There are a lot of assumptions out there about people who have been arrested in the past. People hear “arrest” and it’s assumed that the person in question is simply a bad person, not a good person who made a mistake and paid for it. We’re not saying that someone who guns down another made a mistake, it’s more complex than that, but we are saying that not every arrest is clean cut and straightforward. There is more to it than just “they got arrested, let’s avoid them!”.
Being arrested in the past also doesn’t rule you out from having a good job at some point in the future, either. There are some industries that won’t hire someone with a record, but it depends on the reason behind the arrest in the first place, and it depends on the role. For example, if you’re a long distance truck driver with a DUI, you’re not going to get hired for a role that puts you as a responsible person who can drive up and down the country. That’s good sense. If you’ve been arrested as a college student and you’re charged with breaking the prostitution laws in the state, you’re likely to still find a job that you want because this is more of a mistake than say, theft from your employer. The arrest itself may not hinder your chances in getting a new job, it’s what comes next that has the impact on that. You don’t even need to tell an employer that you have an arrest on your record in every single case, either. You might not need to talk about solicitation arrests if your job doesn’t call for a background check, which allows you to avoid embarrassment. However, the important thing to note is that you must never, ever lie about your background if you are asked!
Is it really necessary that you tell your employer? Let’s look!
- Is the arrest in the past?
Are you in your 30s and changing careers, but an arrest when you were 19 is worrying you? Don’t let it worry you too much. If your employer has asked whether you have been arrested in the past, check whether or not they need to know about a simple arrest or whether they need to know about any convictions you may have had. You need to determine whether your state also prohibits them from asking about any past arrests, and your department of labor can confirm this for you.
- Were you convicted of anything?
An arrest isn’t a conviction, and it’s important to know that. If you were arrested for solicitation during a bachelor party but you weren’t convicted of anything, you may not need to disclose it. However, if you are pronounced guilty for whatever reason, you are officially convicted and this is something you do have to disclose. Always be honest, and explain the circumstances of the conviction. Most employers run a background check anyway, and the worst thing that can happen is if you lie on the application and they find out later. The truth is always better and if you can explain the conviction and how you’ve changed since then, it’s going to be favorable for you in the end.
- What type of conviction was it?
There are a lot of different convictions out there but they all come under two types: a felony and a misdemeanor. Felonies are far more severe than a misdemeanor and if you have been convicted of a felony, your employer will want to know about it.
All of this is relevant if you received the arrest or conviction before you apply for work and you needn’t panic: you can still find work with a conviction. But what do you do if you are arrested and convicted of something while you’re employed? Whether you receive a misdemeanor or felony, you need to know how to share the information with your employer.
Whether you have to disclose the arrest and conviction or not that occurs while you’re employed isn’t always clear. You should refer to your employment contract for a definitive answer here, and you need to know that you are following the law with your job – even if you didn’t outside it! If your contract states that you have to let your employer know, then it’s a meeting you need to have. You can bring a representative with you – and it doesn’t always mean that you’re going to lose your job! You can explain everything and explain how this arrest doesn’t reflect on your employer. Most of the time, an employer discovering a conviction later is a big problem because they’re going to be annoyed if you werent honest and you’re more likely to lose your job.
If it’s not clear in your contract, you should be sure that there is no legal obligation here. Your employers can’t fire you if they find out later and it’s not written into your contract to tell them anyway! There are also some situations where you don’t have much of a choice but to disclose what’s happened to your employer. If you are doing a job that involves driving, you need to be able to continue to do that but if you are arrested for a DUI, you will have a suspended license and you will be unable to continue in your job. It’s in these circumstances that your boss will need to know!
It would be an offence for you to be behind the wheel of a car, and this is where you need to tell your boss about your arrest and subsequent conviction. If there is a chance that your boss will find out through the gossip grapevine, that’s another time you should ensure that you have an awkward meeting. The worst thing that could happen is if they find out and you didn’t tell them yourself. It doesn’t look very good for you when that happens and the best thing to always do is to be honest.