If you have been convicted of a crime, you may wonder if you will be able to find employment. Employers are becoming increasingly concerned about knowing whether applicants have criminal records. Part of this concern stems from large jury verdicts that have been rendered against employers for negligently hiring people with criminal histories who subsequently caused harm to others while on the job. Another concern for employers relates to whether they will have to disclose the criminal conviction. For example, if a company is trying to raise capital, it may need to make certain disclosures to a bank. Will the company have to disclose that an employee has a criminal conviction for embezzlement or money laundering?
The laws about which criminal records an employer must or may access, what an employer may ask a potential employee and what the job applicant must reveal vary widely from state to state. If you have a criminal record and are looking for a job, it is in your best interest to consult with an attorney knowledgeable in criminal law, like Ann Fitz, Attorney at Law, P.C. in Southern California, so that you go into the job search fully informed of your rights.
Conflicting Public Policies
On the one hand, the public wants to reintegrate into society people with criminal histories, rehabilitated and gainfully employed. A routine schedule and regular income lessen the likelihood that a person will reoffend, but a person with a criminal record may face prejudice in the job application process. On the other hand, it is important to protect the public from contact with prior offenders who may have propensities to re-commit. For example, convicted sex offenders should not work with children or vulnerable adults.
How Much to Reveal
Depending on the state, an applicant may not have to reveal any or some types of potentially damaging information, such as arrests not resulting in convictions or convictions for minor matters. Some states have procedures to judicially "erase" a criminal record. A criminal defense attorney can help determine whether you may be eligible to get a conviction sealed, expunged or otherwise legally minimized.
Tips for Workplace Re-entry
- Be honest. Employers are interested in employees they can trust, and almost all information on a job application can be checked and verified. Even if it may close the door to certain positions, telling the truth is the best way to get a job that the applicant can keep over the long haul. Remember, in some states not all convictions must be revealed nor can potential employers ask for certain information.
- Start the job search with family, friends and acquaintances that may be more likely to take a chance on hiring someone they know, despite a criminal record.
- Do not expect the first job after a conviction to be your ideal job. It is more important to get started somewhere and create a track record, since employers know that a good indicator of future job performance is past job performance. Consider temporary or entry-level positions to build your résumé.
- Understand where the employer is coming from. It has to balance its legal and ethical obligations to you, to its employees and to the public.
- Investigate employment services. Most states have public agencies that administer programs to help people find employment, sometimes specifically designed for those with criminal histories.
- Refrain from alcohol and drug use. Some employers require employee drug testing.
- Consider the nature of your past offense. Apply for jobs where that kind of offense is less likely to be an issue of concern.
Completing a prison term or paying a fine can be just part of the price of a criminal conviction. The conviction can also affect post-conviction employment opportunities, but some employers are willing to give those with criminal records chances in appropriate circumstances. One job - any job - can be the first step toward rebuilding a career and a life. Attorney Ann Fitz can talk about various options and offer advice on planning for the future.