Increasing Employment Opportunities for Pennsylvanians with Criminal Histories

Fair Employment Opportunities Project

Pennsylvania law provides protection against biased practices for job-seekers with criminal histories. The Criminal History Record Information Act (CHRIA) provides that employers may only consider an applicant’s criminal history to the extent that it directly relates to the applicant’s suitability for a particular position. Arrests that do not lead to convictions may not be considered at all. To date, this law has gone virtually unused as a tool for addressing discrimination and little case law exists to increase enforcement of the law.

The Fair Employment Opportunities Project uniquely responds to this employment crisis in three complementary ways:

  • Corporate Champions: partner with local companies to develop and implement best practices for hiring and showcase corporate partners who have elected appropriate and legal hiring practices
  • Litigation: collaborate with non-profits and pro bono attorneys to represent victims under current state laws and increase relevant case law favorable to individuals with criminal backgrounds who are seeking employment
  • Public Education: execute a public education campaign to debunk myths and increase public knowledge of the issue

The Fair Employment Opportunities Project is a partnership effort with Philadelphia Lawyers for Social Equity. This work was originally supported by the Patricia Kind Family Foundation.

Background Checks at SEPTA

We filed a federal class action lawsuit against SEPTA, one of the region’s largest employers, on behalf of job applicants who were rejected on the basis of unrelated criminal history without  being given the chance to respond to their background checks. The case, Long v. SEPTA, is ongoing. In 2018, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a dismissal by the district court and held that the federal right to review and respond to background check reports can be enforced by people whose rights are violated. Read more about the case here.

Project Updates

August 5, 2022
Our comment on new proposed SBA rules for veterans with criminal histories

June 29, 2020
Court rules that former SBA rules barring business owners with criminal records from aid were illegal, extends deadline for our clients

June 24, 2020
Responding to our lawsuit and months of advocacy, the Small Business Administration expands the eligibility of many business owners with criminal histories for PPP loans

June 16, 2020
We sue the Small Business Administration for excluding business owners with criminal records from COVID-19 relief

April 2020
A criminal record shouldn’t be a barrier to the Paycheck Protection Program

April 2020
During the COVID-19 crisis, we worked with organizations across the country to demand that Congress and the Small Business administration remove restrictions on small business aid for owners with criminal histories.

December 2019
As part of a settlement, Montgomery Count will adopt hiring policies giving job applicants with criminal records a fair shot

April 2019
We advocate for an employee of a large healthcare network who had been wrongfully transferred under an unconstitutional law

March 2019
Highly qualified job applicant files suit against Montgomery County after being denied employment due to her old, irrelevant criminal record

April 2017
Laws Governing Criminal Record Inquiries in Employment

April 2016
SEPTA Background Checks Violate Federal and State Laws

February 2016
Major Healthcare Company Genesis Sued for Discriminating Against Prospective Employee with Unrelated Criminal History

August 2015
Employee with Criminal History Settles Employment Discrimination Case

March 2014
Sunoco Lends Support to Fair, Legal Use of Criminal Background Checks