Will my family member’s criminal record keep him/her from getting a job?
The first step in determining the impact of one’s criminal record on employment is to get an official record from your state with the exact description of the offense/s, dates and other information regarding the criminal record. Sometimes an individual will anticipate that something “damaging” is in their record, when in fact, it is not. Each person must know how their offenses are classified e.g. misdemeanor, felony etc.and which offenses show up in their records as an adult. Every state has a unit of government such as criminal justice information service that processes requests for information, helps to make corrections to the record and investigates improper access to those records. To see an example of this, check out Massachusetts’s CORI page.
Once your family member has a copy of the criminal record, the next thing is to see if any of the record can be expunged or “closed”. At least 13 states have laws which allow for low level offenses to be expunged after a specific period of time. Each state has its own rules about expunging records and the factors that come into play include:
- If there was an actual conviction
- If the crime was not severe
- Length of time since arrest or conviction
- Whether terms of the sentence, probation or diversion were completed
- Whether there were other convictions in the past.
Serious crimes are not likely to be expunged.
With written documentation of his/her actual record, your family member can proceed to examine what the impact on employment might be. Most states do allow employers to use criminal records when making hiring decisions – but not usually across the board. In other words, there must be evidence showing that the employer’s policy is reasonably related to the job requirements. For example, if the criminal offenses were related to violent or aggressive behavior, jobs in the human services may be disallowed. Increasingly, employers are conducting criminal background checks when hiring job applicants, which can make it much more difficult for those with criminal records to achieve jobs. Most states allow employers to refuse to hire people with criminal records, not just those convicted but even sometimes those who were arrested but never convicted.
Many employers are bound by certain hiring laws. An example is the Fair Credit Reporting Act which is a federal law that requires employers to provide notice when getting a candidate’s credit report or criminal record. The employer must ensure the report is used for a legally correct manner. The employer must have authorization to use the report and must give the job candidate a copy of the report and a summary of their rights. Employers may conduct background checks prior to hiring someone to prevent lawsuits on potential harm. In most states, arrest history without conviction cannot be used to automatically exclude a candidate. Arrest records can only be used if it was recent, the candidate is likely to be guilty and there is a connection between the job and the reason for arrest (e.g.person was arrested for shoplifting and is applying for retail store position). There are laws that prevent individuals with certain criminal offense histories from jobs in a particular. The job seeker is wise to seek advice from professionals before embarking on job hunting alone. (Rosen)
Increasingly, employers are conducting criminal background checks when hiring job applicants, which can make it much more difficult for those with criminal records to achieve jobs. Most states allow employers to refuse to hire people with criminal records, not just those convicted but even sometimes those who were arrested but never convicted. Sometimes a vocational rehabilitation program that is working with your family member has employer relationships that can open doors or help broker solutions such as waivers. Some individuals who can access the resources to get started, turn to self employment in order to avoid the screening out problems in regular employment.
This webpage features common questions and definitions related to employment with a criminal record.
Explore this page to learn more about aforementioned standards as well as summaries of state laws regarding criminal records.