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Arrest and Conviction Records: Resources for Job Seekers, Workers and Employers

This webpage contains resources for job applicants and employees with an arrest or conviction record, and employers who are considering whether to hire them.

Overview of Anti-Discrimination Laws

The EEOC enforces federal laws that prohibit discrimination – including based on race and national origin – in private, state and local government, and federal sector workplaces.

Employers can consider criminal records when they make the final decision about hiring. But employers cannot treat people differently because of their race or national origin. For example, an employer cannot refuse to hire qualified Black men with felony convictions but hire equally-qualified or less-qualified White men with similar felony convictions.

Also, an employment policy that rejects many more applicants of one race, national origin, or sex is discriminatory if the policy is not closely related to the job. An employer that rejects everyone with a conviction from all employment opportunities is likely engaging in discrimination.  

An Employer That Considers Criminal Records in Hiring Decisions Should Assess Whether the Record is Relevant to the Job. An employer can assess the relevance of a person’s criminal history and how it relates to the risks and responsibilities of the job. To do so, the employer should consider:

  1. the nature and seriousness of the offense/crime;
  2. the time that has passed since the criminal offense or completion of the sentence; and
  3. the nature of the job. 

The employer’s hiring decision should accurately predict who will be a responsible, reliable, and safe employee. Note that some laws prohibit employers from hiring people with certain criminal records for some jobs. For example, federal law prohibits anyone convicted of certain serious crimes in the last 10 years from working as a security screener or having unescorted access to secure areas of an airport. 

Arrest Records Are Treated Differently. An employer cannot refuse to hire people simply because they have been arrested. The fact that a person was arrested is not proof that they committed a crime. There are situations where an employer can explore the person’s conduct leading to the arrest and ask them to explain the circumstances. Then the employer can decide whether the conduct is a reason not to hire them or to make another employment decision.

Be Prepared to Explain. An employer may ask for more information about a person's criminal history, employment history, education, job training programs while incarcerated, family and community support, employment and character references, and other relevant rehabilitative efforts. This information can make a difference in some situations. Also, a person should inform the employer if there are errors in their criminal record. This could be important.

Job Seekers and Workers May Have Other Rights. The EEOC enforces federal equal employment opportunity law. Other federal laws, such as the Fair Credit Reporting Act, and state laws may give job seekers and workers additional legal rights. For example, some states prohibit employers from even asking about criminal history until later in the hiring process. Check with your state or local Fair Employment Practice Agency to see if there are state or local laws about requesting or considering criminal history in employment decisions. 

Applicants for Federal Employment

An arrest or conviction record is not an automatic disqualifier for most jobs with the federal government or federal contractors. With only certain exceptions, a federal government agency or a federal contractor may not ask whether you have a criminal record until after they have made you a conditional job offer. However, they can ask about criminal history after making a conditional job offer.

The Fair Chance to Compete for Jobs Act is a federal law similar to “ban the box” laws in some states and cities around the country that make it illegal to ask applicants about their criminal history before making a conditional job offer. To learn more about applying for federal jobs, including resume tips, see the Second Chance Act Federal Job Search Guide ( You can also get more information by emailing

What to Do If You Think You Have Been Subjected to Discrimination

If you think an employer has unlawfully discriminated against you, file a charge of discrimination with the EEOC or with the state or local Fair Employment Practice Agency in your area. Because there are strict time limits for filing a discrimination charge to protect your rights, you should contact us as soon as possible. Our services are free, and you do not need a lawyer to file a complaint.

Employer Coverage: Private sector employers with 15 or more employees are covered by the laws that the EEOC enforces.

Time Limits: For claims against private or state and local government employers, employees or applicants have 180 days from the date of alleged discrimination to file a charge. The deadline is extended to 300 calendar days if a state or local agency enforces a law that prohibits employment discrimination on the same basis. Federal applicants and employees have 45 days from the date of alleged discrimination to contact an EEO counselor.


Other Federal Resources

White House Fact Sheet on Expanding Second Chance Opportunities for Formerly Incarcerated Persons

National Reentry Resource Center

Reentering Your Community • A Handbook • 2016

Complying with Nondiscrimination Provisions: Criminal Record Restrictions FAQs 

Reentry Employment Opportunities 

Federal Hiring Mythbusters for Individuals with Criminal Records

The Federal Bonding Program

The Federal Bonding Program can cover the first six months of employment at no cost to the job applicant or the employer.

The Work Opportunity Tax Credit

The Work Opportunity Tax Credit is a Federal tax credit available to employers for hiring individuals from certain targeted groups, including the formerly incarcerated or those previously convicted of a felony.