This section will explain the laws on how employers can (and can’t) use your criminal history to make employment decisions, and what you can do if you think an employer has illegally discriminated against you.

In general, the law says that employers should only consider your criminal history if it directly relates to your ability to do the job, and cannot use your criminal record to discriminate based on your race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. However, there is often a gap between what the law says on paper—about your rights as a job applicant or employee, and about the employer’s duties to treat you fairly—and how employers act in real life. It can also be difficult to prove that an employer has illegally discriminated against you, which can make it difficult to enforce your rights. But it is IMPORTANT for you to know what your rights are on paper, and know how to spot illegal discrimination and protect yourself from illegal practices as much as possible.

  1. Legal and Illegal Employment Discrimination

    1. Can employers legally discriminate against me (such as not hiring or firing me) just because of my criminal record?

    2. What laws protect applicants from discrimination based on their criminal record?

    3. Can an employer have a policy that excludes applicants who committed certain specific crimes?

    4. What can an employer consider about my criminal history?

    5. How can I improve my chances of getting hired if the employer sees my criminal record?

    6. What can I do if I believe that an employer has a complete ban on hiring people with records?

  2. Real-life situations—examples of discrimination because of criminal record & race (or other protected characteristic)

    1. Can an employer discriminate against me because of my race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, or national origin?

    2. What can I do if I think an employer has treated my criminal history more harshly than other job applicants because of my race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, or national origin?

    3. I was fired or denied employment because of my visible tattoos. Do I have any legal protections against discrimination?

    4. What can I do if I feel I was illegally discriminated against by an employer?

    5. How much time do I have to file a discrimination complaint against an employer?

    6. What relief could I get if an employer illegally discriminated against me?

    7. What is the difference between filing an employment discrimination complaint with the EEOC and DFEH?

    8. How do I file a discrimination complaint with the EEOC?

    9. What happens after I file a complaint with the EEOC?

    10. How does the investigation process work?

    11. How do I file a complaint with the DFEH?

    12. What if I want to go straight to court and file a lawsuit on my own?

    13. Who can represent me if I believe I have been illegally discriminated against for a job because of my record?