50-State Comparison: Limits on Use of Criminal Record in Employment, Licensing & Housing
Below are state-by-state summaries, with links to analysis and legal citations.
Effective in 2021, federal agencies and contractors may not inquire into an applicant’s criminal history until after a conditional offer has been made. The Equal Opportunity Employment Commission has interpreted Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to bar employers from discriminating against individual based on their criminal history, absent justifying business necessity. At the same time, federal law also disqualifies individuals with certain convictions from employment in the banking and transportation sector, and in a wide variety of state-licensed jobs in healthcare and education.
An individual who is legally barred from obtaining a specific occupational license due to a conviction may apply to the court for an “Order for Limited Relief” to permit discretionary consideration on the merits. Otherwise, Alabama has no general law regulating consideration of criminal record in employment or occupational licensing, although a few licensing schemes impose a “direct relationship” standard. It has imposed no “ban-the-box” limits on employer inquiries at the application stage of employment, or otherwise restricted record-based employment discrimination.
Alaska has no general law regulating consideration of criminal record in employment or occupational licensing. Specifically, it has adopted none of the procedural and substantive limits on consideration of criminal records adopted by other states in recent years (i.e. ban-the-box, fair chance licensing reforms, etc.). Licensing entities may not consider pardoned convictions, although they may consider the underlying conduct.
An executive order prohibits most public employers from asking individuals about their criminal history on an initial job application. Public employers, moreover, may disqualify an applicant because of a conviction only if “the offense has a reasonable relationship to the functions” of the desired employment. The law does not explain this standard or provide for its enforcement.
Licensing entities may not consider non-violent misdemeanor convictions, non-conviction records, less serious felonies, and felonies more than seven years in the past that have been set aside (except for serious and violent crimes). To disqualify an applicant with other convictions, a licensing agency must determine that there is a state interest in protecting public safety that is superior to the applicant’s right to a license. The agency must also determine that the conviction “specifically and directly relates to the duties and responsibilities of the occupation” (except for serious and violent offenses) and that the person “is more likely to reoffend by virtue of having” the license than not. Applicants may petition a licensing agency for a preliminary determination about whether a prior conviction will be disqualifying, and licensing agencies may also issue “provisional licenses” to otherwise qualified applicants. Licensing agencies must report to the legislature on the number of applications received from and granted to persons with a criminal record. In 2022 the legislature also removed “good moral character” language from a variety of business and professional licensing statutes.
Arkansas has no fair employment law that would generally restrict how employers consider a conviction record, but relief mechanisms such as pardon and sealing are routinely available. Occupational licensing entities are subject to robust regulation, and may not consider non-conviction records, misdemeanor convictions (except misdemeanor sex offenses and misdemeanors involving violence), and convictions that have been pardoned or expunged. Per a 2019 law, a long list of offenses are subject to mandatory disqualification, but for all but the most serious violent offenses the disqualification lasts only for five years after completion of sentence with no intervening conviction. A waiver is available even for the most serious crimes. (Those licensed prior to passage of the 2019 law are grandfathered.) If a license is denied because of the applicant’s criminal record, the licensing entity must provide written reasons.
Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) prohibits pre-employment inquiry into criminal history by public employers and private employers with five or more employees until after a conditional offer has been made. Thereafter, employers may not consider non-conviction records, convictions that have been dismissed or set aside, pardoned convictions and convictions for which an individual has received a COR. FEHA also requires employers to conduct individualized assessments to determine whether conviction has a “direct and adverse relationship with the specific duties of the job,” to notify an applicant in the event of denial (though no reasons need be given), and allow the applicant to respond.
State licensing boards may not base denial on a conviction that is not “substantially related” to the qualifications for the license. It also may not deny if charges have been dismissed or set aside, if the applicant has received a Certificate of Rehabilitation, or if the person is “deemed rehabilitated” by published licensing board standards. Investigative Consumer Reporting Agencies Act limits reporting by background checking companies.
Public employers may not conduct a background check until an applicant is determined to be a finalist or a conditional offer is made. Thereafter, certain records may not be the basis for denial ((non-conviction records; pardoned, sealed, or expunged convictions; or convictions subject to a collateral relief order) and detailed standards apply to determine whether the conviction is “directly related” to the job. Employers are also specifically prohibited from considering conduct underlying the conviction. Private employers with more than ten employees may not ask about individuals’ criminal histories on an initial job application, but thereafter are not subject to any limits on what records may be considered.
Licensing entities may not deny individuals an occupational or professional license based on a conviction that is not “directly related” to the license, determined by the same standards that apply to public employers. They are also prohibited from denying a license based on non-conviction records; pardoned, sealed, or expunged convictions; or convictions subject to a collateral relief order. Licensing authorities may issue conditional licenses to individuals with criminal records. Effective in 2022, a licensing agency must notify an applicant before making final determination, detailing grounds for denial based on their record and informing them of their right to provide additional evidence relevant to disqualifying factors, of their right to appeal an adverse decision, and of the earliest date of reapplication. The General Assembly periodically reviews the agency licensing and certification processes to determine whether a record of disqualification based on criminal history serves the public interest.
Landlords reviewing rental applicants may not consider arrest records or records of convictions more than five years before the application, except for convictions and deferred judgments for certain drug, sex, homicide, and stalking offenses.
State employers and licensing agencies may not disqualify a person based on a prior conviction but must consider the relationship of the crime to the job/license, information pertaining to rehabilitation, and time elapsed since conviction. A certificate of rehabilitation presumes rehabilitation. A state employer may ask about criminal record only after an applicant has been “deemed qualified.” Private employers may not ask about criminal record on an initial application. If a conviction is used as a basis for rejection, the applicant is entitled to written reasons. Employers and licensing agencies may not inquire about or consider non-conviction records or convictions that have been erased.
In 2022 a number of changes were enacted affecting licenses subject to the jurisdiction of the Department of Public Health, provided that criminal record could not be a basis for denial of some licenses, prohibiting summary action against certain other license holders, and establishing a substantial relationship standard for all other licenses. This law also inserted a provision for a binding preliminary determination inserted into various licensing statutes.
Public employers may not inquire into applicants’ criminal records until a conditional employment offer has been made, and at that point criminal records can be disqualifying only they are if job-related and “consistent with business necessity.” Delaware has no comparable “ban-the-box” law applicable to private employers.
Occupational or professional licenses may be denied or revoked only if the offense is one identified by the licensing board as being substantially related to the practice of the occupation or profession. A licensing board shall make an individualized assessment of the applicant, considering series of factors related to the person’s offense and subsequent rehabilitation, and grant a waiver unless to do so would create an unreasonable risk to public safety. Certain records may not be grounds for denial (non-convictions, pardoned or expunged convictions, convictions more than 10 years old with no intervening convictions. Before reaching a decision on denial a board must give reasons and the applicant must have an opportunity to present evidence in rebuttal. A person with a listed offense may seek a binding preliminary determination as to whether their record may be disqualifying.
Public employers and private employers with more than ten employees may not ask about or consider criminal history until a conditional offer is made. Thereafter, they may not inquire into arrests or charges that are not pending and that did not result in a conviction, and must consider specified criteria before disqualifying an applicant for employment or terminate an existing employee based on criminal record. An employer may withdraw a conditional offer of employment based on an applicant’s conviction history only for a “legitimate business reason” that is “reasonable” in light of the seven factors outlined above. The law is enforced administratively through the Office of Human Rights, but lawsuits are specifically disallowed.
Under a law enacted in 2021, occupational and professional licenses in health and most non-health-related fields may not be denied based on conviction of a crime unless it is “directly related” to the licensed occupation, as determined by a detailed set of standards. DC prohibits inquiry about a record until an applicant has been found otherwise qualified and then prohibits consideration of certain records (including non-conviction and sealed convictions), and provides procedural protections in the event of denial. The 2021 law also establishes a pre-application petition process for individuals with a record to determine their eligibility, and requires the Mayor to report annually to the Council on each board’s record.
Under a law enacted in 2017, housing providers, in considering tenants, may not consider arrests not resulting in conviction; they must make a conditional offer before considering a pending accusation or conviction from the last 7 years, and only for a listed offense. To withdraw an offer based on criminal record, they must provide in writing a “substantial, legitimate, nondiscriminatory interest,” considering several factors. Certain housing providers are excluded. Enforcement is available through the Office of Human Rights.
Florida does not limit application-stage inquiries into criminal history, and public employers and occupational licensing agencies may disqualify job applicants if their convictions “directly relate” to the job. Bars to employment or licensing in healthcare professions may be waived on a case-by-case basis. Licensing in construction and cosmetology trades subject to standards more favorable to individuals with a record. What protections exist do not apply to private employers.
An executive order prohibits most public employers from asking about individuals’ criminal records when they initially apply for employment. Private employers are not subject to any similar restriction. Occupational licenses may not be denied or revoked based on conviction of a felony that does not “directly relate” to the license, as determined by a multifactor test. Enforcement through administrative procedure act.
State fair employment practices law prohibits public and private employers from asking about criminal history until a conditional offer has been made. The conditional offer may be withdrawn only if a felony conviction within last seven years (excluding any period of incarceration) or a misdemeanor conviction within the last five years has a “rational relationship” to the duties required by the position. Non-conviction records may not be the basis of an adverse decision.
Hawaii allows disqualification from occupational licensure if the crime was committed within 10 years and is “rationally related” to occupation. If older than 10 years, may disqualify only if it “directly relates” to the occupation, after an investigation to determine whether the person is sufficiently rehabilitated, and an opportunity to meet and rebut.
Idaho has no law generally regulating consideration of criminal record in employment. A pardon relieves employment disabilities imposed by state law or administrative regulation. As of 2020, licensing agencies must determine whether a person’s criminal record is “currently relevant to the applicant’s fitness” to engage in the occupation by a multi-factor test, and vague terms like “moral character” are prohibited. Individuals may apply for a non-binding preliminary determination.
The Illinois Human Rights Act prohibits employment discrimination based on conviction record unless the record is substantially related to the employment at issue (the employment presents an opportunity to reoffend) or it presents a public safety risk; various factors must be considered and procedural protections apply. In addition, employers and landlords prohibited from inquiring about or discriminating based on non-conviction records, juvenile records, or expunged or sealed records. In addition, public and private employers with more than 15 employees are prohibited from asking about criminal history until an initial interview or conditional offer is made, but this law provides no standards for considering a record. A court may issue a “Certificate of Good Conduct,” to relieve a person of mandatory employment bars.
Comprehensive standards apply to occupational licensing for most non-healthcare professions. Before denying a license based on conviction, agencies must consider certain mitigating factors and evidence of rehabilitation, and written reasons must be provided for denials. Licensing agencies may not consider juvenile adjudications, sealed or expunged records, uncharged arrests, dismissed charges unless related to the profession, and overturned convictions. Offenses that serve as a bar to licensure must be listed online. The sentencing court may issue a Certificate of Relief from Disabilities, which creates an enforceable “presumption of rehabilitation” for the purposes of licensing. A Certificate of Good Conduct is also available to avoid mandatory licensing bars.
There is no general law limiting consideration of criminal record in employment, but broad nondiscrimination protection for expunged and sealed offenses, including limits on reporting by background screeners. Ban-the-box is provided by executive order for executive branch employment on initial job applications, but local ban-the-box provisions are prohibited by statute, and no law covers private employers. There is negligent hiring protection for expunged and sealed offenses.
The occupational and professional licensing process is subject to extensive regulation, with licensing agencies required to 1) list “crimes that may disqualify an individual,” which must “directly” relate to the duties of the occupation; 2) consider whether to disqualify due to a “conviction of concern” pursuant to standards, and terminate the period of disqualification five years after conviction (except crimes involving sex or violence) if the person has no subsequent conviction; and 3) give written reasons for denial “by clear and convincing evidence sufficient for review by a court.” Similar requirements extend to licenses granted by units of county and local government.
Until 2020, Iowa had no general laws limiting or regulating consideration of criminal history in employment or licensing, though certain occupational licenses were subject to a “direct relationship” standard. In 2020 a general licensing law enacted a direct relationship standard, defined rehabilitation broadly (and presumed it after 5 years for most crimes), provided for a preliminary determination, and provided for strong due process protections. Previously, the only licenses that were related were in trades taught in the state’s prisons (e.g., electrician, plumber, mechanical, contractor, and barbering licenses). Pardon relieves all legal disabilities, including public employment disabilities.
It is a misdemeanor offense for an employer to ask about a job applicant’s criminal records without their consent. Executive branch employers are prohibited from asking about criminal record at the application stage, but there are no standards to guide decision-making thereafter, and no laws apply to private employers or non-executive branch public agencies. Individuals may be required to disclose expunged convictions when applying for certain licenses or public employment positions. Conviction may be considered in licensure but may not operate as a bar. Many licensing boards not covered, but those that are must list disqualifying crimes, minor misdemeanors may not be considered after five years, and non-conviction records may not be considered at all. Aspirants may seek preliminary nonbinding advisory opinion as to whether conviction will be disqualifying.
An executive order prohibits executive branch employers from asking about individuals’ criminal history until after an initial interview, and the standards described above guide decision-making thereafter. The order does not apply to other public employers in the state, or to private employers. A pardon may be useful in lifting barriers to some public employment, but gubernatorial restoration of rights is not. Public employment and occupational licensure may not be denied based on conviction unless it “directly relates” to the position or license at issue. There is a rebuttable presumption that Class A and B felonies and registrable offenses are directly related. Employers and licensing boards must provide applicants with written notice of the reasons for a denial and an opportunity to be heard, and in the case of licensure with an opportunity to personally appear before the board prior to the final decision. An applicant has the right to judicial review of a denial.
Public and private employers may not discriminate in hiring based on criminal records, may not consider non-conviction records, and must make individualized determination when considering other types of records that the record has a direct and adverse relationship with the specific duties of the job that may justify denying the applicant the position, considering various criteria. Public employers may not ask about criminal history for unclassified state service positions until after interview or conditional offer. General standards are provided for decisions thereafter relating to time elapsed since crime, its severity, and relationship to employment. Protection is provided from negligent hiring liability.
Licensing agencies may not deny a licence based on a conviction unless it is “directly related” to the licensed profession, tested against specified factors. A 2022 law establishes a binding predetermination procedure and standards, and requires written reasons and an opportunity to appeal. The list of exempt agencies in both cases was substantially cut back so that now only gaming-related licenses are exempt. Expunged records are available only to licensing agencies that are exempt.
Housing providers are required to disclose whether they consider criminal history prior to accepting a rental application fee.
Maine enacted in 2021 a ban-the-box law that applies to both public and private employment, and state employers are separately prohibited from inquiring about criminal history on employment applications, but the law provides no standards for decisions thereafter.
Maine limits consideration of conviction in the granting any occupational license issued by the State, placing stricter limits on less serious or dated convictions, or convictions that have been pardoned or set aside. For most licenses, agency may not consider convictions older than three years from conviction or release, for medical and law enforce licenses look-back period is ten years. Crimes that call for less than a year of incarceration may be basis for denial only if crime “directly relates” to the license (a term that is not defined) or if agency determines that the person is not sufficiently rehabilitated. In this event, the agency must provide a written reason for its decision.
Public employers and private employers with more than 15 employees may not ask about an applicant’s criminal history until they have had an interview. There appear to be no standards applicable to hiring decisions thereafter. Applicants for employment or licensure may not be required to disclose information about expunged or shielded records, and failure to disclose may not be the “sole” reason for denial of employment or licensing.
An occupational licensing board may not deny a license because of a conviction unless it directly relates to the desired license or there would be an unreasonable risk to property or safety. There are detailed standards for making these decisions, and no license may be denied seven years after completion of sentence with no intervening charges even if the disqualifying standards exist, unless the person is a registered sex offender. Certain licensing agencies must report periodically to the governor and General Assembly on the number of applications received from people with a criminal record.
Licensing boards must also give effect to “certificates of rehabilitation” issued by the Department of Corrections to people convicted of nonviolent and nonsexual crimes who have completed conditions of supervision.
Massachusetts’ fair employment practices law makes it unlawful for any covered employer, public or private, to request any information from an employee or applicant for employment about: (1) an arrest without conviction; (2) a first conviction for misdemeanors such as simple assault or minor traffic violations; and (3) any conviction of a misdemeanor that occurred five or more years before the application date. Neither public nor private employers may ask about individuals’ criminal history when they first apply for a job. In addition, employers may not take into account conviction records that have been pardoned or sealed. Massachusetts also limits the availability of conviction-related information to employers and licensing agencies through the Criminal Offender Record Information System (CORI)
There is no general limitation on how conviction is considered in occupational licensing, although each licensing agency must “provide a list of the specific criminal convictions that are directly related to the duties and responsibilities for the licensed occupation that may disqualify an applicant from eligibility for a license.” A few occupations require there to be some type of relationship (“direct” or “substantial”) between the conviction and the duties of the occupation.
By executive order, executive branch agencies may not ask about criminal history in job postings, but there are no substantive standards that apply to hiring decisions. The only restriction on inquiries by other employers is that they may not ask about misdemeanor arrests that did not result in conviction on an employment application. Michigan does not currently have any of the restrictions on record-related employment adopted in recent years by other jurisdictions.
A conviction may be grounds for denying an occupational license based on the requirement that licensees have “good moral character,” but (excluding a few types of licenses) certain records may not be considered: non-convictions, misdemeanors that do not carry a prison term, and convictions “unrelated to an individual’s capacity to serve the public.” Each licensing agency must specify the crimes that are likely to fall into the last-mentioned category, and provide a statement of reasons in the event of denial (“including a complete record of the evidence upon which the determination was based”) and an opportunity to appeal. Judicial review is available.
Public employers and licensing agencies must demonstrate, before they may reject an applicant based on criminal history, that a conviction is “directly related” to a job or license, and that the applicant has failed to show “sufficient rehabilitation and present fitness to perform.” Rehabilitation may be demonstrated by avoiding arrest for a year after release or by successful completion of probation or parole. Public employers and licensing boards are prohibited from considering non-conviction records, convictions that have been expunged, or misdemeanors that do not carry a prison term. They must give written reasons for a denial, and inform the applicant of applicable grievance procedures, the earliest date the person may reapply, and that evidence of rehabilitation will be considered. In 2022 first amendment of law in many years established a binding preliminary determination procedure, ikmposed reporting requirements on licensing boards.
Mississippi has no general law regulating consideration of criminal record in employment, and it has none of the limits on application-stage inquiries for public employers that exist in numerous states. Pardons remove employment disabilities, and individuals with expunged criminal convictions need not disclose them if asked in connection with an employment application.
Licensing agencies “may only consider criminal records that are specific and directly related to the duties and responsibilities for the licensed occupation when evaluating applicants,” as determined by a multi-factor test. Vague terms like “good moral character” are prohibited. Agencies must provide a written explanation for denial based on the stated factors “sufficient for a reviewing court.” Individuals may seek a preliminary determination as to whether their record will disqualify them, and the agency will provide it promptly.
Public employers may not disqualify applicants based on a conviction unless it “is reasonably related” to their competency to perform the job. In addition, an executive order prohibits executive branch employers from asking individuals about their criminal history on an initial job application. There is no law that restricts how private employers may consider criminal records.
As of 2020, licensing agencies are subject to a “direct relationship” standard. Certain serious crimes are per se directly related, but otherwise this is determined by a multi-factor test. Applicants may apply for a preliminary determination that is binding on the agency. If a person is denied a license they have a right to a hearing and written findings addressing each factor on which the agency relied, sufficient for a reviewing court, and the agency has the burden of proof. Teachers, health professionals, certain real estate professionals, and a few others are exempted.
Montana has no law regulating consideration of criminal record in public or private employment, including the limits on application-stage inquiry by public employers that most other states have adopted. A criminal conviction may not operate as an “automatic bar” to licensure, but may be grounds for denial or revocation of a license if the conviction relates to the occupation for which the license is sought, and the licensing agency finds, after investigation, that the applicant has not been “sufficiently rehabilitated.” When a licensing agency denies a license in whole or in part based on conviction, the agency must state its reasons in writing. An executive pardon removes all legal consequences of a conviction.
Public employers may not ask about an applicant’s criminal history until they determine the applicant meets minimum employment qualifications, but there is no similar restriction that applies to private employers. Employers and licensing agencies may not ask job applicants about sealed juvenile or non-conviction records. Individuals may seek a preliminary determination from a licensing agency as to whether their conviction would disqualify them from obtaining a license, and the board must respond in writing with reasons, and the individual may appeal. Licensing board policies and performance are subject to annual legislative review.
Public employers may not inquire into an applicant’s criminal history until a final interview or conditional offer. Thereafter, they may not deny employment until they have considered whether the offense is directly related to the position sought using a multi-part test. Public employers must provide rejected applicants a written notice specifying the reasons, and an opportunity to discuss. They may not consider non-conviction records, convictions that were dismissed or sealed, or misdemeanors that did not carry a prison sentence. There are no restrictions applicable to private employers.
There is no uniform standard that applies to consideration of criminal record in licensing, though many licensing agencies apply a “direct relationship” standard. Agencies must afford potential applicants an opportunity for a preliminary determination as to whether a conviction would be disqualifying. They may but are not required (as are agencies in other states) to publish a list of disqualifying convictions. Each agency is required to submit quarterly reports to the legislature on the number of applications received, determinations of disqualification, and the reasons for each.
Employers and licensing agencies may not ask job seekers and license applicants whether their criminal history includes an annulled offense. Beyond this, there are no limits on application-stage inquiries, or other restrictions on how public or private employers may consider criminal records. Licensing boards may reject an application due to a criminal conviction only if 1) it was for a felony or violent misdemeanor and 2) there is public safety risk. Licensing agencies may provide preliminary determination about whether a conviction would be disqualifying, and they must provide a written reason for a denial decision and an opportunity to appeal.
Public and private employers with more than 15 employees must delay inquiry into criminal history until after the first interview. A certificate of rehabilitation issued by a sentencing court or supervisory agency lifts bars to employment, except as provided in the Forfeiture Act, but conduct may still be considered. Licensing authorities may not deny a license or otherwise discriminate based on conviction unless it relates adversely to the occupation, defined by a multi-factor test. Pardon, expungement, or certificate of rehabilitation preclude a licensing authority from disqualifying an applicant. Under a law enacted in June 2021, housing providers will be prohibited from consideration of any criminal record at the initial rental application stage, allowed to consider only certain records after a conditional offer is made, and required to follow substantive and procedural standards for withdrawal of a conditional offer.
Neither public nor private employers may ask about individuals’ criminal histories on initial job applications. Public employers may consider criminal history only when an applicant is a finalist, while private employers may consider criminal history information after review of the application. Public employers and licensing agencies may deny an individual a job or license based on conviction only if the conviction relates directly to the desired job or license. Agency may not consider convictions that have been sealed, dismissed, expunged or pardoned; juvenile adjudications; or convictions for a crime that “is not recent enough and sufficiently job-related to be predictive of performance in the position sought, given the position’s duties and responsibilities.” If employment or licensing is denied, reasons for the decision must be provided in writing. Caregiver employment is subject to a higher standard.
New York’s Human Rights Law and Article 23-A of the Corrections Law prohibit discrimination based on criminal record by public and private employers and licensing agencies. Employment or licenses may not be denied unless there 1) is a “direct relationship” between a conviction and the job or license, as defined by a multifactor test; or 2) hiring or licensing the individual would be an unreasonable risk to people’s property, safety, or welfare. Employers, licensing agencies, housing providers, insurance providers, and credit providers also may not ask about or act adversely based on non-conviction records and certain conviction records. An individual with a criminal record who is denied a job or license has the right to receive a statement of reasons. Certificates issued by the court or parole board may lift mandatory employment or licensing bars and must be considered in discretionary decisions.
An executive order prohibits public employers from asking job applicants about prior conviction until initial hiring decisions have been made. New York City has a broad ban-the-box law that prohibits public and private employers from asking job applicants about convictions until after an initial offer is made.
North Carolina has no general law regulating consideration of criminal records in employment, including any limits on application-stage inquiries. A Certificate of Relief lifts most mandatory employment and licensing bars, and it may be “considered favorably” by employers and licensing agencies. By executive order, state agencies are barred from inquiring about criminal record prior to the first interview, may not consider certain non-conviction records, and may consider only criminal record that is “demonstrably job-related and consistent with business necessity associated with the position.”
Applicants for licensure may not be rejected based on a conviction unless it 1) is “directly related” to the duties and responsibility of the occupation; or 2) stems from a violent or sex crime. In determining the relationship of the crime to the occupation, agencies must consider specified factors, including whether an individual has a Certificate of Relief. The agency must provide reasons for denial and an opportunity to appeal. Individuals may apply to a licensing entity for a “predetermination” as to whether their history will “likely” disqualify them from obtaining a license, and a favorable decision is binding on the licensing board. Agencies required to report to legislature on licenses granted and denied to people with a criminal record.
Public employers may not ask about criminal record until an applicant has been selected for an interview, but thereafter no procedural standards and substantive criteria guide the employer’s decision-making. Occupational, professional and business licenses may not be denied because of a conviction unless: 1) the offense has a “direct bearing” on the applicant’s ability to serve the public in the desired position; or 2) the applicant is not sufficiently rehabilitated. Five years without a subsequent conviction is “prima facie” evidence of rehabilitation. If a person is denied a license based in whole or in part on conviction, the licensing agency must provide a written statement specifying the reasons for denial and the evidence relied upon, and an opportunity to appeal the decision, including through the courts. Pardons typically relieve mandatory employment and licensing bars, and sealed records may be made available only by court order when an entity has a statutory obligation to conduct a background check.
Public employers may not ask about individuals’ criminal histories on an initial job application. No employer or licensing agency may question an applicant about sealed convictions unless “the question bears a direct and substantial relationship” to the desired position, and the applicant may not be questioned at all about sealed non-conviction records.
Licensing agencies are required to publish a list of all criminal offenses that “shall” be disqualifying, and a list of offenses that “may” be disqualifying that must be “”directly related” to the licensed profession. A Certification of Qualification for Employment lifts automatic bars to both employment and licensure, and it creates presumption that an individual is qualified. Individuals may request a preliminary determination from a licensing board about whether their conviction will disqualify them from obtaining a license, and the determination will be binding unless the person’s convictions differ from what was included in the request. If a conviction is directly related to the licensed occupation, the board must still consider certain standards linked to public safety, may not deny after a period of either five or 10 years depending on the offense, and in the event of denial must provide procedural protections including written reasons and a hearing.
An executive order prohibits state agencies from asking about criminal histories on initial job applications unless conviction would automatically disqualify the applicant. While state employers may ask applicant about their criminal history during an interview, neither public nor private employers or licensing entities may ask about or consider expunged (sealed) convictions. And, neither employers nor licensing entities may consider juvenile adjudications as arrests or convictions.
Licensing entities may not deny a license application because of a conviction unless the offense 1) is “substantially related” to the duties and responsibilities of the lessened occupation; and 2) poses “a reasonable threat to public safety.” In considering whether a conviction is diqualifying a licensing entity must make an individualized determination considering a series of factors relating to the individual’s offense and subsequent rehabilitation. Certain records may not be considered, inclujding convictions for non-violent offenses after five years with no intervening convictions. Individuals may request a preliminary determination as to whether their criminal history may disqualify them from obtaining a license, a decision that is binding on the agency, and agencies must report annually to the legislature on the number of applications received from people with a criminal history and their disposition.
Public and private employers may not ask about an applicant’s criminal history until an initial interview or until a conditional offer is made. Individuals whose conviction has been set aside and sealed may tell an employer or licensing agency they have not been convicted of the crime. A licensing entity may deny licensure if it determines that an applicant’s conviction is “substantially related” to the occupation or profession, after considering the facts of the conviction “and all intervening circumstances.” In 2019, Oregon loosened standards for employment in certain care-giving positions, prohibiting consideration of specified non-convictions and convictions.
Pennsylvania imposes a “direct relationship” standard on applications for public and private employment, and occupational and professional licensure. However, because it has no administrative enforcement mechanism, its scope must be interpreted by the courts. Pennsylvania also has an unusually large number of laws that prohibit employment of people with a conviction record. A 2017 executive order prohibits public employers from asking about individuals’ criminal histories on an initial job application, and prohibits consideration of non-conviction records, expunged or pardoned convictions, and convictions that are unrelated to an applicant’s suitability for employment.
Licensing entities may not reject an applicant based on non-conviction records, or expunged, pardoned or sealed convictions. In the event of denial based in whole or part upon conviction, the agency must notify the applicant in writing of the reasons. In 2020 comprehensive fitness standards superseded mandatory bars and “good moral character” requirements; requires a direct relationship between crime and occupation, and a public safety nexus for disqualification. Restricted licenses for those coming out of prison who cannot yet establish fitness, and a preliminary consideration. Agencies required to identify directly related crimes by a notice-and-comment process, and report to the legislature on implementation with statistics.
Puerto Rico has no laws restricting consideration of criminal record in employment and licensing, but its broad expungement law may reduce the need for such laws.
Public and private employers may not ask about an applicant’s criminal record until an initial interview, but thereafter has no substantive or procedural standards to guide decision-making.
Under a 2020 law, Rhode Island applies a “substantial relationship” standard to licensing boards under most departments of state government, defines the standard in detail, excludes certain records from consideration, allows applicants to establish rehabilitation by detailed standards, provides detailed procedures in the event of denial, suspension or revocation, and includes accountability standards. A certificate from the parole board may improve opportunities for jobs and licenses.
South Carolina has no laws restricting how criminal record may be considered in the employment context, including any limits on application-stage inquiries. By virtue of 2023 amendments to its occupational licensing laws, a conviction is not a bar to occupational licensure unless it directly relates to the occupation, non-convictions may not be considered, and applicants denied based on a criminal history are entitled to reasons and an opportunity to be heard, and to appeal.
South Dakota has no laws restricting consideration of criminal record in employment or licensure, including limits on application-stage employer inquiries or fair chance licensing reforms. However, the State Human Rights Division publishes a guide that classifies as “suspect” for discrimination any question on an application form or in an interview regarding an applicant’s conviction, arrest, or court record that is not substantially related to the functions of the job. A pardon allows an individual to deny having been convicted, and results in sealing of the record after five years.
Public employers may not ask about individuals’ criminal histories until after an initial screening, and thereafter must consider a variety of militating factors in reaching a decision, including seriousness of offense and time elapsed since it occurred. A judicial “certificate of employability” or a pardon may facilitate employment or licensure.
Licensing agencies may not reject an applicant if a conviction does not directly relate to the occupation or profession. Individuals may request a preliminary determination about whether their criminal history will be disqualifying, and the agency must provide written notice justifying a negative decision. Prior to denying an application or refusing to renew a license, the board must provide the individual written notice of its intention with a justification, and offer an opportunity for an appearance before the board. In the event of denial, the board must provide written reasons and the earliest date the individual may reapply. An individual may appeal the board’s determination to chancery court, where the board must “demonstrate by a preponderance of the evidence that the individual’s… conviction is related to the applicable occupation, profession, business, or trade.”
Texas has no laws restricting consideration of criminal record in employment, including limits on application-stage employer inquiries. However, Texas has strict laws regulating background screeners, requiring that they get records only from a criminal justice agency and give individuals the right to challenge accuracy of records. They may not publish records whose disclosure is prohibited under another state law (e.g., records that have been expunged, or which are subject to an “order of nondisclosure”), there is a civil remedy for violations. Texas also prohibits negligent hiring suits except when the employer knew or should have known an employee committed certain high-risk offenses. Pardoned convictions may be considered in employment and licensing decisions, but records that have been ordered expunged or sealed (OND) may not.
Licensing agencies may reject applications based on conviction only if it “directly relates” to the occupation’s duties and responsibilities, and they must also consider a variety of mitigating factors relevant to rehabilitation and likelihood of reoffending. Agencies may not consider non-conviction records, apart from deferred adjudications. Restricted licenses are available in some occupations. Agencies must give an applicant written notice of intent to deny, an opportunity to respond, and written reasons citing statutory factors in the event of denial.
Public employers may ask about criminal history only after an initial interview or a conditional offer. Public and private employers and licensing boards may not ask about or consider expunged convictions, with exceptions. An occupational licensing agency may not disqualify based on conviction unless it is “substantially related” to the occupation, and applicants must be given individualized consideration pursuant to a multi-factor test, with an appeal in the event of denial. “Good moral character” provisions have been removed from most licensing statutes. Non-convictions, and most convictions after seven conviction-free years may not be considered. Potential applicants may apply for a preliminary determination as to whether their criminal history will be disqualifying.
Neither public nor private employers may ask about individuals’ criminal history—other than convictions that would trigger disqualification—until an interview or an applicant is otherwise deemed qualified. Employers and licensing agencies may not ask about or consider expunged or sealed convictions. A felony conviction may be used to deny an occupational license for over forty professions, although per a 2021 amendment to that law agencies must also consider a variety of mitigating factors before denying a license. Licensing boards must provide a pre-application determination regarding whether an applicant’s criminal background would be disqualifying. The Uniform Collateral Consequences of Conviction Act authorizes courts to issue orders relieving mandatory collateral sanctions.
Most public nor private employers may not ask about or consider non-conviction or sealed records. The Virgin Islands has no general laws limiting consideration of criminal record in licensing.
Public employers are prohibited by statute from asking about applicants’ criminal histories until a candidate has been interviewed; additional requirements are imposed by executive order. Employers may not ask about expunged non-conviction records, and applicants are not required to disclose them. Licensing agencies may not reject applicants based on a conviction unless it is “directly related” to the occupation. There is a lengthy list of specific criteria for determining direct relationship, but no provision for administrative enforcement. In case of denial, agencies must inform applicants that their criminal record “contributed to” denial.
Public and private employers may not ask an applicant about their criminal history until the applicant is deemed otherwise qualified, unless the employer is authorized or required by law to conduct a background check. Public employers and licensing agencies may consider applicants’ convictions only if they occurred within the last ten years or the crime “directly relates” to the desired position. Holders of judicial CROP certificates may not be denied most public employment and licenses even if the conviction is related to the license, and convictions that have been vacated may be denied. Benefits extended in 2021 to long-term care employees and contractors. Licensing agencies must to give potential applicants a preliminary determination as to eligibility, and an opportunity to appeals a negative decision.
West Virginia has no laws restricting consideration of criminal record in employment, including limits on application-stage employer inquiries. Employers and licensing agencies may not access expunged convictions unless they are required by law to perform a background check. Licensing agencies may not disqualify an applicant because of a conviction unless it has a “rational nexus” to the desired occupation, determined by specified standards including seriousness of crime, passage of time, and evidence of rehabilitation. An applicant may apply for a license after five crime-free years (with violent and sexual crimes subject to a longer period). Agencies are not required to give reasons for denial, but they are authorized to give potential candidates a preliminary determination respecting likely disqualification.
Wisconsin’s general fair employment act extends to criminal record as a prohibited ground for adverse action by public and private employers and licensing agencies (it is one of only a handful of states to include such a provision and provide for its administrative enforcement). However, it is not unlawful under this law to take adverse action based on arrest or conviction that is “substantially related” to the specific job or licensed activity. If a conviction has been expunged, it cannot be used to show “substantial relationship.” Public employers are also prohibited from asking civil service applicants about their criminal history until an applicant has been “certified” for a position. If asked, a job applicant must reveal a pardoned conviction.
If a licensing agency denies a license because of a conviction, the decision must be justified in writing. Before denying or terminating a license based on a prior conviction, an agency must state its reasons in writing, including “a statement of how the circumstances of the offense relate to the particular licensed activity.” An agency must also provide individuals with an opportunity to show evidence of rehabilitation and fitness to engage in the licensed activity, and it may not deny if both are shown. Individuals may request a preliminary determination about whether their criminal history will be disqualifying.
Wyoming has no laws restricting consideration of criminal record in employment, including limits on application-stage employer inquiries. Licensing agencies may not deny licensure based on a conviction that is more than 20 years old, except where the person is still under sentence or the sentence was completed fewer than 10 years before, unless the elements of the offense are “directly related” to the specific duties and responsibilities of that occupation. Agencies are also directed to ensure that applicants have an adequate opportunity to appeal a denial. Dozens of statutes regulating specific occupations have been amended to conform with general law, and in some cases to provide functional standards for determining “direct relationship.”