Can I be denied employment because of my criminal history?

P - court buildingThere is no federal law prohibiting employers from asking about your criminal history. How they use this information, however, is regulated by law. A prior conviction can be reason enough to bar an applicant from employment in certain situations: Under Pennsylvania’s Criminal History Record Information Act (“CHRIA”) and by other laws regarding specific occupations and fields of employment.


An employer can consider your prior felony or misdemeanor conviction in the hiring process only to the extent to which it relates to your suitability for employment in the position for which you have applied. This is according to Pennsylvania’s Criminal History Record Information Act. If a conviction could affect your ability to carry out the position you applied for, or its specific functions, you may be legally denied employment.

When an Employer is Legally Bound to Deny Employment

It is not always up to the employer to determine whether you should be hired. Despite your qualifications, an employer may be legally bound to deny you employment.

There are certain occupations and fields of employment in which a conviction bars you either indefinitely or for a significant period of time. For example, the Child Protective Services Law bars ex-offenders from employment in jobs involving contact with children (e.g., working in schools or daycares).

Suppose you are applying for a position with a daycare facility. An employer is legally bound to deny you employment at the daycare facility if:

  • You have founded child abuse reports within the last 5 years, OR
  • Have been convicted for homicide, aggravated assault, kidnapping, rape, various sex crimes, prostitution felonies, concealing the death of a child, endangering the welfare of a child, or pornography ever, OR
  • Have been convicted for drug felonies within the last 5 years.

Other positions ex-offenders may be barred from include the following:

  • Bank employee
  • Insurance adjuster
  • Emergency medical technician (EMT)
  • Tax assessor
  • Nursing home employee
  • Air craft employee
  • Pharmacist
  • Casino employee
  • Physical therapist

The above list is not complete. It serves to show some examples only. Contact an employment lawyer if you have a question about a particular employment position.

When to Seek Relief

If you are denied employment based on a conviction that has no bearing on your ability to complete the job you applied for, and there is no other reason for denying you employment, the employer is in violation of the law. If you believe you have been unlawfully denied employment based on your criminal history, you should contact an employment lawyer to look over your situation. An unlawful denial of employment can justify civil action against the employer.

This article was written in regards to the hiring of individuals with a criminal history. If you were fired for a past conviction, you may also have a case. Contact an employment lawyer with any questions.