If you face a criminal charge or have a criminal record in Houston, you may be wondering what shows up on an employment background check when you apply for a job.
First, you should know that Texas law allows prospective employers to run background checks on potential employees. Though employers can do this by using government-maintained databases, most hire services such as credit reporting agencies to do it.
If that’s the case, the employer is required by Texas law to notify job applicants in writing that the background check will be done, and also get written approval from the applicant.
In other words, you’d know if this was happening, and you’d have to give your consent.
Also, if you were consequently turned down for the job, the employer would be required by Texas law to inform you why, while giving you a copy of the report and the name of the credit reporting agency which provided it.
How far back can a criminal background check go in Texas?
The answer is seven years.
However, there are exceptions to the seven-year rule in which a background check could go further back—all the way to the year you turned 18 years old. Since the criminal records of minors are generally sealed, a criminal record prior to age 18 would not be available.
These exceptions include:
- If the salary for the job is over $75,000
- If you’re applying for a job at an insurance company
- If you’re applying for a job involving residential deliveries or in-home services (i.e. driving for FedEx or UPS or working as a plumber, electrician, landscaper, cable installer, apartment maintenance person and so on)
In such cases, forget the seven-year rule. The background check could extend to 20 years of felony history and 10 years of misdemeanor history.
Another exception to the seven-year rule for background checks is if the employer performs its own search of a person’s background internally. Then, there’s no limit. Limits only arise when an outside agency performs the check. However, few employers run their own checks.
What can such background checks reveal?
In a nutshell, your criminal record — a record which may make it difficult for you to get gainful employment.
On one side, employers want and need such background checks because they could be held liable if someone they hire with a criminal history injures someone or damages property. Also, employers understandably want to hire someone they feel they can trust.
On the other hand, persons with a criminal record need a fresh start, and a new job is a vital part of that. That’s why Texas and federal laws on criminal background checks try to balance the needs of the applicant and the employer.
With an estimated 90 percent or more of employers running background checks, you can almost assume you will be subjected to such a check of your criminal record. But again, certain rules must be followed by employers.
And you must follow the rules, too.
That means if an employer asks on your job application if you have a criminal history, you should answer honestly. You should not lie.
What if you accepted probation or deferred adjudication instead of facing prosecution?
In that case, the employer still will be able to identify the criminal charge involved.
However, if your charge was dismissed without an admission of guilt, that charge would not show up on a criminal background check.
Also, if you were arrested but never charged, the arrest should not show up on an employment background check. And even if it did, employers are not legally entitled to deny you a job based solely on an arrest, which isn’t considered proof of criminal activity. In fact, anti-discrimination laws prohibit this.
For that reason, background checks tend to look only for convictions, guilty pleas or pleas of no contest.
If you face a criminal charge, keep in mind how important future background checks may be to your ability to resume working. Our Houston criminal defense law firm has been able to get many clients’ charges reduced or even dropped entirely — which would mean no criminal record — and we can fight for your legal rights as well.
Also keep in mind that even if you’re convicted, your lawyer can seek what’s known as an expungement, expunction or non-disclosure order for your criminal record.
Contact us today if you need help facing a criminal charge in Houston, Harris County, Fort Bend County or Montgomery County. We will quickly give you a case review with no obligation or strings attached. Then, you can decide how you want to proceed.
The thought of what shows up on a future criminal background check may help you make up your mind.