How Can a Misdemeanor Charge Affect Employment?

Houston criminal defense attorney Neal Davis says honesty is the best policy when getting a job in Texas despite your past criminal record

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If you're among the many Americans who have been arrested with minor charges, you may be wondering how a misdemeanor can affect your hiring or employment chances. The Neal Davis Law Firm answers.

First, you should know you're not alone. The National Institute of Justice reports that one-third of all Americans under age 23 have been arrested. Many have misdemeanor convictions on their criminal records. These records can be damaging to their employment prospects, but they don't have to be.

Though misdemeanor convictions aren't as serious as felony convictions, and some employers only ask about felonies, a misdemeanor on your record can hinder your job search. So you must know how to manage the situation in case it comes up, especially when it comes to background checks on criminal records.

Potential employers have a legal right to get such reports - reports which can reveal a misdemeanor arrest or conviction, whether you voluntarily reveal it or not.

Your Legal Rights

Just because you have a misdemeanor conviction doesn't mean you lose your legal rights when it comes to employment. For one thing, you are not required to disclose arrests which did not lead to convictions, or misdemeanors which were expunged (removed) from your record.

Also, federal laws and many state laws place limits on how employers can use criminal records to make hiring decisions.

Texas has few such laws, though it does prohibit including a criminal arrest and conviction that is over seven years old in a background check for a job which pays $75,000 or less per year and is not safety-sensitive.

By law, Texas also lets applicants deny the existence of criminal records which have been expunged by a court order, perhaps due to an acquittal or a pardon after a conviction.

If you want to try getting a misdemeanor expunged from your record, contact experienced Houston criminal defense attorney Neal Davis.

Fair Credit Reporting Act Protections

Two federal laws also give protections to job applicants who have criminal records.

One is the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). Its protections for job applicants include ensuring the accuracy of criminal background checks. Such checks can have errors, including improper indication of convictions which have been expunged, as well as incomplete information such as failing to indicate exoneration of a crime or charges being dropped.

Other background check errors can include providing records which belong to a different person with the same name, misclassification of crimes and multiple listings for an identical offense.

To protect job applicants, the FCRA compels employers who request criminal background checks to:

  • Get a job applicant's written consent prior to making such a request
  • Notify job applicants if the employer intends to screen them out due to a background check
  • Notify job applicants after the employer decides not to consider them based on a background check

Firms which gather and provide background checks must also ensure that such information is timely and accurate. If job applicants dispute the information, those firms must investigate and report any errors if, in fact, they were made.

Title VII Protections From Employment Discrimination

Another protective federal law is Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It prohibits discrimination in employment, as in hiring screening practices. The law forbids practices which disproportionately screen out persons due to ethnicity, race or another protected class.

Since arrest rates are higher for some groups, including Latinos and African Americans, an employer with a blanket policy of excluding applicants with criminal records could be found guilty of racial discrimination.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) allows employers their own protections by letting them screen out applicants who could be dangerous or pose safety risks, as long as that screening does not involve racial discrimination.

But the EEOC also tells employers to give applicants with criminal records a chance to explain their circumstances and justify their hiring. This can be quite helpful.

Should You Reveal Your Misdemeanor?

You may want to reveal your misdemeanor record on your own, rather than wait to respond to a flagged background check.

Though you have the right not to inform potential employers of arrests which did not lead to convictions or misdemeanors which were removed from your record, it may be better to do so anyway. In fact, revealing a misdemeanor may actually help you to get a job, according to the Houston Chronicle.

An honest approach indicates you take responsibility for your actions. It also gives you a chance to explain how you've learned and grown from the experience. By contrast, trying to hide your misdemeanor record can do more harm to your job chances than the actual record.

Keep all this in mind when seeking employment after a misdemeanor arrest or conviction. And be sure to contact the Neal Davis Law Firm if you need legal help. Call us today for a legal review.

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