Criminal Record Restrictions
Pennsylvania has several laws, measures, and ordinances that restrict the use of criminal background checks for employment purposes. We have compiled relevant restrictions below to help employers plan their use of PA State Police background checks.Arrest Records
: The Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission prohibits public and private employers from considering arrest records in their employment decisions. The only exemptions are if 1) the arrest led to a criminal conviction or 2) there is a specific “business necessity” that requires the use of arrest information.Expunged or Sealed Records
: Employers are not permitted to consider expunged records or sealed records for the purposes of making any employment-related decision.Criminal Records
: Employers are legally allowed to use criminal records—including felony and misdemeanor convictions—for employment-related decisions. However, the Human Relations Commission requires employers to consider the relevance, severity, recency, and number of convictions before taking adverse action. Employers may run afoul of the Human Relations Commission if they disqualify an applicant for a crime that is years in the past or only loosely related to the job at hand.Summary Offenses
: Pennsylvania employers are not allowed to consider “summary offenses” when making hiring decisions. Summary offenses typically include minor convictions such as harassment, loitering, or disorderly conduct. Summary offenses are still considered criminal history, so they may show up on a Pennsylvania background check. Candidates should disclose these offenses if asked about criminal history on job applications.Ban the Box
: Pennsylvania has a state ban the box policy that applies to public employees. There are currently seven jurisdictions in the state with their own ban the box policies, including Allegheny County, Allentown, Bethlehem, Lancaster, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Reading. Of these jurisdictions, only Philadelphia prohibits private employers from asking criminal history questions on their job applications. Other policies apply to public employers. All jurisdictions allow employers to conduct PA state criminal background checks or other types of screenings, but only after selecting job finalists or making conditional offers of employment.
Depending on where in Pennsylvania your business is located, you may need to comply with other restrictions regarding pre-employment candidate screenings.
In Philadelphia, employers are generally restricted from using applicant or employee credit history information for employment purposes. This ordinance has been in effect since July 2016. Employers are exempt from complying with the ordinance if:
- Federal or state law gives the employer the right to use employee or applicant credit history information.
- The position at hand involves supervisory, fiduciary, or management responsibilities.
- The job will involve access to “sensitive financial information.”
- The employee will be required to access information that is “confidential or proprietary” and “derives substantial value from secrecy.”
- The employee will have a “significant financial responsibility.”
These exemptions do not apply to retail employees.
If exempted employers take adverse action against employees or applications due to credit history information, they must 1) notify the person in writing, 2) provide a copy or transcript of the credit information in question, and 3) give the applicant or employee a chance to explain the credit history information.
What may be reported on a state criminal history search?
- Jurisdiction where record is recorded
- Case number
- Filing date
- Degree of offense, like misdemeanor
- Disposition date