If you have a criminal history, it may seem unfair that it impacts your ability to get a job and take care of your family. This is especially true if the incident on your background occurred years or decades ago. Unfortunately, employers do have the right to check your criminal background and deny employment based on the findings. However, there are some cases where such an investigation is not legal.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission explains in general criminal background checks are completely legal. However, if an employer conducts such checks for only certain employees, such as those of a specific race, then it becomes a discriminatory practice illegal under the law.
For a background check to be legal, your prospective employer must also tell you it will conduct a background check and use that for hiring decisions. You must also consent to the background check in writing. Furthermore, your employer cannot have a blanket ban on hiring people with certain crimes that could discriminate against a certain population. This is especially important if issues may stem from a disability. Finally, your potential employer must inform you why it made the decision not to hire you based on your background check and provide you with the information of the company that conducted the inquiry.
It can be disheartening to find yourself struggling to get a job because employers do criminal background checks. However, employment laws are often on the side of the employer in this case, but do ensure that any employer does comply with all requirements. This information is for education and is not legal advice.