New Law Narrows Hawaii Criminal Background Checks

hawaii criminal background law

Did you know that Hawaii law prohibits discrimination based on an applicant’s criminal history?

Employers may not discriminate in hiring, firing, compensation, or other terms of employment based on an applicant’s or employee’s arrest or court record.

In fact, Hawaii’s criminal background check law is among the most protective in the nation.

During its last session, the Hawaii legislature further narrowed the scope of what employers can consider regarding an employee’s criminal background.

Hawaii Criminal Background Check Law 101

In Hawaii, only felony convictions of the last seven years and misdemeanor convictions of the last five years, excluding incarceration time, may be considered for employment decisions.

Employers who choose to conduct criminal background checks must consider the following before deciding whether that information disqualifies someone from employment: the type of offense, how serious it was, how long ago it was committed, as well as the nature of the job.

Only a number of employers such as schools, armed security providers, and financial and insurance institutions are exempt from the law.

The U.S. Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC) requires employers to give applicants with a record an opportunity to explain the circumstances of their criminal history.

If the applicant does have a conviction record within the last seven years for felonies and five years for misdemeanors, excluding incarceration time, and the record has a “rational relationship” to the job duties and responsibilities, the employer may withdraw the offer of employment.

This “rational relationship” might seem obvious, such as an individual with a check forgery conviction applying to work in accounting, but in many cases, it can be difficult (and expensive) to prove, depending on the specific scenario.

Therefore, it’s important that you discuss this subject with an HR professional or legal representative to ensure that you fully understand the limitations and stay in compliance before making adverse employment decisions based on information in a criminal history background check.

To learn more about this issue and to learn how to legally conduct a criminal background check, read Hawaii Tightens Criminal Background Check Law: What Employers Need to Know.

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Readers should first consult their attorney, accountant or adviser before acting upon any information in this article.