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Pennsylvania Criminal Background Check and Screening Laws

Pennsylvania employers who are planning to hire new employees need to be aware of specific laws and compliance requirements around the pre-hire and onboarding process. It’s important for employers to ensure compliance at every step of the hiring process.

Pennsylvania Background Checks and New Hire Screening Laws

Background checks is a standard step of the hiring process. They help protect your workplace and ensure the quality of new hires. In Pennsylvania, employers are allowed to request a criminal background check of a candidate when conducting background checks in the pre-hire screening process. However, there are some rules to follow when doing so. 

In general, Pennsylvania employers can consider an applicant’s criminal history if it affects the applicant’s suitability for the job role they are going to perform. Criminal history includes non-expunged felony and misdemeanor convictions. 

How to Request a Criminal Background Check in Pennsylvania

To request a Pennsylvania background check, employers can obtain certain information about arrests and convictions that occurred within the past 3 years and about certain older, pending arrests and convictions.

Employers are required to notify the applicant in writing if the decision to not hire is based on the candidate’s criminal history record or part of their criminal history record. 

Employer Protections

It is notable that employers will have immunity from liability for any claims of misconduct of the individual they hire if:

  • The individual they hire has expunged criminal history records or records with limited access that were not revealed in the background check process, and
  • The individual’s misconduct is related to the portion of the criminal history record that has been expunged or provided limited access

Learn more about Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (PHRA) and the compliance requirements regarding Pennsylvania equal opportunity employment.

Philadelphia Fair Criminal Record Screening

Employers in Philadelphia must adhere to their city-specific rules regarding criminal record screening in the hiring process. The Fair Criminal Record Screening Standards Ordinance, also known as “Ban the Box”, prohibits Philadelphia employers from inquiring about arrests and convictions of the applicant.

Like many other municipalities such as Chicago, Atlanta, Baltimore, and San Francisco, Philadelphia uses the “Ban the Box” with the intention of reducing discrimination in the hiring process.

The law applies to all employers located in Philadelphia with more than 10 employees. Under this law, employers are not allowed to inquire about convictions on the application or in the first interview, nor to make inquiries and any hiring decisions based on records of an arrest that did not result in a conviction. 

Fair Criminal Record Screening Exemptions

Employers who are exempt from Philadelphia Fair Criminal Record Screening include:

  • Employers who are mandated by state or federal law to consider certain criminal histories of applicants. However, this exemption would mostly be needed only when the state or federal law specifically requires that employers make inquiries about applicants’ criminal history records on the application or during the first interview. Otherwise, employers can always wait until after the first interview and make those inquiries and still comply with Ban the Box.
  • All Criminal Justice Agencies. For example, prisons, courts, police departments, detention and correction facilities, and probation agencies. 

Pennsylvania Employment Eligibility & Authorization Screening

According to federal law, employers are required to verify the identity and employment authorization of the individuals they intend to hire in the United States. There are two ways to verify employment eligibility.

Form I-9

Generally, all U.S. employers are required to complete Form I-9 for each individual they hire in the United States, applying to both citizens and non-citizens, to verify the identity and employment authorization of these individuals. This is a standard step in most companies’ hiring process. 


The other way to verify employment authorization is E-Verify. In addition to the Form I-9, some employers may be required to enroll and participate in the federal work authorization program, often known as E-Verify to verify potential new hires’ work authorization status. Although it is not mandated in Pennsylvania, the following employers may have to use E-Verify as an additional form of employment authorization:

E-Verify uses information from Form I-9 to compare with records available to the Social Security Administration and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. It requires more information than Form I-9 and thus is a generally more strict requirement. 

Non-Compete Clauses in Employment Verification

In the past, some companies may check for a non-compete clause in the employee's work history for more in-depth employment verification. Well, not anymore! On April 23, 2024, the Federal Trade Commission issued a final rule to ban non-competes in the United States, for protecting the fundamental freedom of workers to change jobs and fostering innovation and new business formation.

Effective September 4, 2024, all existing non-compete agreements will no longer be enforceable and it'll be illegal to use non-compete agreements moving forward. 

Get Help with Pennsylvania Criminal Background Check and Screening Requirements

Businesses that need help maintaining compliance around the pre-hire and onboarding process may want to consult with a Pennsylvania HR & Payroll Services Provider or may want to take the time to learn more about onboarding solutions. To learn more about how Paytime is helping countless businesses maintain compliance, contact us today.

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