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Can an employer ask me if I have a police record?
Clear language definitions to common legal terms.
It depends on why they're asking and what kind of information they want.
Asking about a criminal record
An employer can ask you to get a "criminal record check" from the police. This shows only crimes that you were convicted of in court.
An employer can decide not to hire you because you have a criminal record.
Convictions that usually can't be used against you
If you get a record suspension for a crime that you've been convicted of, in most cases:
- an employer can't ask about that crime
- you can honestly say you don't have a criminal record
And breaking a provincial law is not a crime. In most cases, an employer can't ask if you've been convicted of breaking a provincial law. For example, speeding and careless driving are in the Ontario Highway Traffic Act. They're called provincial offences.
If you're convicted of a provincial offence, you don't have a criminal record.
But for some jobs an employer can refuse to hire you because of:
- a provincial offence
- a crime that you got a record suspension for
The law says that an employer can do this if it's:
- makes sense because of what the key duties of the job are
For example, an employer might think that hiring you could put other people at risk. So you might not get a job as a driver if you’ve been convicted of driving offences.
Asking for a "vulnerable sector check"
An employer will likely want a "vulnerable sector check" if you apply for a job where you'll be working with:
- older people
- others who may be vulnerable
The law says who is a vulnerable person. For example, people are vulnerable if, because they are younger or older or have a disability, they:
- depend on other people, such as caregivers
- are at a greater risk of being harmed by someone they trust or someone who has authority over them, like a sports coach
A vulnerable sector check includes your criminal record. It may also include other information that the police have about you. For example, it may include information about contact you had with the police even if it didn't lead to you being charged or convicted.
And it will list certain crimes even if you've been given a record suspension for them. For example, it will list sexual assaults.
For some jobs, employers must ask for a vulnerable sector check, for example jobs working with:
- residents in a long-term care home
- clients of an agency for people with developmental disabilities that gets funding from the provincial government
Asking about other police records
An employer might ask you to get a police record check that gives more information than your criminal record.
Different police services use different names for these kinds of police record checks, for example:
- police information check
- police background check
- criminal reference check
A police record check may include information about contact you had with the police even if it didn't lead to you being convicted of a crime.
And different police services include different information. For example, they might include information about you:
- being stopped and questioned by police
- being arrested or charged with a crime even if the charge was withdrawn or you were found not guilty
- having contact with the police because of a mental health crisis
- contacting the police to report a crime
The law does not say that employers can't ask for this information. And it does not say they can't use it in deciding if they will hire you. But if they don't hire you because of this information, they might be going against your human rights.
For example, if you're a person with a disability, it might go against your right to equal treatment as a person with a disability, if:
- the check shows that you had mental health issues, and
- an employer decides not to hire you.
The government plans to change the law and limit what police can put in a police record check. But the process to change the law will take some time.
Find out what's in your police record
If you've had contact with the police, you might want to find out what's in your police record. You can ask for a police record check at any time by filling out a form and paying a fee.
To do this, go to your local police station with 2 pieces of identification. One piece must be from the government and have your photo on it, for example, a passport or driver's licence.
The police will give you a written report with the results of the record check. When you see the report, you can think about:
- what you will do if an employer asks for a police record check
- whether you need to ask the police to correct or remove information
- whether you want to apply for a record suspension
There's more information about these points in the rest of the Next Steps.
Think about what you'll do if an employer wants to know about your record
If an employer asks you to get a police record check, you don't have to do it. But if you don't, you probably won't get the job.
It's best to have the police give the results of the record check directly to you and not the employer. That way, you'll know what's in it.
If you want the police record check to go directly to the employer, ask the employer to give you:
- a copy when they get it
- a chance to explain what's in it before they decide whether to hire you
Knowing your legal rights is important but you might also want to talk to an employment counsellor. They may be able to give you practical advice on how to answer questions that an employer might ask. What they suggest will depend on what's in your police record and what kind of job you're applying for.
Ask the police to correct your record
If you think there are mistakes on your police record, you can ask the police service to either:
- correct it
- add a statement from you about why you think it's wrong
Check the police service's website to see if they have a form you can use to make your request. If they don't have their own form, you can use this standard request form from the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario.
If the police refuse to do what you ask them, you can appeal to the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario. They can review that decision and order the police to make the correction.
Ask the police to remove information
You can ask the police to remove information about contact you had with them that did not lead to you being convicted of a crime.
For example, you may have been arrested and charged but the charges were withdrawn or you were found not guilty. You can ask the police to remove the information about the arrest or charge from your police record.
Or, you may have had contact with the police because you had a mental health crisis and there's information about this in their records. You can ask the police to remove this information.
You ask the police service that arrested or charged you or that you had contact with to remove the information from their records.
And if they shared the information with other law enforcement agencies, you can ask them to ask those agencies to remove the information from their records.
If the police refuse to do what you ask them and you want to do something about this, you may want to get legal help.
Apply for a record suspension
But getting a record suspension isn't easy and can take a long time.
Depending on how serious the crime was, you have to wait either 5 or 10 years before applying. For example, if you were convicted of taking a car without the owner's consent, which is sometimes called "joyriding", the waiting period is 5 years. If you were convicted of the crime of robbery, the waiting period is 10 years.
And the waiting period starts when you have completed your sentence. This means that you must have:
- served any jail sentence
- made any payments ordered by the court
- completed any probation
The fee to apply is currently $631.