Should an Employee’s Criminal Background Impact Their Salary?

As an employer, you always want to do right by your company by picking the best employees from your applicant pool. A background check is an easy way to help narrow your decision, and 72% of employers rely on background checks as an essential part of their hiring process. 

When criminal records emerge in the background check, employers either remove the candidate from the running or explore further. Finding the crime and time served is just one reason to dig deeper for the details. By taking this step, employers reduce:


  • legal liability for negligent hiring 
  • risk of theft
  • workplace and public safety threats


How to Calculate Salary: An Employer’s Decision

Running a general background investigation is all well and good, but what about when the check reveals negative information? What happens when a qualified applicant has a criminal background? How to calculate salary in these situations can be tricky. Clearly, this candidate won’t have many options, a reality that puts downward pressure on his wages. 

 Every business handles its hiring of a person with a criminal record differently. Some, due to the nature of the job, may not hire those with a criminal background at all, disqualifying them immediately. Other employers may try to reduce or otherwise impact the employee’s salary to counterbalance the risk they’re taking. 

The key fact to note here is that there are laws when it comes to deciding not to hire someone, or hiring someone with a lower salary, due to their criminal record. The law states that the grounds for dismissal or salary impact must be related only to the job. Further, arrests (not convictions) cannot affect job hiring decisions. Finally, neither background checking agencies nor employers can ever see expunged cases.


The Current State of Employee Criminal Background Checks 

When interpreting data from employee criminal background checks, it’s important to first understand how the system currently handles information. An employee criminal background check will reveal identity verification, employment verification, credit history, driver’s history, criminal records, motor vehicle records, education confirmation, and more to employers. The current background check system operates on the following goals: 


The current system always informs the tested party. In certain states, you as an employer must inform the employee that their salary was lowered if it has to do with their employee’s criminal background check. A full explanation of how the record affected the decision will be communicated to the applicant, and also disclosed in the applicant’s record.


Current laws offer some flexibility to those with past criminal records. While convictions may appear on an employee criminal background check, the law is understanding of a person’s errors and reduces what can appear on the check with time. 

For instance, time statutes limit the listing of many crimes. Through the Fair Credit Reporting Act, employers can only look back at seven years of criminal and court records. In some states, employers are able to see felonies, but not misdemeanors. The specific set of laws pertaining to your hiring process will depend on what state you reside in. Some states being more permissive than others.  


Current societal opinion is moving toward rehabilitation rather than life-long punishment. The best example of this is the “Ban the Box” movement, which encouraged cities and counties in 30 states to remove questions about criminal backgrounds in the initial steps of an application. 

Proponents of reform have fought for pushing employee criminal background checks later in the hiring process, allowing ex-convicts to present their qualifications equally, without judgment initially. These activists also are lobbying for employers to give those who’ve spent time in prison an opportunity to explain their criminal history once revealed.


Factors that Impact a Criminal Record 

When asked if an employee criminal background check should affect an employee’s salary, there’s really no one answer. Like most of life’s complicated questions, the answer is a resounding, “It depends.” There are many factors to keep in mind that help employers understand the convictions discovered. Some of these factors also impact salary.

For one, employers should consider what exactly the crime is. Certain convictions are seen as less morally corrupt, and may be treated more lightly. Then, employers should question when the crime happened. Recently released criminals are often more likely to be a problem than past ones. Convictions from the distant past can be balanced against the candidate’s years as an honest citizen. 

Next, the crime and the job must be compared. 

In some states, laws permit employers to qualify or disqualify a candidate based on whether the crime could impact an applicant’s ability to perform a job’s tasks. For example, someone convicted of embezzling is likely not a person you’d choose to be your next CFO. Similarly, a level of risk and liability must be assessed. 

Risk and liability can be assessed outside of the job description for workplace safety as well. Certain violent crimes may put you, your employees, or your customers at risk.

Lastly, there is sentencing and remediation to be considered. The purpose of convicting criminals is to offer a chance for reform, not to condemn them for life. Take into account the time spent repaying crimes. Work that has been done as repayment to right their criminal wrongdoing can show growth and change in the applicant. If far enough in the past and remediated enough, their criminal record may be inconsequential in your hiring decision. You may find asking about salary history to be helpful in making a final decision.


How to Check Employee Criminal Background: Additional Checks

A portion of learning how to check employee criminal backgrounds is looking at additional sources of information. To determine the final decision of a potential applicant, you may want to perform two more types of background searches: “qualifications verification” and a “sanctions search.” Doing so will help build a better picture of your applicant both with respect to and outside of their criminal record. This extra information can help crystalize your decision. 

Qualifications verification confirms the details of a candidate’s qualifications, and exposes any exaggerated, fake, or completely falsified qualifications by checking them at the source. This may include educational history, employment history, professional certificates, and industry-specific licenses. Qualifications verification guides you in how to calculate salary based on objective experience. Sanctions searches are background checks that utilize government sanction databases to detect people forbidden from certain jobs or industries, and lists government employment-ban lists. These searches include OIG, FACIS (Levels 1, 2, and 3), and the Disciplinary and Abuse Registries.


Use DataCheck

Determining a hiring outcome for someone with a criminal history is not an easy decision for an employer. When you choose the wrong background check supplier, you can end up with criminal background checks that yield incomplete information about someone’s criminal history. These reports often miscategorize convictions, even presenting crimes from the distant past that may not legally be allowed to be considered. When it comes to the right methods for how to check employee criminal backgrounds, you should always choose DataCheck.

Don’t trust just anyone with acquiring such vital information; our background check services offer a secure, thorough criminal background investigation with amazingly fast results. Our background checks are always tailored and personalized to what you and your business need. 

Our services include identity verification, qualifications verification, motor vehicle records, sanctions searches, social media searches, drug testing, and so much more. Use DataCheck to check your applicants’ criminal background today and make a wise hiring decision with all of the relevant information at your disposal. Contact us today to get started!

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