New PA Law for Background Checks: What Employers Need to Know

Pennsylvania changed its background check laws through PA HB 689 and the Fair Criminal Record Screening Standards Ordinance. Governor Shapiro signed PA HB 689 into law on December 14, 2023, as Act 36 of 2023.

These pivotal changes, designed to foster a more inclusive hiring environment, significantly affect employers statewide. This article unpacks the three critical legislative updates, giving employers the insights to navigate the new employment landscape successfully.

  1. Employer Immunity for Hiring With Expunged Records

One of the most notable changes under the new legislation is granting employers immunity from liability when hiring individuals with expunged criminal records. This move aims to encourage the reintegration of rehabilitated individuals into the workforce without penalizing employers for offering these opportunities.

This change supports a more inclusive hiring process and offers a fresh start for those who have rehabilitated after a criminal conviction. Employers can tap into a wider talent pool due to the removal of barriers for individuals with expunged records, contributing to reduced recidivism rates in Pennsylvania.

  1. Reduction in Record Sealing Timeframe

The new PA law for background checks offers a shorter timeframe to apply for sealing or expunging records. Previously, individuals had to wait 10 years before they could attempt to find work with a sealed record. The new ordinance reduces it to seven.

  • The waiting period for record sealing allows individuals to move forward with their lives more swiftly.
  • This change acknowledges that individuals who have served their sentences and reformed should not be burdened by a permanent criminal record that destroys their prospects.
  • Employers need to remember this shortened timeframe when conducting background checks and assessing candidates for employment.

  1. Fair Criminal Record Screening Standards Ordinance

Pennsylvania’s Fair Criminal Record Screening Standards Ordinance complements PA HB 689 or Clean Slate 3.0 by offering guidelines for employers to follow when considering a candidate’s criminal record.

  • The ordinance prohibits employers from asking about an applicant’s criminal history on the job application form.
  • This provision gives individuals with criminal records a fair chance to secure employment by showcasing their qualifications and skills first.
  • Employers can still inquire about an applicant’s criminal history during the later stages of the hiring process, ensuring they don’t use it as an automatic disqualifier.

These three critical updates to Pennsylvania’s background check laws aim to create a more inclusive and fair hiring environment. The state is taking significant steps toward promoting rehabilitation and reducing recidivism rates.


How does HB 689 affect my hiring process?
PA HB 689 requires adjustments in your hiring protocols, especially when considering candidates with expunged or sealed records.
What should I do if a candidate’s background check reveals a sealed record?

It’s crucial to understand the legal nuances. The reduced timeframe for sealing records means more individuals will qualify sooner, impacting your hiring decisions. In such cases, the background check provider should query the results with the Pennsylvania courts.

How can I ensure compliance with the new exoneration clause?

Develop a thorough understanding of what exoneration comprises and adjust your hiring criteria to exclude such convictions from negatively impacting hiring decisions.

The enactment of PA HB 689 and related ordinances marks a significant shift in the Pennsylvania criminal background check and employment screening approach. To comply with these changes, employers must adapt their hiring practices, including criminal background checks, fostering a more inclusive and equitable job market.

Understanding these laws ensures legal compliance and broadens the potential talent pool, benefiting the state’s workforce and economy.

Get instant updates on Compliance and Legislation

Michael Klazema

About Michael Klazema The author

Michael Klazema is the lead author and editor for Dallas-based with a focus on human resource and employment screening developments

Michael's recent publications

More Like This Post

State Criminal Search

Virginia Criminal Search

A Virginia state background check can uncover more criminal records. Learn about these tools and the legal restrictions involved.

Order a Search for Virginia