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What Can a Criminal Conviction Mean to Your Career?

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Nearly 77 million Americans, or one in three, have a criminal record. But that doesn’t have to hold you back from getting the career you studied in college or have trained for. Before Covid, many employers were willing to hire people with criminal convictions because it was hard to fill jobs in a low-unemployment economy.

As of April 2019, the United States unemployment rate was 3.6 percent, according to the Department of Labor. There’s also a direct financial benefit. Employers who hire workers within one year of a conviction or release are eligible for federal tax credits based on a percentage of their wages if they’re employed at least 120 hours.

You’re Not Alone.

In 2018, people with criminal convictions comprised almost one-third of the adult, working-age population, and that percentage is growing, according to a survey by the Society for Human Resource Management and the Charles Koch Institute. More than a thousand people took the survey, including managers—80 percent of whom indicated that they valued workers with criminal records just as much or more than employees who did not have convictions. But employers are also considering the legal implications of hiring or declining to hire, people with criminal records, and what kinds of questions to ask.

Know Your Rights Before You Apply.

Various state and federal laws regulate what and when employers can ask job candidates about criminal backgrounds, and some businesses avoid asking about convictions altogether. However, applicants sometimes choose to disclose their backgrounds when presented with a disclaimer statement about being truthful during the application process.

If a job applicant discloses something that has the potential to bring issues for employers, they should bring the candidate back for an individual assessment and follow U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission guidance on looking at criminal convictions in hiring decisions.

Hiring an attorney to handle individual assessments is often a good idea to ensure the process follows state and federal law. In 2012, the EEOC found that in some instances, using someone’s criminal history when making employment decisions could violate Title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. National data supports a finding that criminal record exclusions have a disparate impact based on race and national origin, according to the EEOC.

Bottom Line, Can You Do the Job?

Based on EEOC guidance, the decision-making process should focus on what the candidate’s job duties would be and whether prior convictions would prevent them from adequately performing the job. All applicant background checks must comply with the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

If a job applicant tells a potential employer that substance abuse played a significant role in their conviction and discloses they’re in recovery, using that information to not hire them could be a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

It’s Important to Have Experience on Your Side.

At Fernandez & Hernandez Attorneys At Law, the firm’s attorney partners have significant experience in criminal defense. Daniel J. Fernandez has conducted hundreds of criminal defense trials in his more than 30 years as a criminal defense attorney. He started his career as a state prosecutor and became chief of the Narcotics division before launching his own practice in 1985. Martin J. Hernandez also has experience on both sides of the courtroom. Having worked as a state prosecutor gave him more trial experience than most attorneys achieve in a lifetime. Together, they have more than 500 trials between them. You can reach them for advice 24/7 by calling (813) 229-5353. Hablan español. To learn more, visit


Daniel J. Fernandez

Daniel J. Fernandez

Daniel J. Fernandez defends individuals charged with a misdemeanor and felony criminal offenses throughout the Tampa Bay area and the State of Florida. With more than 30 years of experience as a criminal defense attorney and hundreds of jury trials, Daniel earned tremendous accolades from judges, other lawyers, defendants, and even jurors. Daniel started his legal career as a state prosecutor and became the chief of the Narcotics division before opening his own law practice in 1985.

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