Can You Legally Be Denied a Job Because of Your Criminal History?

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Over the last 50 years, a number of employee laws have been passed throughout the United States with the aim of improving working conditions for classically oppressed groups. The Civil Rights Act of 1964, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), made great strides in protecting racial, sexual, national, and other minorities from outdated mindsets in the professional sphere. Subsequently, we have an imperfect but far improved employment landscape in the United States today.

That being said, there are still many Americans feeling as though their rights for employees or citizens are being regularly infringed upon, especially when they’re trying to get a job. Nowhere, perhaps, is this more the case than in the population of reformed criminals. After serving their time, many Americans return to society only to find they can’t find a legal way to make a living.

In Truth, Nothing Bans Considering Criminal Records in the Hiring Process
The problem, as the U.S. Small Business Administration writes, is that there are no specific employee laws barring the discrimination against new hires and current employees because of their criminal record. From state to state, there are different laws about whether or not an employer can even ask about records before inviting applicants to an interview. If employers do ask for that information on an application, there really isn’t anything to stop them from using that to bar an applicant from employment.

However, There Are Cases Where It is Illegal
After numerous cases challenging these situations with employment rights attorneys, the EEOC, according to Inside Counsel, has ruled that criminal record cannot be the “absolute measure” of whether or not an applicant will be considered for employment. The reasoning behind the decision is simple: criminality disproportionately affects certain social minorities in the U.S., meaning that if criminal history is a defining factor of eligibility, it could effectively be boiled down to racial discrimination, as the EEOC suggests.

Many States Pushing for Reforms in Hiring Practices
If you’re thinking that this all seems extremely subjective, you’re right. However, cases being considered throughout the United States aim to give reformed criminals their fair shake. As WXXI, a National Public Radio affiliate in Rochester, New York, reports, employment attorneys and state officials in Rochester are trying to hammer out new rules that would ban employers from asking about criminal history until an interview. If employment lawyers succeed in establishing this breakthrough for employee laws, reformed citizens will have one of their most major hurtles to a true life change disappear.

Are you a reformed criminal? What challenges have you faced with trying to get back into the work force? Let us know in the comments below. More.

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