Do Expunged Records Show Up on Background Checks?
Criminal records often have a lasting impact on the people who have them, particularly when it comes to getting a job. Some employers are reluctant to hire someone with a criminal record—of any kind, even if it involves not actual convictions. To combat that, Illinois law prohibits most employers from barring a person from applying for a job just because they have a criminal record. Another tool available to would-be job applicants is expungement of criminal records.
Expungement is a process that can limit access by others to your criminal history. You can’t expunge convictions unless you successfully completed a diversion program or some other form of court supervision and had the conviction dismissed. Some convictions can’t be expunged under any circumstances. But for eligible criminal history, expungement results in the record being destroyed. It simply no longer exists. While you cannot expunge all criminal records, it can go a long way toward making the path to employment much easier.
When—and What—Can Employers Ask About of Consider Your Criminal Past?
Under Illinois law, a prospective employer—defined as a company or business with 15 or more employees, and all private employers in Cook County—cannot ask about or consider a job applicant’s criminal history before the company has determined that the applicant is qualified for the job and has notified the job-seeker that they were selected for an interview. If there is no interview, then the potential employer cannot ask about or consider the applicant’s criminal past until it has extended a conditional offer of a job to the applicant. Even then, Illinois and federal law prohibit prospective employers from asking applicants about any criminal history they might have that has been expunged, sealed, or was voided by executive clemency or pardon.
There are exceptions in the law, of course. The ban on asking about criminal history excludes employers that are required by state or federal law to screen out applicants convicted of specific crimes. Employers that are required to have a standard fidelity bond or some equivalent bond also are exempt where the bond disqualifies employee prospects with one or more convictions of specific crimes. Also exempt are those business the hire people who are individuals licensed under the state’s Emergency Medical Services Systems Act.
For those without exemptions, “ask about or consider” means that even if the prospective employer runs a simple online search and finds something about the applicant’s criminal past, it cannot take that into account until it has determined whether the applicant is otherwise qualified, extended an interview offer, or made a conditional job offer.
After that, though, the employer can ask away, or run background checks. They must run the same checks on all prospective employees and cannot discriminate by using more stringent checks on some applicants based on race, gender, etc. Also, employers cannot refuse to hire an applicant solely because of a criminal record unless the crime was related to the job applied for.
What Can Employers Learn from Background Checks?
There are broadly speaking five ways prospective employers can check your background, including:
- Checking your references
- Drug testing
- Internet searches and checking your social media accounts
- Running a credit check
- Running a criminal background check
Each of these reveals different things about your past. Taken together, a prospective employer could wind up knowing almost as much about you as you do. If the employer uses the more sophisticated professional search firms, they can unearth amazing amounts of information. Even simple online searches can turn up a wealth of information, as can public records searches. Most states limit background checks to the last seven years, so that serves as a limiting factor.
How much information gets reported to the prospective employer depends upon the type of background check and how much information the employer is seeking. More information equals more money, so many employers stick to the basics. Even “the basics,” though, likely will include your employment history, credit history, driving record, education history, identity verification, and, yes, criminal background. This kind of information generally will include:
- Identity verification: Searching public databases, including Homeland Security and Social Security records, provides information to verify identity. This is particularly true in determining whether your Social Security number is real and issued to you.
- Credit information: Credit bureaus collect large amounts of information that can assist in identity verification, but they focus on standard financial information, such as information on debt, payment history, and credit inquiries.
For people with criminal records, the criminal background check is the one that causes the most angst. An employer who knowingly fires a person convicted of a violent felony, for instance, could face potential civil liability if they knew or should have known about an employee’s criminal record before hiring that employee. Such a criminal history likely will include records from county, state, and federal levels. There are legal limits on what employers can ask about criminal history, but not on what they can find out once they have met the conditions of the law.
But there is good news for people who have gotten their criminal history expunged (assuming they have no history that is not eligible for expungement, of course). So long as you followed the proper procedures in applying for expungement and followed up at every point in the process where follow-up was necessary, expunged records will not show up on a background check. If legally asked if you have a criminal history, if all of your criminal records have been expunged, you can legally answer, “No.” So make sure you get the expungement process right.
If Are Planning to Seek Expungement of Your Criminal Records in DuPage, Kane, or Cook County, Contact the Criminal Attorneys of Martin & Kent, L.L.C.
Getting the expungement process right can be very important, particularly if you are seeking a job and worried about background checks. Knowing whether your criminal records are eligible to be expunged, and then getting the process right, can be vital. Getting it wrong can be the difference between a good job, or a not-so-good-job, or worse, no job. If you are thinking of getting records expunged, call the criminal attorneys of Martin & Kent, L.L.C. They have the experience with the system, including years as felony prosecutors, and they can get you through the process smoothly. For a consultation in DuPage, Kane, or Cook County, contact them 24 hours a day at (630) 430-8622.