Many employees or potential employees are rightly concerned that their arrest or conviction records could be used against them by current or potential employers. Fortunately, there are laws out there to protect them. Both the Wisconsin Fair Employment Act and the Fair Credit Reporting Act prevent employers from unlawful and discriminatory and use of background checks.

The Wisconsin Fair Employment Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of conviction records. While employers may ask about your conviction record, they must make clear that convictions will only be given consideration if the offenses are substantially related to the circumstances of the particular job. In other words, unless the crime is somehow related to the job you are seeking, it cannot be used against you. In addition, employers cannot ask about prior arrests, unless the charges are pending.

Protection is also offered under federal law. The Fair Credit Reporting Act prevents employers from conducting unauthorized background checks. The Act also provides rights to job applicants or current employees if an employer withdraws a job offer or terminates an employee because of information obtained from consumer reporting agencies. First, an employer must obtain written consent from the employee or potential employee before conducting a credit or background check. If the employer intends to use information contained in a report against someone in a hiring or promotion decision, it must inform that person of his rights under the Act. In addition, the employer must disclose the company that supplied the information and give the employee or potential employee notice of his right to dispute the accuracy of the information.

If you feel that an employer has discriminated against you because of your conviction record or unlawfully used a background or credit check, please contact Hawks Quindel, S.C. at (608) 257-0040 or (800) 610-0040 for a free, confidential consultation.

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David Zoeller