Federal law does not prohibit employers from asking about your criminal history. But, federal EEO laws do prohibit employers from discriminating when they use criminal history information. Using criminal history information to make employment decisions may violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended (Title VII).
The fact that an individual was arrested is not proof that he engaged in criminal conduct. Therefore, an individual's arrest record standing alone may not be used by an employer to take a negative employment action (e.g., not hiring, firing or suspending an applicant or employee). However, an arrest may trigger an inquiry into whether the conduct underlying the arrest justifies such action.
In contrast, a conviction record will usually be sufficient to demonstrate that a person engaged in particular criminal conduct. In certain circumstances, however, there may be reasons for an employer not to rely on the conviction record alone when making an employment decision.
Several states' laws limit employers' use of arrest and conviction records to make employment decisions. These laws may prohibit employers from asking about arrest records or require employers to wait until late in the hiring process to ask about conviction records. If you have questions about these kinds of laws, you should contact your state fair employment agency for more information.
Employers that obtain an applicant's or employee's criminal history information from consumer reporting agencies (CRAs) also must follow the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). For example, FCRA requires employers to:
If you would like to know more about FCRA, visit the Federal Trade Commission's (FTC) website (the federal agency that enforces FCRA). Or contact the FTC at 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-832-4357); TTY: 1-866-653-4261.