Opportunities Expand, but Barriers Remain for Individuals with Criminal Convictions

It's a shocking statistic: one-third of the US population has had a brush with the justice system through a conviction or an arrest, according to the FBI. These are no traffic tickets—they're misdemeanors and felonies. Regardless of the severity of the charge, the presence of a criminal record is often enough to throw up substantial roadblocks for securing employment.  

The development of ban the box laws, which delay background checks until later in the interview process, was intended to mitigate those concerns. Supplementing ban the box rules in many areas are opportunities for an individual to have his or her criminal record modified upon meeting specific eligibility criteria, usually a period without additional convictions. Such opportunities include expungement, which removes a record altogether, and sealing, which hides the record from easy access. A sealed record will not appear on a regular background check report, such as a US OneSEARCH by backgroundchecks.com, but it may still appear on federal background reports. 

There is no standard for sealing records; each state sets its own rules. Some states, such as Connecticut, have considered or implemented a system of automatic expungement which requires no action on the part of the individual. However, many other states, such as New York, require a legal process—a process which is often chaotic and confusing. In 2019, two years after the state reformed its expungement process and made 600,000 individuals eligible, only 2,000 have completed it. 

Even when applicants make it beyond these roadblocks, a criminal past can prove to be a barrier to career advancement. In one profile, a court clerk's error meant that some records did not go under seal as they should have, potentially preventing a career promotion. In other cases, critics contend, employers have resorted to discriminatory behavior as a risk management strategy. 

The situation is complex. Not only are there many people looking for work but there are also many businesses in need of ample labor—but many of those businesses report that they struggle to find applicants who can pass a drug screening and a background check. With 33% of the country facing concerns about their job prospects, sometimes based on years-old convictions, the opportunity for a clear start can be essential to job seekers.  

Understanding how to secure that fresh start is not easy. With laws that vary from state to state and legal frameworks that are frequently confusing and opaque, it is often difficult to access career opportunities. backgroundchecks.com, through our partnership with MyClearStart, can illuminate pathways to employment.  

Through MyClearStart, you can explore your eligibility status for expungement or sealing records in your state then find out how to connect with a lawyer to take action. As businesses expand their hiring, the ability to successfully navigate the background check and expungement processes is more important for job seekers than ever. 

Michael Klazema

About Michael Klazema The author

Michael Klazema is Chief Marketing Technologist at EY-VODW.com and has over two decades of experience in digital consulting, online product management, and technology innovation. He is the lead author and editor for Dallas-based backgroundchecks.com with a focus on human resource and employment screening developments.

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