By Amy E. Feldman

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – When can an employer rule out an applicant based on a criminal background check?

It’s come to light that an assistant football coach in Florida who is now running for public office failed to disclose the fact that he was arrested as a juvenile for battery and petty larceny. He got into fights and stole beer and potato chips, crimes that would certainly not disqualify him to be a football fan, if not the coach.

But, the law on background checks is confusing to many. When can your employer hold your past criminal record against you?

The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has just given guidance on when employers can consider past crimes when deciding whether a criminal history would disqualify an applicant. The EEOC has made it clear that an employer can conduct background checks, but tells employers that rather than just automatically ruling out a person with a mark on his record, it should consider at least the nature of the crime, how long ago the crime occurred, and the nature of the job.

That way, a rowdy kid who helped himself to beer and chips might not be disqualified as an adult from helping rowdy kids who like beer and chips.