Crimes and Misdemeanors

Dear, Anita,

I worked for a company for a total of 13 years, in 2010 I caught a charge that was a misdemeanor but still continue to work for the same company for 2 more years, then got fired for what they say was misconduct. Now I’m having problems trying to find a job, I’ve been applying for jobs ever since August of last year, hoping that something will fall through for me soon. Any advice for me?

Mug_Shot_iStock_000014052000_300pxDear, Miss Demeanor,

I get quite a few inquiries from job seekers with criminal records, both felonies and misdemeanors. (My post Disclosure of a DUI is one of my top 5 posts of all time.) It’s not surprising since nearly one-third of Americans have been arrested by age 23, a National Institute of Justice article observes. Criminal records range from one-time arrests where charges are dropped to serious repeat offenders, but most arrests are for relatively minor nonviolent offenses.

Since you have a misdemeanor on your record and you’ve been fired, that could count as two strikes against you in the eyes of a potential employer. Check out my blog Explaining Away “You’re Fired.” Since you worked at the company for 13 years, you must include it on your résumé and applications. The misdemeanor, however, may be a different story, depending on where you live. In recent years, some cities and states have prohibited public and sometimes private employers from asking for criminal histories. See the areas with “Ban the Box” policies at the National Employment Law Project (NELP). Positions in fields such as law enforcement, education, or care giving may require full criminal record disclosure, even misdemeanors. Be sure to read applications carefully; some only ask about felonies and not misdemeanors. Others may state a specific time period, such as “in the last seven years.” You don’t want to hide it, as it will come out if and when an employer performs a background check.

Police officer conducting sobriety testThe U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) offers guidelines for employers on consideration of job applicants’ criminal histories. While these are not policy or law (so not really enforceable in many states), the top three factors employers should consider are: 1) the nature and gravity of offense, 2) time lapse since the offense, and 3) the nature of the job. While an employer with an open accounting position should be hesitant to hire someone who, say, embezzled from a charity, a middle-aged candidate with one sole DUI from college days might fill the position without any issues. Try to apply to jobs that have nothing to do with your infraction (so no driving jobs if you have a DUI on record).

If your misdemeanor is really holding you back, consider having it expunged from your record (sealed from all but law enforcement). The procedure varies from state to state, so you may wish to consult an employment attorney.

Job Seekers: How have you gotten a job with a misdemeanor on your record?
Hiring Managers: Do you have any advice on how job seekers can best present any criminal records?

Do you have a job-related question? Ask Anita.

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Finding Jobs for Ex-Felons
Disclosure of a DUI
Explaining Away “You’re Fired”
Time Theft: Is it Really a Crime?

8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. anitaclew
    Jul 21, 2015 @ 09:31:59

    Oregon just signed a “Ban the Box” bill into law, effective Jan. 1, 2016.
    Note that the law would not prohibit employers from using information regarding criminal history entirely; just not on an initial application.


  2. anitaclew
    May 20, 2015 @ 15:08:32

    Ohio has banned the box on state applications, effective June 1.


  3. Jim Cotter
    Apr 08, 2015 @ 17:28:02

    I have been a law enforcement officer for the past 23 years. I have known people who have made a mistake and been arrested. Yes, your records may be sealed and expunged specially if you were not convicted. Depending on the nature of the job you are applying for honesty is the best policy. I have heard other law enforcement officers tell people who have been arrested and not convicted not to bother to apply to any law enforcement agency. That is not the truth, I would suggest that they apply, sometimes they are better law enforcement officers because of their own experiences.


  4. tony guzman
    Mar 31, 2015 @ 19:12:02

    thanks and god bless you my dear friend for the INFO


  5. Steve Luera
    Mar 31, 2015 @ 14:34:39

    First of all, you need to own your actions. You didn’t “catch” a misdemeanor charge, you broke the law. Actions have consequences. Unfortunately, the world of employment is far removed from the world of social interaction. While some states do allow sealing of criminal records, many, Colorado for example, do not. Furthermore, background checks used in application processes rarely search less than seven years; in fact, vetting for “good” jobs is often extensive.
    Make no mistake, the road back is much worse than your detour “underground”, which truly is the “Hiway to Hell”. Exit now!


    • d l ouellette
      Apr 04, 2015 @ 17:37:37

      your one nasty self righteous indiviual


      • Steve Luera
        Apr 07, 2015 @ 13:44:12

        No, actually I’ve got a felony and several misdemeanors that can’t be expunged, EVER! It makes it very difficult to get a job. I’m only trying to pass on some information that I wish someone had told me, ie, you can do the crime if you can do the time, but no one tells you that the time NEVER ends.


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Anita Clew's blog posts are intended for general guidance and should never be taken as legal advice. In all instances where harassment, inequity, or unfair treatment is believed to be present, please consult your HR Department or legal representation.
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