Can a business refuse service to someone because they have a criminal history?

UPDATED: Aug 8, 2011

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Can a business refuse service to someone because they have a criminal history?

My company sent out an email “blacklisting” certain types of customers; one is to exclude anyone with a known criminal history.

Asked on August 8, 2011 Arizona


FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

A business as part of its custom, practice or the way it operates can refuse to provide services to a person because he or she has a criminal history such as a conviction or convictions for a misdemeanor and/or a felony.

However, the business' operations where there is an implied or worse yet, intended "blacklisting" of certain types of customers such as excluding anyone with a known criminal history is "discriminatory" and could very well subject the business to a civil action under the laws of many states in this country.

Whether or not a person has a "known" criminal history is not a basis for denying services to him or her. People may have had prior criminal problems, have had them resolved and have paid their dues to society. When this happens, a person with a criminal past should be given the same opportunities as a person without a criminal past.

Your company can refuse services to someone because of that person's criminal history, but such refusal runs the risk of possible legal problems down the road.

Good question.


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