Bill: D.C. Criminal Record Shouldn't Hurt Employment Chances

December 7, 2012
By Daniel A. Gross on December 7, 2012 8:06 AM |

D.C. Council members are mulling a proposed bill that would ban employers from asking about a person's criminal past until after the position has been offered. Even then, the job couldn't be rescinded if a criminal record is revealed - unless that crime would somehow impact the person's ability to do the job. interview.jpg

It would also prevent such questions from being asked during the course of real estate transactions.

D.C. criminal defense lawyers are hopeful that this law will be passed, particularly given the support it has gained from from a handful of high-profile backers.

However, it can't be understated how a criminal record can impact your future, and in particular your chances of employment. This is why it is so important to hire a skilled criminal defense attorney after your arrest. You want someone with proven experience who can improve your chances of having the charges against you reduced or dismissed entirely.

It goes beyond the immediate benefit of lesser fines and jail time. It is an investment in your future.

Even if an employer can't ask about your criminal record, many private companies and public entities are required as a matter of policy to conduct background checks. In some jobs, it's considered more important than others. For example, jobs that require employees to work directly with children or the disabled or elderly will inevitably require criminal background information. Those who have been convicted of any crime involving violence may have a very difficult time landing the position.

Similarly, someone convicted of a financial crime, such as check fraud or theft, may be denied jobs where you regularly handle money, including everything from cashier to banker.

The D.C. measure has divided politicians, but it has passed a committee vote.

Councilman Marion Barry has said that employers too often discriminate against those who have been convicted of a crime. Though he served as mayor of the district for 16 years, he gained national notoriety for his 1990 arrest on crack cocaine charges. He said a person's criminal past should be categorized in a protective class the same way race, religion and sexual preference are.

Councilman Jim Graham's chief of staff was quoted as saying he was previously arrested nearly 40 times for his connection to drug sale crimes back in the 1980s. He said he was given a second chance by Woodland while working on his first council campaign and was eventually promoted to a full-time position. Still, he said very few in his position have been as fortunate. In trying to put the pieces of their lives back together, they have few options - with little support, they can't find a job or a place to live.

It is this same concern that prompted the introduction of H.R. 6220 in the House of Representatives. It's also known as the "Ban the Box" bill, as in, ban the box that requires job applicants to say whether they've been previously convicted of a crime. Similar to the D.C. measure, it would make it unlawful for certain employers to seek information regarding an applicant's criminal past. However, the bill was referred to a committee in late July, when it was introduced, and it's been given a slim chance of being enacted without changes.

Regardless of whether this or the local bill passes, the only way to truly eliminate worry over the question of your criminal background is to not be convicted in the first place. This involves either being found not guilty, having the charges dismissed, having your record expunged or having been a juvenile at the time the crime was committed.

As we wait to see what will happen in D.C., keep these things in mind if you do have a criminal record and are attempting to get a job.

  • Be truthful on your job application;

  • Provide a detailed explanation regarding the circumstances - if they are favorable to you - and your efforts at rehabilitation;

  • Provide stellar professional and/or personal references from people who don't have criminal records.

Contact the Law Office of Daniel A. Gross, PLLC at 202-596-5716 for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your rights.

Additional Resources:
Proposed DC bill seeks to ban employers from asking about person's criminal past, Nov. 30, 2012, By Matt Ackland, FOX DC

More Blog Entries:
D.C. Robbery Cases to Spike With Holiday Shopping Season, Nov. 28, 2012, D.C. Criminal Defense Attorney Blog