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I've been offered a job but they never asked about my criminal record. Can I be fired afterwards if they find out?

Detroit, MI |

I have a criminal record, but they never asked me about it and I never brought it up. Now I'm told that there will be a background check after my probationary period in order to participate in the benefits program. It was never stated that my employment was contingent upon a criminal background check. If hired, can I be fired for my record later on? I've read that the EEOC's Title VII guidelines have been revised so that a "blanket policy" of any kind regarding criminal records is discriminatory and thus now illegal. It seems Bank of America, Manpower, Radio Shack, Marco's Pizza, and many other big names have been sued for this. However my employment is explicitly described as being "at will". Can I be legally fired for this? What about if I disclose it? Thanks in advance for any help!

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Attorney answers 3


If you lied on your employment record or omitted convictions yes you can be terminated.

My name is Stephen R. Cohen and have practiced since 1974. I practice in Los Angeles and Orange County, CA. These answers do not create an attorney client relationship. My answers may offend I believe in telling the truth, I use common sense as well as the law. Other state's laws may differ.. There are a lot of really good attorneys on this site, I will do limited appearances which are preparation of court documents it is , less expensive. However generally I believe an attorney is better than none.


As an at will employee, you can be fired anytime for any reason that is not unlawful. The employer is not required to state the reason for termination, nor is the employer required to be truthful or complete in any voluntary statement about the reasons. So, necessarily, yes, you can be fired for having a criminal record. Or for having a $5 bill in your pocket. Or ANY other reason that is not specifically unlawful.

If you are terminated based on your criminal history as that is revealed by an examination of your specific history, then by definition you have not been excluded from employment by a blanket policy that may be within the EEOC's ambivalent and nebulously-stated position on this issue.

If you are asked, disclose. If you disclose, be truthful. You do not control the employer's decision-making in this situation.

The employer can, of course, voluntarily waive or hold in abeyance any implementation of its policies on the issue of criminal record history as a factor.

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As an at will employee, you can legally be terminated for nearly anything, even something as silly as you happen to be one of two people walking by right after a boss reads an email directing him to eliminate two positions from the department. Not all bosses make the best decisions.

Long and short of it, it's probably a good idea to start working on the search for new employment.

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