Our team of experts fields real-life everyday questions from HR managers and gives practical answers that can be applied by any HR pro in the same situation. Today’s question: How far can we go when questioning an applicant about criminal charges?
We’re thinking about having a question on our job application asking if the applicant has ever been charged with a crime.
Is it legal to ask? Can the question cause problems?
It’s usually a bad idea to ask if an applicant has been charged with a crime. That’s the word from employment-law attorney Larry Peikes. Plus, some states make it illegal to ask about arrests or detentions that didn’t result in a conviction.
Weeding out applicants on this basis could expose the employer to a discrimination claim because members of certain racial and ethnic minorities tend to be arrested with greater frequency than nonminorities.
The safer approach to criminal background checks is to limit your questions to those about convictions and pleas of guilty or nolo contendre.