Stacey M. Washington, Attorney and CounselorAttorney and Counselor
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The Collateral Consequences of Convictions on Employment

You've been arrested and/or convicted of a crime. The arrest and/or conviction are public record although you never served any jail or prison time. There are often collateral consequences of convictions. You may not be eligible for expungement of the conviction. Now what? Can you still make a living?

During these very litigious times, employers are very cautious about new hires and don't want to risk hiring the wrong person. Particularly for larger employers, background checks are common. The Fair Credit Reporting Act requires that employers obtain the candidate's written permission to conduct a background check by a third party company. Even without a third party involved, a wealth of information is available online (i.e., Michigan iChat).

In reviewing the collateral consequences of convictions and arrests, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission requires employers to consider the nature of the job, the nature and seriousness of the offense, and the length of time since it occurred. The Michigan Department of Civil Rights also suggests that the employer ask whether the arrest/conviction was job related, the number of arrests/convictions, the circumstances that led to the arrest/conviction (i.e., homelessness) and what the candidate has done since the arrest/conviction. Some courts have said that it is unlawful discrimination to disqualify an applicant based on criminal arrests.

There is bias against individuals with a criminal history. However, it will not necessarily lead to poor collateral consequences and hold you back if you prepare yourself and show that you are a good citizen who just made a mistake. Rebut the presumption that you cannot be trusted and have not redeemed yourself. Work any job you can get until the one you really want comes. Volunteer. Do a mini-background check on yourself before your job search to see what's out there. Check the internet, court and driving records, ask old employers for your personnel files. If there's anything to give cause for concern, raise the issue with your prospective employer first. Take full responsibility for your actions. The employer will be impressed by hour honesty and integrity.

Always consult with a qualified criminal defense and/or employment attorney about the specific facts of your case.

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