Prejudice and discrimination against criminal offenders, even those who have already served out their sentence, is rampant in American society.
The Neal Davis Law Firm, located in Houston, Texas, has handled hundreds of expungement and nondisclosure cases over the years. Contact us to see if you qualify.
This fact is painfully evident when it comes to issues like employment, as these unsettling background check statistics prove:
On the one hand, it is necessary to protect the public from criminal offenders who show a propensity of re-committing a crime and it is equally important to avoid putting the offender in a position of opportunity to engage in criminal behavior again. For instance, a person previously convicted of a child sex offense should not be allowed to work with children or as a school bus driver and a person convicted of fraud should not be given management of large amounts of cash. These stipulations are common sense and employers have the right (and duty) to practice due diligence in the hiring process to ensure the safety of their customers, other employees and the public.
However, on the other hand, reintegrating those with a criminal past as productive members of society is known to be beneficial for the offender and the public as a whole. Data shows that having a routine schedule and income from being employed greatly lessens a person’s likelihood of becoming a repeat offender. Plus, many people accused of a crime are honest, hard-working citizens who were just caught up in a bad situation. Therefore, it is important to help individuals overcome the biases that exist in the job application process in regarding to criminal backgrounds.
Each state has different rules governing how much an applicant is forced to reveal when applying for a job. These days, background checks are almost always performed on job applicants’ criminal and credit history. In Texas, background checks are conducted by consumer reporting agencies who are subject to state and federal limitations. These limitations allow an employer to look back at an applicant’s criminal history for the last seven years.
Under Texas law, however, there are a couple exceptions to the seven-year rule:
The seven-year rule only applies to employers who hire an outside reporting agency to run a background check. Employers who perform their own criminal background checks have no such limit and can look as far back as they like. Most employers do not conduct their own background checks; however, it is worth mentioning that this rule is not unconditional.
If you plead guilty or no contest to a crime and are convicted, even if you accepted probation or deferred adjudication instead of prosecution, the charge will show up on your criminal background check if run by an employer. If, however, you pled innocent and the charges were dropped or dismissed, it will not appear on a background check.
In general, you do not have to inform a potential employer about your criminal history if:
What about arrests?
While no law in Texas exists regarding whether employers can choose to hire an applicant based on their arrest record, the EEOC prohibits using arrests as a basis for employment decisions due to the fact that such policies often lead to discrimination against ethnic and racial minorities, who are more likely to be arrested. Also, an arrest is not proof that criminal activity actually occurred since a defendant is “innocent until proven guilty.”
Unfortunately, while employers should not uncover arrest records and arrests are not supposed to show up on a criminal background check, the reality is they sometimes do - and therefore it can unfairly play a role in the hiring decision.
Getting employed is competitive enough these days, especially when you have to worry about having a criminal record. Employers have the right to choose who works for them and they may not hire an individual with a job-related criminal record - so long as they have sound business or legal reasons for doing so, considering the nature of the offense.
You can’t do anything about an employer’s behavior. However, knowing your rights and conducting yourself appropriately can give you the best possible chance at employment. Here is some expert advice on what to do when searching or applying for a job with a criminal record:
Jobs for Felons in Texas - Forum discussion from an ex-felon looking for oil field jobs in Texas.
Huffington Post: Life After Prison - Various accounts of people who have successfully rebuilt their lives after years of incarceration.
Prison Fellowship - Helping ex-prisoners find jobs.
Problem - Ex-offenders are often discriminated against and even verbally abused because of the stigma attached to having a criminal record. In some workplaces ex-offenders are made to feel like second class citizens who are not trustworthy.
Solution - Felony Franks treats all employees and customers as equals, with dignity and respect as all people should be treated.
RecycleForce helps ex-offenders break down the barriers to employment by providing transitional jobs for up to six months, as well as comprehensive services designed to get their lives back on track. The RecycleForce model offers program participants an integrated focus on jobs skills, character development and personal counseling. This “wrap-around” approach greatly increases the chance of sustained future employment and decreases the instances of re-offending.
"Our mission is to use the food truck workplace to run a 1-year Fellowship for young people returning home from jail/prison so they can obtain preferential employment and educational opportunities."
Source: Drive Change
"Homeboy Industries serves high-risk, formerly gang-involved men and women with a continuum of free services and programs, and operates several social enterprises that serve as job-training sites."
Source: Homeboy Industries: what we do
"One in three of our employee partners has a criminal background. At Dave’s Killer Bread, we believe everyone is capable of greatness and that a second chance can lead to positive lasting change."
In the state of Texas, individuals with a criminal record have two available methods for sealing their information or starting off on a “clean slate.” These two methods include expunction (erasing your criminal record completely) or nondisclosure (sealing your record so that only law enforcement and government agencies can see it). An individual must meet certain requirements to qualify for expunction or nondisclosure, so you should consult a knowledgeable criminal defense lawyer about handling these requests.
If you have a past conviction that will appear on a criminal background check and may prevent you from getting a job, consider contacting a criminal defense attorney near you to discuss expunging your record or securing an order of nondisclosure.
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