Pennsylvania Criminal Records History Act

Under Pennsylvania law, employers can refuse to hire a job applicant based on the person’s criminal history only if the criminal record directly relates to the “applicant’s suitability” for the job.

Employers can’t use “summary offenses” as a reason not to hire an applicant. (Note: All crimes in Pennsylvania are rated by seriousness. Summary offenses are minor offenses, such as speeding tickets, jaywalking, littering and disorderly conduct. Misdemeanor offenses are more serious, including charges such as simple assault or shoplifting goods worth more than $150. Felonies are serious crimes.)

The Pennsylvania law requires that employers notify applicants if the decision not to hire them was based in whole or in part on their criminal record. The burden is on employers to show that an applicant’s criminal record makes him or her unsuitable for the job.

In some cases it may be obvious. For example, an applicant with a recent history of theft probably isn’t a good candidate for a bank teller position. But that same conviction may not be relevant to a position that doesn’t involve money, such as a custodial position.

Certain jobs, such as those in schools and day care centers, require that employers obtain a criminal records check from the Pennsylvania State Police before hiring the applicant. Applicants with a history of violent crimes are disqualified from those types of jobs.  

Interview Bootcamp D

Excerpted from Pennsylvania’s 13 Most Critical Employment Laws, a special bonus report available to subscribers of HR Specialist: Pennsylvania Employment Law.