CAN A CRIMINAL BACKGROUND PREVENT AN APPLICANT FROM OBTAINING AN OCCUPATIONAL LICENSE IN PENNSYLVANIA?

Michelle D. Patrick, Esq.

 

Background checks are becoming more and more standard in the employment field as employers are increasingly requiring successful completion of a background check prior to the start of employment. What about those who are not necessarily seeking employment but rather are trying to get an occupational license from the state. Does the state run a background check before issuing a license? Can you be denied a license because of a criminal background, regardless of the offense or how long ago it was?

Until July 1, 2020, when Senate Bill 637 (SB 637) became law, the answer to the last question was yes. SB 637 requires Pennsylvania’s 29 licensing boards to individually examine each application for licensure to determine if an applicant’s criminal history is a reason for disqualification. Specifically, they are tasked with considering if the criminal history directly relates to the occupation for which the license is sought and whether, as a result of the criminal history, the issuance of the license would create a substantial risk to the public. Absent those two factors, criminal history is no longer a reason to deny a license.

SB 637 prohibits the consideration of juvenile convictions and those that have been expunged under the Clean Slate Law. It also prohibits the issuance of a license to someone convicted of a sexual offense from practicing as a health care practitioner.

SB 637 allows individuals to request a preliminary decision from individual licensing boards to determine if their criminal history would prevent them from obtaining a license. This is extremely helpful as it prevents applicants from investing the time and money into the education and training necessary to obtain such license.

If you have been denied a license based on your criminal background you should consult an attorney. The attorneys at the The Ezold Law Firm are experienced employment attorneys who are here to assist you. We can be reached at 610-660-5585 or contact us online.