What you need to know before applying for a job


Criminal background checks are prevalent

Approximately 92% of all employers perform background checks on some or all job candidates. Federal as well as California law often require finger-print background check for government jobs along with jobs dealing with the vulnerable segment of the population (e.g., minors, elderly, disabled individuals).

In California there are generally two type of background checks: 1) private commercial background checks; and 2) finger-print background checks.

Finger-print background checks are only allowed for government jobs, government issued licenses, and jobs involving: schools, transportation, private security, and health care (i.e., vulnerable segment of the population). It is illegal for employers to require finger-print background checks unless they fall into one of these general categories.

All other employers run private commercial background checks.

No automatic denial of employment due to conviction record

No employer in the United States may automatically reject a job applicant simply because he or she has a criminal record. The employer must consider:

  1. the nature of the crime
  2. the time that has passed since the crime; and
  3. the job to be performed

If the underlying crime has absolutely no relationship to the duty to be performed, it is illegal for an employer to deny employment on the basis of the crime.

However, if you have been convicted of a crime that can be categorized either as a property or a violent crime (which are most crimes), most employers can legally deny you employment.

This is precisely the reason why an expungement will significantly increase your chances of being hired.

Criminal information that California employers CANNOT consider

With few exceptions, a California employer cannot consider ANY of the following criminal information in making employment decisions:

  1. Criminal cases that have been expunged
  2. Arrests that did not result in charges being filed
  3. Arrests that did not result in conviction even if charges were filed
  4. Detention in police custody that did not result in charges being filed
  5. Detention in police custody that did not result in conviction even if charges were filed
  6. Criminal cases that resulted in successful completion of Prop 36
  7. Criminal cases dismissed through drug court
  8. Criminal cases that resulted in successful completion of Deferred Entry of Judgment ("DEJ")
  9. Juvenile criminal convictions

Criminal information that California employers CAN consider

  1. Pending criminal cases that have not resulted in a conviction or dismissal
  2. All criminal convictions that have not been expunged
  3. All criminal convictions that have not been otherwise dismissed

Criminal convictions older than 7 years

No law prohibits an employer from considering convictions older than 7 years if the conviction has not been expunged. However, under California law, a commercial background check company (non-finger-print/non-Live-Scan) cannot disclose convictions older than 7 years.

This means that when completing a job application, you must review the "have you been convicted of a crime..." question carefully. (Click here for how to answer this question). If the application does not ask you to disclose convictions older than 7 years - do not disclose.

If the question asks you to disclose all convictions regardless of the age of the conviction, you should disclose. If you do not disclose, it constitutes lying on the job application and it may result in the immediate denial of employment. 

No credit checks

As of January 1, 2013, California employers cannot run credit checks on applicants unless the position is one of the following:

  1. A managerial position
  2. A position in the state Department of Justice
  3. Peace Officer (e.g. law enforcement)
  4. A position involving regular access to ALL of the following (except retail positions involving processing of consumer credit card applications):
    1. Bank or credit card account information
    2. Social Security Number
    3. Date of Birth
  5. A financial fiduciary for another
  6. A position that involves access to trade secrets
  7. A position that involves regular access to cash over $10,000