Background Checks, Credit And Criminal Records

Employers routinely use background checks, credit reports and criminal record checks to make hiring and other employment decisions. In certain situations, such practices may violate the law.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination in every aspect of employment, including the screening and hiring of employees. If an employer adopts a blanket policy that excludes all applicants or employees with a criminal record, and that policy has a disproportionate impact on applicants and employees of color (such as African-Americans and Latinos who are overrepresented in the criminal justice system), that employer could be liable for race discrimination in violation of federal civil rights law.

The federal Fair Credit Reporting Act gives applicants and employees the right to review any report an employer relies on to take any adverse employment action, including the denial of employment, to determine whether the information contained in the report is accurate. If an employer denies access to the report, an employee or applicant may sue for damages under the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

NY Law Regarding Employers’ Use Of Criminal History

In New York State, it is illegal for an employer to ask an applicant about any criminal arrest or to make any employment-related decision, such as not hiring a prospective employee, because of a criminal arrest.

New York employers may request information about criminal convictions. However, an applicant cannot be denied a job because of a criminal conviction unless the crime committed directly relates to the job.

Whenever an employer requests or obtains a consumer report with information about an applicant or employee’s criminal conviction information, the employer must provide written notice.