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    11 Replies Latest reply on Dec 26, 2009 10:23 AM by duncan78

    Interview question about previous convictions - is it legal?

    DynoMan Wayfarer
      Hello all,
      we are buying an existing business and have found a lot of this information helpful. So to all of you, thanks!!!

      My question has to do with application and interview questions. Can we ask if the applicant has "ever been convicted of any felony or misdemeanor by a criminal or military court"? This is not a bonded position, but they will be responsible for day-to-day cash business. PLUS, there is a high school and dance studio within the same industrial complex and we want to ensure the children's safety, as good neighbors. Can we legally ask this question? We will not automatically disqualify an applicant because of a previous record, and we do plan on background checks for the final choices. Thanks ahead of time for your responses.
        • Re: Interview question about previous convictions - is it legal?
          intechspecial Ranger
          Of course you can request if they have any type of criminal record.
          1 of 1 people found this helpful
          • Re: Interview question about previous convictions - is it legal?
            Lighthouse24 Ranger
            In most jurisdictions, it would be legal to inquire about convictions (but not arrests) -- however, there are a few counties and cities in the U.S. that have banned questions about convictions across the board, and some jursidictions that only allow an employer to ask about convictions that are relevant to the position being filled (i.e., theft, larceny, etc. in your case -- but possibly not assaults, drunk driving, and so on).

            Check with a local employment attorney (or visit a local employment attorney's website). Most of the employment attorneys who I have worked with will either have a list of illegal interview questions on their sites, or will give you the answer to that over the phone as a courtesy.

            Best wishes, and good luck with the new business.
            • Re: Interview question about previous convictions - is it legal?
              intechspecial Ranger
              I should have answered this question with a little more detail.

              You would think that it would be legal to ask these types of questions but I am not positive about the details on a county or state level.

              I know that it is completely legal to ask if they have a felony conviction in the application process.

              It would only make sense that your are able to do a complete background check on someone, and their are plenty of resources through the city state and federal government that can help you with this. Private sector has ways to help as well. There are a ton of online websites that will allow you to do a background check with someone drivers lic number, or SSN, and this is perfectly legal as long as you do not have criminal intent.

              As far as the interview process, once again, I am of the understanding that Federal laws state you are allowed to ask if they have ever had a felony conviction.

              I am by no means an attorney, but this only makes sense.

              You might want to do a search on USA.gov regarding employer hiring laws, or a search on your state webite on hiring laws.

              Best to be informed and educated then to take a stab in the dark. My previous post should have had the lights on,

              I apologize.
              1 of 1 people found this helpful
                • Re: Interview question about previous convictions - is it legal?
                  Lighthouse24 Ranger

                  The county I am most familiar with disallows the question on applications, but allows it during the interview process when it is relevant to the job (but a prior conviction cannot automatically disqualify a candidate unless the job posting says that).

                  Unfortunately, employment law doesn't always make sense from an employers perspective.

                  It should also be noted that about 80 percent of federal, state, and local employment laws don't apply to smaller businesses anyway. So if you only have a few employees, it may be a moot point. Again, local employment attorneys are almost always happy to advise business owners on these things, and then you can be 100 percent sure you're doing what's right.
                  1 of 1 people found this helpful
                    • Re: Interview question about previous convictions - is it le
                      DynoMan Wayfarer
                      Thank you both for your insight. This is a new frontier for us. We will, of course, add a statement in the application that a conviction does not automatically disqualify an applicant from the position, and we plan to do background checks as well on the top candidates. We have added a statement in the application that this will be the case.

                      The type of position is blue collar, and we understand that some people will have made some bad choices in their past. We are looking for someone who has obviously turned their life around and wants a long-term steady income. Any history of embezzlement or crimes concerning youth will be red flags. DUI's are as well, since the tech needs to drive customer's cars and we don't want a large hole for a front door! We will be cautious, but must consider the environment we are going to establish ourselves in. We just don't want to break any hiring laws in the process.

                      Again, many thanks for your input. I now have better guidance in where to find the answers.
                  • Re: Interview question about previous convictions - is it legal?
                    Soaringspirit Newbie

                    If you want to know more about the legality of what questions to ask and how to do a background check go to www.privacyrights.org I sit on their advisory board and they are a non-profit organization that creates fact sheets for employers and for potential employees. Check out the various documents- they will guide you with the code sections of the law for California and for federal law too. Make sure that you get written permission for a background check- don't just take the SSN and name and order from an information broker- you must have an affirmative permission (check a box or other) to get an investigative consumer report or credit report.
                      • Re: Interview question about previous convictions - is it le
                        DynoMan Wayfarer
                        This is a great thing to know moving forward. Thanks for the website address.

                        We did add statements to the application that spelled out drug tests, practical application, and background checks and added the phrase, "...by my signature I give my permission." We also have a form for the top candidates for employment history background checks. They would sign it, releasing the corporation and the previous employer from repercussions.

                        Going through the background check process was enlightening. There are way too many Knock-offs out there and it took some time and education to sort through the chaff.

                        UPDATE: We have now made it through almost 2 full months of business. We matched the previous owners Jan sales, which has us hopeful. We are slightly lower, for Feb so far, but we expected a slower Feb. We were able to find an employee that we actually had hoped for. We made an exception to interview him on a different day because he did not want to leave work to come to the scheduled interviews - it would not be fair to his current employer. Glad we did. He is almost the perfect fit to a "T". It is still a stressful venture - this owning a business - especially in the recent climate, but I saw my parents do it, and there is a good sense in both of us, so, I think we'll be okay.

                        I thank all of you for your advice and input. I have come back often just seeing other topics and find lots of education in here. I will keep you updated on the biz if interested.

                        Karen
                      • Re: Interview question about previous convictions - is it legal?
                        duncan78 Newbie
                        You can ask about convictions if they are particularly relevant to the particular position. You can also let candidate know that a policy needs a background check prior to hire.

                        http://www.examplesof.com/interview_questions/