Finding a Job After a Texas Criminal Conviction
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 ultimately harm others. However, the laws vary widely from state to state 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. If you have a criminal record and seek a job, it is in your best interest to consult with an attorney knowledgeable in criminal law and employment law so that you go into the job search fully informed of your rights and restrictions.
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 re-offend, but a person with a criminal record faces prejudice in the job application process. Still, hiring someone with a criminal past can be compassionate and smart.
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 and people convicted of serious property crimes should not have access to homes or apartments, nor should they be responsible for large amounts of cash. An employer has a legal duty to exercise due diligence in the hiring process and that duty is breached if it hires someone that it knows or should have known was dangerous.
Courts have found that a policy of automatically denying employment because of past criminal conviction can result in discrimination against members of certain ethnic groups who have historically been treated unfairly and disproportionately by the criminal justice system. To avoid such potential discrimination, an employer must examine whether there is a sound business or legal 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.
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 offense. 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 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 who may be more likely to take chances 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 the best indicator of future job performance is past job performance. Consider temporary or entry-level positions to build your resume.
- 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. It can also impact 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. The Gilbert G. Garcia Law Firm can talk to you about various options and offer advice on planning for the future.