Can a Felon Work for the Government?
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Can a Felon Work for the Government?

Can a felon work for the government

According to OPM.gov, having a felony conviction does not preclude you from getting hired by the government.

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) or the government hiring agency determines the offenses you committed in determining suitability for employment.

However, generally there are no prohibitions against employment. Factors that are considered include the duties that are related to the positions for which you have applied the nature and date for any misconduct and evidence of rehabilitation.

This article will cover the following:

  • Employment Debarments
  • “Ban the Box” Executive Orders
  • Restricted Applications – FBI Mandates
  • Applying to the Government – How to Proceed

Employment Debarments

While there are not general prohibitions against employment, there are some mandates that will keep you from working in certain jobs, depending on your conviction.

One of the most common instances entails being convicted of domestic violence crimes under State or Federal law. Persons who are convicted of these misdemeanor crimes are “prohibited from employment in any position requiring the individual: to ship, transport, possess, or receive firearms or ammunition. . . .” (Public Law 1-4-208 Omnibus Consolidated Appropriations Act of 1997).

Other regulatory or statutory debarments do exist, but rarely are applicable. Debarment from Federal employment can be instituted for such offenses as inciting rebellion, treason, unlawful and willful destruction of public records or willfully supporting the Government’s overthrow.

“Ban the Box” Executive Orders

The Obama administration has made it easier for felons to gain employment within the Federal government. “Ban the box” executive orders that have been announced (11/02/2015) that come upon the heels of a massive release of up to 6,000 felons convicted of drugs.

The measures of the move delay the ability of federal contractors or federal employment personnel to find out if a job applicant has a criminal history. Currently, the President has directed the OPM to modify its rules in order to delay inquiries about a criminal record until later in the employment process.

Restricted Applications – FBI Mandates

According to a transcript in an October 14, 2009 issue of the Washington Post, career counselor Derrick Dortch further elaborated on obtaining a government career with a felony conviction.

In the transcript he said, “. . . .[A] person with a felony conviction can work for the federal government. However, there are some positions that will not allow a person with a felony to work for them. Many of these jobs are law enforcement or justice related. For example, the FBI will not allow a person with a felony to work for them. When you start the application process with these agencies you should check first to make sure.”

Mr. Dortch said that it is best to check about your chances of employment by going to the website for the agency. Look at the employment page and find out if there are any kinds of disqualifiers.

For example, the FBI website lists the following disqualifiers:

  • Conviction of a felony
  • Use of illegal drugs in violate of the Employment Drug Policy for the FBI
  • Default of a U.S. Government insured student loan
  • Failure to pass a urinalysis drug test administered by the FBI
  • Failure of male candidates to register with the Selective Service

To see exactly what will show up on your record when you apply to a federal position, we recommend that you use this service.

Applying to the Government: How to Proceed

While these disqualifiers keep you from applying for positions in the FBI, they are not blanket restrictions.

Each agency has its own rules in this regard. Although the majority of agencies will not disqualify individuals with a felony conviction, you may still want to contact the HR office and check to make sure.

If you do apply and need to get a clearance, then tell the agency about your conviction.

When you apply for Federal employment then, it is essential that you include all the needed details about your criminal history on your application.

In turn, the OPM or hiring agency can also determine if any specific prohibition is currently in force.  To make sure that you have your details correct, we highly recommend that you check your background here so you know exactly what authorities will see.

Mr. Dortch stated two instances where clearance was granted for felony convictions.

In one of the cases the applicant received an aggressive driving charge which was eventually dismissed. Later, he was arrested for reckless driving, disobeying a law enforcement officer and fleeing. He was charged with the second degree felony of fleeing and, during probation, completed 100 hours of community service. He had been driving almost 20 years without incident when he applied to the government. Because he mitigated criminal conduct and personal conduct concerns for a security clearance, clearance was granted.

Another applicant, who was cleared, was arrested and charged for possession of a narcotic controlled substance and driving while intoxicated. Because she had no history of drug or alcohol abuse and she had not previously been arrested before or after the incident, clearance was approved.

Mr. Dortch recommended that felons apply to Federal jobs, except in the areas of law enforcement and a couple other fields. Review the agency requirements first and check out the disqualifiers. If there are no disqualifiers, apply like any other job candidate. If you have served your time, you have indeed paid your debt to society.

What do you think?  Should government entities accept former felons?

15 responses to “Can a Felon Work for the Government?”

  1. William says:

    They still won’t hire you. I mean think about it. Why take the chance when there is a line of other people with no history. Maybe as a last or for some notoriety. Like your the “hey I hired a felon poster boy”. It sucks that 20+ year after I finished my sentence for a youthful nonviolent crime. “I took no Stole a car and was in a short chase”.
    Got my degree And have been turned down from every job I ever answered “Honestly” the criminal history ?? to. My suggestion would be to move to an area where nobody knows you, lie and cross your fingers.

  2. Darryl Ruth says:

    In South Carolina, can it how can or the requirement for a convicted felon to get a drivers license and or get expired drivers license renewed. This includes the CDL.

  3. Sarah Bowers says:

    Am I a ” felon” if arrested 4 a felony amount of theft 10yrs ago but not charged as a felon or had any rights taken away?

  4. Admin says:

    If you weren’t charged as a felon, probably not. If you want to be sure, run a background check on yourself. Not too expensive and will give you all the information you need: https://www.jobsforfelonshub.com/direct-screening

  5. CB says:

    Like any other job (unless law enforcement or high level security check), if you know the right people you can get hired anywhere even with felonies.

  6. Reinaldo Chipi says:

    I finished my sentence in 2014 for cocaine trafficking and attempted armed robbery, I rehabilitated myself and to this day after 9 yrs in prison I can’t gain honest employment that gives me a living wage and a chance to move up and succeed, I’ve been working as a busboy with a wife and a son and I’m about to be evicted I need help, please tell me what to do? I’m at my wits ends and about to loose my marriage, the system is design so that you get frustrated and break the law again.

  7. Anthony says:

    Everyone on this list get your crimes expunged and do a governors pardon following the expungement. I did that and I can legally buy and carry fire arms in the state of California

  8. Reply: working with felony says:

    Try applying for jobs at a non-profit, they have different criteria and while your working work on the expungement and pardon

  9. DANNIELLE says:

    If felonies can not be expunged and convictions happened 7 yrs ago, can an ex felon be hired by the FBI? Who to talk to if you want to commit to being a positive impact and pursue positivity. A person’s Perspectives of life change…. What well paying agencies really offer employment to ex felons? Does the FBI have bonding job placements for ex felons?

  10. My son has felonies that are over 10 years old sales of cocaine and misdemeanors he has been doing good no charges in years he’s trying to go back to school college get his life back together but the field he wants to work and it’s department of children services drug and alcohol counseling and there’s a criminal justice of course he has to take will it stop him from getting that government job if that is a government job

  11. Amelia W. says:

    Betty Campbell, you said “felonies”, how many does he have? I would suggest that he contact the state licensing department for that field and speak to them. I would say that he would be able to with the time frame. Plus, with it being Counseling, they should have different criteria because he’s going to be able to use his past as a learning experience for himself and be able to better teach and understand the people he’ll be working with. Don’t let his felony stop him from accomplishing his goals in life. It is not the end of the world. And to Anthony, even if people do get their records expunged, most state and federal agencies require you to list your convictions. An expungement does not make charges disappear, it just closes them off to certain areas; the government, no and can help to restore your rights.

  12. Manuela says:

    In many instances, it has been noticed that a site that’s a significant status is fairly secure to choose rather than the one which
    will.

  13. Joshua says:

    The system is designed for Felons to commit crimes again and get back in the whole loop. I have a Health and Safety Violation for Sales of Narcotics (Cocaine). And Honestly I’ve been trying to live a normal life but it’s hard. I did manage to land some jobs that pay 60k~ 70k. That is a living wage , but I am jobless again because the company insurance does not want to insure a Felon. It’s at risk for them I guess. I’ve been rejected and been accepted so I’m assuming it’s literally up to the employer if they are willing to take a risk. They do have to pay more insurance for you. What I can recommend is.. Find a trade guys. You need to find a trade where you become an asset to the employer where he has no choice but to overlook your felony. And Honestly, the living wage jobs that all are EOE. (Equal Opportunity Employer) but what that means is they do a Legit background check , they do legit drug testing so Do not lie on your resume. I suggest you tell them about your Felony before they find out Later on, thats what I did. Don’t go into too much detail like you hurt someone or robbed someone.. just tell them you have a felony and what code you violated. Too much talking can get you disqualified forsure. It’s hard for people like us man.. We all trying to live and succeed, We are not the same people as we used to.. but this world is so judgmental and this System makes it so hard for us to become Normal people. It’s unfair.. I know so many people that are Worse but just have not been caught yet. Don’t give up , Do not go back to that life style, it is not worth it and your family doesnt deserve to suffer again. I personally don’t suggest going to college for a Degree unless it’s a specific field like medicine , computer science , software designer , Construction etc. Those are where your felony can be overlooked because of your skills. I been in Construction and I know a lot of felons here. I don’t work in Labor, I’m a project manager and I been having the best luck. 70k~100k. We can do it.. don’t give up. Fuck the system , fuck everyone who doubt us.

  14. David Ferrari says:

    It’s definitely complicated but not impossible. It depends on the crime, the sentence, how much time has passed since and money. I was convicted of a felony possession of cocaine, violated my probation with a failed drug test. I was sentenced to 16 months in state prison. Served it and discharged parole. Tried getting a job that pays more than minimum was hard. I decided to go back to college for a bachelors in chemistry which I just got last week. In my freshman year, my astronomy professor suggested that I apply for a NASA internship and gave me a letter of recommendation. I applied and got denied, but I kept pushing myself and applied again about 10 months later. To my surprise, I was offered a 10 month internship at NASA Armstrong Flight Research center. Then after that I asked my science professors if any faculty was doing research I could volunteer for. I ended up working with a few chemistry professors on 3 different NASA research grants for the next 3 1/2 years till I graduated. Now, I have 3 recommendation letters from various professors and under California prop 47 I’m currently in the process of having my non violent felony reduced to a misdemeanor THEN having that expunged and my right to own a firearm reinstated. Once that’s completed, I’m going to apply for Certificate of Rehabilitation followed by a governors pardon. Assuming the pardon is granted, I will then apply for a federal job at the Department Of Energy as a nuclear chemist. The prop 47 reduction and expungement cost me around 1,800$. The COR and pardon are going to run about another 2000$. At this point it’s over 19 years since I discharged parole, and I don’t see any reason why they’d deny me. Although I’d require sensitive security clearances, I think all my achievements and letters from professors will get me into a federal job. Now, I’m certain I’d get denied on a FBI application because my history could jeopardize my credibility if I had to testify as a FBI agent. So I’m going to still be limited.

  15. Adam T. Seagle says:

    I have a felony conviction in NE Oklahoma for endeavoring to manufacture methamphetamines. I was charged in September of 2013 and convicted after pleading guilty in February of 2015. I was also charged with larceny of CDS which was dismissed. I am done with my probation although I still have around $800 in fines to pay. I had two arrests since 2015 for non payment. A back injury sustained outside of work left me unable to work. I went through court ordered counseling and recovery classes, paid my D.O.C. Fund off as well as the D.A. 991 fees. I never failed a drug test or missed a meeting with my PO. In August 2018 I received a reckless driving charge in a neighboring county (not a felony) and I have around $700 left to pay in fines for that charge. I currently have a warrant for that charge for nonpayment because I lost my job and wasn’t able to find steady work for three months. The county had sent a letter notifying me of a warrant being issued and a way to resolve it but they had been sending documents to the wrong address so I never received them until I requested a balance upon payment after employment. Okay now that there is enough background laid I can get to the reason I’m here desperately seeking advice. I got a job through a temp agency working for the state in two state agency buildings (Edmondson and Kerr) which house such state agencies as DHS, ABLE Commission, Child Support, Community Sentencing, Workers Comp, DOC, etc. in downtown Tulsa. I love the job. I’m a perfect fit and everyone in the building loves me and they all overwhelming want me for the position. My boss desired my placement for the position so much that he began the process to by out of the contract with the temp agency at great expense a couple weeks ago even though I’ve only worked there for less than 2 months I passed a background check ran by the temp agency somehow but upon doing a background check for the state employee position through the actual company I was deemed ineligible for hire. I’m devastated as this is a job worth fighting for and the break I’ve been praying for. They want to hire me. They don’t want anyone else for the position (CMT II maintenance man) but no one knows anyway of making it happen. I can see the red flags myself, subsequent arrests for nonpayment, current warrant, and outstanding debts but there must be a way. Can someone please help?

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