In the recent case of Ramos v. Walmart, Inc., the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey held that Pennsylvania plaintiffs have up to six years to file claims against employers for improper use of criminal history under Pennsylvania’s Criminal History Record Information Act (CHRIA). In doing so, it rejected Walmart’s arguments that the CHRIA exclusively concerned tortious conduct warranting a two-year statute, finding that “plaintiffs may bring claims [under the CHRIA] analogous to various Pennsylvania common law causes of action, more than simply those sounding in tort.”
The court relied, in part, on the case of Taha v. Bucks County Pennsylvania, where the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania similarly found a broader six-year statute of limitations was appropriate based on the variety of requirements the CHRIA imposed on criminal justice agencies, licensing agencies, private employers, and others.
The CHRIA provides that “[f]elony and misdemeanor convictions may be considered by the employer only to the extent to which they relate to the applicant’s suitability for employment in the position for which he has applied.” However, it does not specify how an employer should decide whether a conviction is “related” or not. While enacted more than 30 years ago, lawsuits were fairly uncommon until the more recent increased scrutiny employer background check policies face from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and state legislators. Litigation will likely continue to rise, given the uncertainty due to the patchwork of state and local restrictions regarding employer use of criminal history.
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Employers should continue to monitor litigation developments as they pertain to background check claims and assess their own processes regularly to ensure compliance. Please contact us if you have any questions about your own background screening practices.