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Federal Grants to Expunge Criminal Convictions

Within the next two years, more than 5,000 U.S. minors and young adults could have their criminal records expunged with the help of $26 million in federal grants, which means that their future employers may never know about their convictions. Expungement removes from the justice system all information about criminal history-including fingerprints, trial records, and related electronic files or paperwork. Judges decide who’s eligible for the program, and even offenders with violent criminal histories may be considered. The EEOC guidance doesn’t speak specifically to expunged records, and that makes employers’ responsibilities in this area murky. Some cities and states have laws forbidding employers from asking about expunged records. And no matter where they live, job candidates who are asked about past convictions can legally answer no if the conviction’s been expunged. Still, about 92% of organizations subject all or some potential employees to criminal background checks and convictions may still show up on the Web even if they have been expunged. Employers are advised not to ask follow-up questions about an expunged conviction, even if an applicant reveals the conviction. Companies should also make sure that background agencies check only court records for accurate information.

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