making a hiring decision.
Often, people who have been accused, arrested, or convicted of a crime go through the rest of their lives with the stigma of being a criminal attached to them. This can hinder a person from rehabilitating into society and becoming a contributing, conscientious member of society. This Act should ensure that employers do not make blanket judgments based on a prospective employee’s records alone, but that they discover more information before coming to a decision. It is also intended to help employees who have a criminal history put the past behind them and keep it there.
Several cases have been brought to light from prospective employees who were denied employment based on old records, arrests that did not lead to convictions, and other background information. Employers have made decisions based on the records without a full accounting of the history of the issues, denying employment to qualified individuals based solely on their background checks.
Both employers and employees would benefit greatly from following these new guidelines.
If you believe an employer has denied you employment based on your background check, you may be entitled to damages. If you are an employer who wants to learn more about CHRIA, contact us today to learn more about how this can affect your business. One of our experienced business attorneys would be happy to speak to you.