You may easily get a job due to your experience and knowledge. However, if you have been charged for a felony then it becomes rather cumbersome procedure altogether. It is quite natural for employers to check your background before they even think of giving you a job. However, if you have the will and understand the process well enough then you may get the job you want. It is after all your ability and a different set of rules that states have laid out that determines your chances.
Below you will find a comprehensive guide to a background check so that you may take your chances of getting a job.
What Shows Up On a Background Check?
Any person having a past record of a felony would find the job market impenetrable to a large extent. Of course, this may vary from state to state in the United States yet it would be better to informed about the whole process generally. Firstly, it must be understood that charges of a felony would be there permanently in your records. It also means that your record is likely to be assessed by your bank, employer as well as law enforcement agency. With digitalization, this means that they can assess them the moment you submit your resume and at any time.
But there is hope as some states have slightly better rules to favor job aspirants facing felony than others. It is here that you may take some advantage. In fact, you stand far better chances in these states. Further, some states may find the nature of felony charges to be a little milder than others.
1. Identifiable Details about the Employee
It is to be noted by you that all states have general rules through which they identify a person with a felony or not. If you have charges of a felony then your full name, age, and date of birth would come up first. The next in line would be your maiden name or names by which you may have been connected with people in the past.
Your prospective employer or law enforcement agency would be able to note your current address, if any, as well as your phone number quite easily. They would be able to track your previous addresses for the past ten years. The list again goes on with your marriage records as well as your divorces. Then, of course, they will come across your previous cases of felony and this may include your conviction by law, any recorded misconducts, and sexual crimes.
And not in the least is your record of court orders and records that includes judgments and arrest warrants. Naturally, if you have served imprisonment then that too appears for your prospective employer or law enforcement officers rather easily. You may have even applied for bankruptcy or perhaps there is only a tax issue yet the same cannot be hidden while duly checking your background.
It is therefore obvious that small or large organizations have easy accessibility to any employee’s personal information.
2. Know Your Rights
This doesn’t mean that you don’t have any rights. In fact, you do have rights. It is only after your employer asks your permission that he or she may get the information or otherwise they are liable under the law. However, this would make it difficult for you to get the job or continue on one that you have been doing.
You may also find that you don’t have to disclose your medical records or other personal information like race, sex, color, disability or genetic information. You may withhold these if you think that the employer may create discrimination against you. Similarly, your employer can be charged for breaking the law in case he or she has recruited employees having the same kind of felony charges. For this, you may contact the FTC and EEOC. For instance, rules may vary from state to state and you may, therefore, consult a professional who knows the laws of that particular area.
How Far Back Does an Employment Background Check Go?
As stated above it is apparent that employers are not doing anything illegal if they ask you about your background. In fact, they have the right to know as to what sort of person they are going to appoint and what sort of risk they may have to face while doing so. Hence, it is natural to know about that person’s employment history, educational qualifications, debt and solvency, civil and criminal records as well as medical history. The latter, however, may be done only with a level of discretion.
1. Hard and Liberal Approaches
Just as the employer has certain rights, the employee has his or her rights to deny certain information if they think that it may be used against them unjustly. This would mean that employers may have the right to information about an employee’s background yet may have to use this information that complies with the federal laws. If you wish to know outright as to how far you may need to divulge your information then it would depend upon your employer. For instance, some organizations have a liberal approach while others are pretty stubborn. This means you still have chances when it comes to firms that do not think too much of small offenses in the past. However, there are those that may be quite rigid and would like to go with things as per law.
2. FTC and EEOC Rules
Certain things like probing into your genetic and medical information need not be highlighted if you find it discriminatory. You have the option of approaching FTC or the EEOC. There may be a reason for your doing so as some employers are quite biased in their decisions. They may stop you on an opportunity simply citing race, religion or sex or even your medical history and highlighting flimsy charges of a felony that has created a mark on your records. But legally this may find the employers at the other end of the law in most states.
3. Limitation Imposed by State and FCRA
Of course, if the charges of a felony are serious then you may have little to argue about. However, you still have some rights. Your employer may have to prove a lot if he asks people of a certain race about their criminal and financial past. Apart from EEOC and federal laws of some states and municipal laws are even more stringent than require employers to comply with. If you are thinking of employment in another state then you must be aware of the background checks and policies of that state. The employers too on their part cannot extend the same argument against the employees by citing the laws of the employer’s state.
Again, if a company is situated in a state with little restrictions then the employee would be assessed on the limit of his felony charges according to the state from which he originated.
Finally, all information pertaining to the employee’s civil and criminal cases should be reported only as far as FCRA (Fair Credit Reporting Act) approves them to be so. You will find that FCRA has certain limitations on how far the employer may be able to assess the information of an employee.
4. No Time Limit for Conviction Cases
To be fair in general this may be the case yet if you have faced conviction then there is actually no time limit. This, of course, means that you have been arrested due to the type of felony you have caused. This includes imprisonment too. It is seen that in case of serious conviction you may not get a job in certain states that are pretty strict about it altogether. This means that despite the FCRA limitations you still cannot hide any facts of conviction that say 20 or 30 years old in these states.
5. Background Checks Vary as Per Salary
Another good thing about background checks that may look positive from the point of view of the employee is that it may vary according to your salary. In fact, a certain amount of salary can limit employers to check into your background. For instance, in Washington, the 7-year limit does not apply if your salary is above $20000. In New York, it is $25000 while for Texas and Colorado it is $ 75000. It is seen that in California your background check is allowed only up to 10 years if your salary is over $125000,
You are also required to note as an employee that some state laws are quite stringent. These states are New Jersey, North Carolina, South Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Missouri, Nebraska, Alabama, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Arkansas, Oregon, Arizona, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Wisconsin, Wyoming, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, and Utah.
What Are Your Legal Rights?
An employee who has committed an act of felony or crime needn’t be on the defensive for life as the FCRA has made out some limitations here too. In other words, an employee can take refuge from stricter rules by having a fair advantage given by the FCRA (Fair Credit Reporting Act). How is this? The FCRA has drawn certain limitations on how much information can be made visible to prospective employers. These limitations are imposed so that even if some states wish to put everything on record and are seen to be as a boon to employees in general. Paid tax liens after 7 years cannot be reported. The bankruptcy cases should not appear on the background report beyond 10 years. Further, civil cases and court orders cannot be reported after 7 years. Lastly, live accounts outstanding cannot be started after a period of 7 years.
1. Seeking Legal Advice
The above gives the employees some room to apply for a job in states that have not many stringent laws. Again, you have certain legal rights despite the fact that you have been charged with a felony. In case the charges are not proven then you have all the rights of any other ordinary employee. Any discrimination against you can make the employer liable for legal action. It is therefore implied that you have the right to seek advice from an advocate or a person with expertise in your area and its laws.
You can demand from your employer as to why you have been discriminated against on flimsy grounds. He must offer you an explanation in writing. Again, he needs your permission so that he may check your background. Of course, asking your permission to check your background is within his or her right as an employer yet they cannot discriminate you on race, color, religion, genetic information, and other not so important past history. In case you are subjected to improper questioning then you may contact EEOC.
2. Be a Little Clever
In case you have credit issues then you may fix the same before your employer sees it. Inaccurate reports about you may be punishable if the employer doesn’t offer a suitable explanation for terminating your appointment or refusing to employ you. Sometimes old age may not be a reason for not getting the job. You may be well qualified and have the requisite experience yet for some reason your age stated may not look appropriate. Your employer has no right to refuse the job on such a flimsy reason.
Where to Go for Help?
1. Move Things Legally
If you think that you have been unjustly removed from employment then you may take legal action. This is also the case if any organization has refused your employment stating some specious reasons. In case such a thing has happened then you may go to FTC (Federal Trade Commission) with your complaint. You must know that FTC enforces the federal law pertaining to background reports on employment. The other powerful body where you may take your grievances is the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) that looks after employment and discrimination.
2. Keep Your Record Straight
By approaching the above two commissions you may be able to keep your records straight. Although it doesn’t absolve you of any felony still it gives you respite from a stubborn employer who refuses to comply. In fact, it also states that an employer cannot make a decision based simply on your felony charges. This is especially so when other people having similar charges or even worse ones get the job while you get rejected. This is because it may violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
You may also take your case or complaint to FCRA (Fair Credit Reporting Act) and may discuss the finer points of your case with an expert before presenting it to the above body. You naturally have the option to ask opinions from professionals dealing with background reports. On the other hand, you may also take the help of an advocate in order to get a favorable court order.
3. Awareness of Employee Rights Movements
The good news for employees is that there are several movements within states that do not want employers to take excess advantage. In fact, these movements have become stronger over the years. They have started to put a lot of pressure on employers for looking into the felony background of each and every individual they recruit. This may pave the way for some corrective actions in due course of time in the future. Till then knowing your own rights and seeking both professional expertise and authorities is your best bet.
How Can You Prepare for a Background Check?
1. Getting Prepared
You can prepare for a background check by knowing how to prepare and how an employer may try to bring out certain information from you. So do your preliminary investigation in this aspect just before you are called for an interview. You know quite well enough by now that any felony on your part in the past would surely come to haunt you during your next job interview. You may be better off if you have already prepared your background check in advance before your prospective employer happens to take note of the same.
2. Knowing Your Employer and Other Technicalities
Firstly, your background check depends on your employer. In fact, there are employers who would like detailed information about your background while there are others who may be more of a liberal mind. The latter may be more interested in getting jobs done than in checking up of past history of an employee. Yet this percentage of employers not having anything to do with an employee’s background report may be getting scarcer these days.
In all businesses, an employee is the prime most important factor that an employer would take to improve his business or to destroy the same. In other words, an organization rests best on its recruits and worst too on them. It is this for reason that employers try out the time tested way of background checks to get the best human help they want. It is here that you need to bring your best out and get into the confidence of your employer.
Technically, you should be ready for any questions regarding your past and a lot depends upon the way you explain it. However, most employers would use these yardsticks as the most appropriate way to assess an employee and these are as given below.
3. Knowledge of Your Past and State Laws
Your employer would, first of all, get a copy of your credit record. This would enable your employer to know as to how you have dealt with your money and others. Having an unclean record may make your employer apprehensive of recruiting you as there is a greater chance of risk. In order to be prepared, you may get free copies of your credit report.
The next and perhaps most notable one is your criminal record, if any, that your employer would surely be interested in. Here, you may stand to take less risk if you are in certain states. In these states, there is a limit to which an employer may ask about your crimes. This limit is 10 years into the past and not beyond that.
Then there is your driving record that employers usually check into. You may either get a copy of your driving record from the Department of Motor Vehicles of your state or get them downloaded online. This is particularly tricky if you are trying to get a job where there is going to be a lot of driving. Here, naturally, your chances of getting jobs, other than driving, may be considered.
4. State Laws Regarding Drugs and Substance Abuse
Last and not least is your record on drug and substance abuse. Most employers would like to know this as it greatly affects the work you are going to do as well as those of others. You may have to do a little more than preparation here and try to make sure that you are no more on drugs, You may, therefore, take expert advice on chemicals used as well those drugs that have not been banned in certain states. For instance, marijuana has not been banned in some states in the US.
5. Ban the Box Policy
In order to be on the safer side, you must be aware of different regulations and disclosures limitations that vary from state to state. You may, therefore, keep this in mind while applying for vacancies in different organizations. Suppose you reside in an area where ban the box policies are rather active then you needn’t disclose any of your acts of a felony.
As an applicant you must, however, be outright honest about educational qualifications, experiences, professional licenses and other technical skills you have. Never lie on these. Your employer would at once get to know these quite easily. Sometimes being truthful in such matters may sometimes make the employer forgo smaller acts of a felony. You may even be treated with some respect.
Frequently Asked Questions
If you are looking for a job then you may make use of the following FAQs that most employees would like to ask.
1. Does a felony or misdemeanor always show up on the background check?
Most felony or misdemeanor shows up on the employee’s background check. However, in some states, this may be restricted due to their liberal policies and limits placed. On a national scale, there are actually no limits for how far back your employer can assess your records. This is especially so if you are convicted on charges of felony. Yet there are states that are liberal in these and so you have no problem of getting into a job despite the charges. In these states, employers have a limitation of looking into 7 years of your past and no more.
Again, rules can be changed according to the salary. The details have been given above as some states may not apply the time limit.
2. How long does it take for a background check to clear?
It is generally seen that most background checks are completed within a week. Yet there are easy accessible criminal records databases that are not quite reliable. They may contain some errors and are not foolproof. Otherwise, it is not so time-consuming and takes about a week only. Yet there may be instances of delay and this is mainly due to the employer. Either the employers take it a little too easy or have not obtained the necessary authorization from the employees. Agencies start their work without signed copies from employers and employees.
3. Will a 20-year-old felony show on a background check?
A 20-year-old felony will not show on a background check if the states where the employee limits the accessibility to 7 to 10 years and not more. Again, criminal records may be assessed while smaller felony charges may not be that easy for employers to assess.
3. What are the Different Levels of Background Checks?
There are two levels of background checks and these are ‘Level 1’ and ‘Level 2’. Level 1 background check means that the checking is done only in that state. Level 2 means that background checks pertaining to employees holding a high position of responsibility. They are also mandated to be fingerprinted as required by law.
4. How long does a background check take for a job to come back?
It typically takes about a week for a background check to complete. Once completed you may receive your order for joining within 2 to 3 days. Although this is mostly the case you must be aware that in case of serious conviction things may get a little longer. Otherwise, you can get your order within a week or ten days at the most.
5. How do you know if you failed an Employer Background Check?
An employer when he or she disqualifies a candidate is bound by law to notify candidates about either passing or failing the background checks. If you have passed then you will find the employer moving forth with other hiring procedures. However, most employers conduct such background checks after the preliminary hiring is over.
6. What comes first, Background Check or Drug Test?
It is background checks that come first and the drug test in many cases is done only after the candidates are recruited. However, in many organizations both the tests are carried out simultaneously.
7. Ban the Box Initiative and Background Check
If you are residing in an area where ‘Ban the Box’ activity is strong and active then you may not disclose your criminal history. This means that you have the right to apply irrespective of your criminal background. The law comes to your rescue here. However, it would be better to do a self-check on your criminal record first. Later get good advice from an expert in your area on this.
From the above, it is clear that although background checks can be a little tricky it may not be the end of the road for most employees. You still can pass a background check with a felony legally using the above tips and get a job you qualify for.