What employee rights do those with criminal records have?

California is at the forefront of many employee rights issues. Discrimination in the workplace is not tolerated and may even be punishable by law. Most people think of discrimination as relating to race, gender, sexual orientation and the like. One point that many people may not consider is the unfair judgment that those with a criminal record may face. However, there are specific ways that employers are and are not allowed to handle employees or prospective employees who have criminal records, as outlined by employee rights.

Employers are not allowed to obtain a person's criminal history and those who do can face criminal charges. There are certain jobs and careers that do not follow that rule -- law enforcement, schools, government employers and others -- but, most of the time, employers cannot get, nor can they force a person to produce his or her own criminal history. The employer cannot ask about arrests or use such information to fire an employee or refuse a job to a potential applicant. Similar exceptions to this exist, as with the requesting of a person's criminal history.

An employer can ask about a person's past convictions, but only after that employer has determined that the applicant is eligible for hire. Typically, en employer will only ask about felony convictions and not misdemeanors. A prospective employee is not required to disclose a dismissed or sealed conviction to an employer, though it is wise to keep in mind that such a conviction could still appear on a background check. A background check will not include a person's "rap" sheet but can still provide information that is part of public record.

It can be confusing for many people to know what may or may not be acceptable for California employers to do concerning a person's criminal history. Those who have questions may benefit from further reading about criminal records and employee rights. Those who have been treated unfairly by an employer, current or prospective, may have the right to file a civil claim.

Source: las-elc.org, "Criminal Records & Employment", , Sept. 28, 2014

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