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Practice Center - Criminal

Finding a Job After a Criminal Conviction

Employers have in recent years become increasingly concerned about knowing whether an applicant has a criminal record. Part of this concern stems from large jury verdicts that have been rendered against employers for negligently hiring a person with a criminal record who ultimately harms others, and the employer is held responsible. As a result, some companies conduct pre-employment background checks for criminal records and choose not to hire former convicts. Yet without the opportunity for future employment, how can those with a criminal record be afforded a chance to make a fresh start and become contributing members of society? These and other questions are addressed below and can be more fully explained by someone knowledgeable in criminal defense law.

Although Employers Can Ask, They May Not Always Be Able to Reject Applicants with Criminal Records

Employers have a legal duty to exercise due diligence in the hiring process, and that duty is breached if an employer hires someone that it knows or should have known was dangerous. On the other hand, society has a vested interest in helping people with a past criminal record obtain meaningful employment. Nonetheless, nearly every employment application asks if the applicant has a criminal record. If the applicant lies, he or she is at risk of being terminated if the falsity is uncovered. On the other hand, unfortunately, if the applicant tells the truth, he or she risks not getting the job at all.

There are, however, legal limits on the employers' conduct. Courts have found that a policy of automatically denying employment can result in discrimination against certain groups. To avoid potential discrimination, employers must examine whether there is a sound business reason not to hire an individual with a criminal record, taking into account the nature of the offense, whether it is job-related, when it occurred, and what the person has done with his or her life since the time of the conviction. Lawyers experienced in this area of the law can advise their clients on whether they may have been the victims of illegal discrimination.

Not All Criminal History Must Be Revealed

In some circumstances, an applicant may not have to reveal all potentially damaging information, such as arrests not resulting in a conviction or that are not currently pending. There are also limitations on reporting pre-trial adjudications where the conduct by statute is not considered a criminal offense, and there may be restrictions relating to minor drug offenses. Some states also have procedures to judicially "erase" a criminal offense. An experienced criminal defense attorney can help determine whether his or her client is eligible to get a conviction sealed, expunged, or legally minimized.

Tips for Work-place Re-entry

Some tips for making a successful re-entry into the working world include:

  • Be honest. 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.

  • Start the job search with family, friends, and acquaintances who may be more likely to take a chance on hiring someone they know, despite a criminal record.

  • Don't expect the first job to be the ideal job. It's more important to get started and build from there, since employers know that the best indicator of future job performance is past job performance.


Completing a prison term or paying off a fine or restitution can be just the beginning of paying the price for a criminal conviction. The costs can carryover into post-conviction employment, putting up barriers to complete rehabilitation and reorientation into society. But there is hope, since some outright discrimination on the basis of a criminal record is unlawful, some employers are willing to give those with criminal records a chance, and just one job-any job-can be the first step toward rebuilding a career. Lawyers experienced in criminal law can talk through various options with their clients and advise them on how to best plan for the future.

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