A word of caution for job applicants with criminal history

March 17, 2015
By: Charles Lamberton


Employees with criminal backgrounds who are thinking about changing jobs should proceed one step at a time. We have seen many cases where an employee with a criminal history applies for a job with a different employer, goes through the interview process, and receives an oral offer of employment. The recruiting manager asks about starting dates and says welcome to the team. Often this happens even where the applicant has been candid about her criminal background. The applicant then resigns from her position with her current employer. A short time later, someone from human resources sends the applicant a written offer letter, which may or may not be accompanied by an employment contract. The written offer letter purports to be the new employer’s offer of employment, and expressly states that the offer is conditioned on the applicant passing appropriate criminal background checks. The applicant signs the offer letter indicating her acceptance of the employer’s conditional offer, and authorizing the employer to conduct the checks. When the background checks come in, the employer revokes its conditional offer based on the applicant’s criminal history information.

The end result is that the applicant is now unemployed, having already resigned from her old job. Because Pennsylvania employers may consider criminal history information to the extent it reflects on an applicant’s suitability for the position in question, applicants should not resign from their current employers until after they have received written notice from the new employer that they have successfully passed all background checks.