For those just getting out of prison and remembering what life was like prior to incarceration, they will realize that jobs are quite difficult to find and may seem impossible to get.
This blog post will address the issue of whether or not you can get a job with a misdemeanor on your record.
- What is a Misdemeanor?
- Effects of a Misdemeanor
- Background Check with a Misdemeanor
- How to Deal with a Misdemeanor on a Job Application
- Making Your Case for Employment
What is a Misdemeanor?
As many as one third of Americans are arrested by the age of 23. A significant number of them may end up being convicted of a crime with at least a misdemeanor on their record as a result. A misdemeanor is a minor criminal offense that carries a sentence of:
- A fine
- Community service
- Up to a year in prison
There is a difference between states on what is considered a misdemeanor. The level of punishment is a good indication of whether or not that state considers the crime a misdemeanor or a felony. Even so, what might be a felony in one state may be a misdemeanor in another.
Misdemeanors are further broken down into several classes based on the punishment:
- Federal Class A misdemeanors are those crimes punishable by six months to a year of jail.
- Federal Class B misdemeanors impose 30 days to six months jail.
- Class C misdemeanors impose five to 30 days jail.
- Crimes punishable by less than five days jail are federal infractions.
Common misdemeanor crimes in the United States include:
- Possession of a controlled substance
- Burglary and property theft
- Unlawful possession of a weapon
- Resisting arrest
- Violating a restraining order
Effects of a Misdemeanor
A misdemeanor, while it carries a lighter sentence than a felony, will remain on your criminal record for life. Of course, whether a misdemeanor shows up on a background check depends on how thorough the check is. A criminal record can prevent you from getting certain jobs or licenses.
A misdemeanor criminal record can affect your employment prospects. There are federal and state laws that restrict the degree to which an employer can use your background in making a hiring decision.
The United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC) guidelines make it illegal to discriminate against an applicant simply because of a criminal conviction. If there is an appropriate business necessity for not hiring someone with a criminal conviction, this is allowed under federal law.
Some professions require a license to practice. Licenses are typically governed by state licensing boards which restrict licenses to those with a criminal background. Having a misdemeanor conviction will require disclosing that conviction on a license application with an explanation to the licensing commission. Each commission will regard any evidence differently.
Background Check with a Misdemeanor
A background check is common even in small businesses. If there is a record of misdemeanor convictions, the records will likely be located by a perspective employer. This may limit job opportunities. However, disclosing the record during a job application process and explaining the facts is helpful.
Misdemeanors are typically prosecuted at the county level. If an employer runs a state background check, the records may not include the county in which a defendant was convicted. Then it would be unlikely for a misdemeanor to show up.
Employers are often less concerned with a misdemeanor than with a felony. For example, if there is a misdemeanor for an underage offense that is more than seven years old, most employers will be sympathetic and ignore it.
If an applicant states that he or she has no criminal record, but it shows up on a background check later, this can quickly lead to being fired, not because of the offense, but because of lying to the employer about it.
Employers can find out a lot from a criminal record:
- Arrests in the last seven years
An employer cannot find out about:
- Arrests more than seven years in the past
- Records that have been erased, expunged, or pardoned
A criminal background check will certainly be run for a number of jobs:
- Child day care center worker
- Licensed home childcare provider
- Casino jobs
- Public school jobs
Federal law requires an employer to inform a candidate that a criminal background investigation will be done as part of the hiring process and a written consent is obtained. If the application asks for information regarding felony convictions, misdemeanor convictions do not have to be reported.
If there is a misdemeanor conviction, the information should be disclosed accurately and concisely. This means stating the law that you were convicted of violating and the subsequent sentence. Keeping the description brief shows that you are not preoccupied with the past and are prepared to focus on the future.
How to Deal with a Misdemeanor on a Job Application
If a question on a job application asks about felonies, the person does not have to mention misdemeanors.
It’s important on a job application to:
- Know the questions that are usually asked and be ready with an answer
- Tell the truth about everything
- Decide how to explain a criminal record
- Have a written job history
- Have references
Only some types of records can be erased, including when the:
- Defendant was found not guilty
- Case was dismissed
- Case was at least 13 years old
- Criminal conviction was obtained as a juvenile with no felony before the age of 21
There are certain steps to follow regarding any misdemeanor conviction, including contacting an attorney. It’s important to go to the clerk’s office and the court where the misdemeanor conviction occurred to verify that all information is correct. For many jobs, a background check is more likely to occur after an interview rather than before.
Some states allow misdemeanor convictions to be expunged from a record. If this is available, it would certainly be helpful to clean up your criminal record. The report from court where the charges were filed can be helpful.
Checking with county, state, and federal courts is recommended. An arrest without conviction more than seven years old is unlikely to be seen due to the Fair Credit Reporting Act.
When applying for a job, a question of a criminal conviction needs to be answered truthfully. You may be automatically disqualified if there is a lie discovered by a potential employer. Questions about criminal history may only ask for information regarding felonies, which gets you off the hook for needing to report misdemeanors.
Specific information regarding a criminal record should be clearly stated to a potential employer:
- Briefly describe what happened with an acceptance of responsibility
- Explain what a person did while incarcerated to better him or herself
- Describe what someone is doing now to move past the conviction
- Demonstrate having learned from one’s mistake
Making Your Case for Employment
A misdemeanor conviction should be explained briefly and accurately. He or she should take ownership for the mistake and state what that experience taught, and how he or she has changed since then.
When asked about a criminal conviction, it’s important to answer the question directly and honestly. The employer knows that you’re aware of what’s on your record. Attempts to pretend that you don’t know makes you appear dishonest.
Making mistakes is part of life. Showing that you are qualified and honest will give you the best chance at finding employment.
What do you think about this blog post? Have you or someone you know been in the situation of trying to get hired with a misdemeanor on your record? What was that like for him or her, and how did he or she achieve success? Please tell us in the comments below.