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Serving People from Arrest to Reintegration

Legal Action Center Advocacy Toolkit: Standards for Hiring People With Criminal Records

  • Organization: Legal Action Center
  • Date Created: Tuesday, January 31, 2006
  • Submitted: Tuesday, January 31, 2006
  • Attachment(s): LINK

The Unfair Roadblock: More and more employers are conducting criminal background checks on job applicants, which can make it much more difficult for the millions of Americans with criminal records to find employment and become productive, law-abiding members of society. Most states allow employers to refuse to hire people with criminal records; not only individuals who have been convicted -- even if they have paid their debt to society and demonstrated their ability to work without risk to the public -- but also those who were arrested and never convicted. Although no one questions the legitimate concerns of employers who do not want to hire someone with a conviction record who clearly demonstrates a threat to public safety or who otherwise has a conviction history directly related to a specific job, policies that encourage employers to adopt broad sweeping exclusions (i.e. not hiring or considering anyone with any type of criminal history) simply locks out and eliminates many qualified, rehabilitated individuals from the job market. (See the Legal Action Center's report, After Prison: Roadblocks to Reentry, at(

How to Remove the Roadblock: States should have laws that prohibit across-the-board employment discrimination against people with criminal records and instead require employers to make individualized hiring decisions by applying specific standards. The law should incorporate standards that will guide employers to make fair and appropriate employment decisions that will effectively address the needs of qualified individuals with criminal records seeking a fair chance as well as address legitimate employer and public safety concerns. However, it is important to note that employers should not be able to deny employment based on an arrest that did not lead to a conviction.

This tool kit provides materials advocates can use to seek the passage of laws that prohibit blanket policies that deny employment to qualified people with criminal records and establish standards employers should use in making individualized hiring decisions.

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