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When D.C. Employers Use Criminal Records in Hiring

When you have a criminal record, it can be daunting to find a job. You might be surprised to learn that one in four Americans has been arrested. There is a stigma attached to a criminal history that can haunt an individual in his or her job search. Studies show that up to 92 percent of employers perform criminal background checks when making employment decisions. There are federal laws to limit how employers make use of job candidates’ criminal records when hiring, but the District of Columbia does not specifically restrict employer’s use of these records.??

Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, an employer must get an applicant’s written consent when making a criminal background inquiry. Additionally, it also is obligated to inform the applicant if it plans to use any criminal history in making a job decision. The prospective employee has the right to request a copy of his or her criminal record. Finally, the employer must inform the applicant about its decision based on the criminal background record.??

While this might seem to indicate difficulties for applicants with a criminal background, the District of Columbia is attempting to reverse that trend. D.C. has a law that encourages employers to hire people with a criminal background. Though some employers are reluctant to hire an employee whose record indicates a propensity toward criminal conduct, this law offers a legal defense to an employer who might be sued by a third party who is harmed by that employee’s behavior.??

An employer is still required to make a good faith effort to determine if the employee’s criminal background will negatively affect his or her job performance and the safety of his or her co-workers, but if the employer does its due diligence, it is protected in the event of a problem with that hire. This eases the stress on the employer and offers the applicant the benefit of the employer’s good will in hiring.??

A criminal history should not mean an employee has no chance at employment. This can be a difficult situation for the employer, though, and it is important that a thorough and legal background check is conducted. If you have questions about conviction records and employment, speak with the employment law attorneys at Tobin, O’Connor & Ewing in Washington, D.C.

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