While the focus of prison time is often about punishment for wrongdoing, it can be easy to forget that incarceration is intended to be the beginning of an individual’s rehabilitation process. When a person’s prison term ends, they get a fresh start so that they can begin re-integrating into their communities. Much of the time, this process includes finding a job to earn a living and become a productive member of society.
Yet those who have served time for committing felonies may feel overwhelmed by the prospect of attempting to join the workforce again after their sentences are complete. It can be difficult to find gainful employment even without a criminal history. However, having a felony conviction on your record does not mean that you have no chance of getting a job. On the contrary, there are many employment opportunities available to those who have been incarcerated.
Background Checks with Priors
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) offers a set of guidelines that help employers decide whether an applicant’s prior offense record might make the person an unreasonable risk for the employer to take. Before rejecting a potential employee with a criminal record entirely, an employer needs to consider:
- The amount of time that has passed since the offense occurred or the sentence was issued,
- The gravity and the nature of the criminal conduct or offense, and
- The nature of the job itself, such as how much interaction the employee will have with other people, how much time they will spend working independently, and where the job is performed.
With these factors in mind, there are certain jobs that can be difficult if not impossible to get if you have a criminal history, including those in the fields of childcare, medicine, the police force, or the military.
Wisconsin Law on the Use of Criminal Records
An employer in Wisconsin has the right to choose not to hire a person based on their criminal record in the following instances:
- The applicant has a pending arrest charge, and that charge relates substantially to the job.
- The applicant has a conviction that relates substantially to the job.
- The applicant is applying for specific types of positions, including burglar alarm installation or private detective.
Additionally, Wisconsin’s Department of Workforce Development advises employers to make one of the following decisions if an applicant has a pending arrest charge that relates to the job:
- Suspend judgment until the case has been resolved.
- Advise the applicant to apply again after the charges have been cleared up.
- Refuse to hire the applicant.
The EEOC also requires employers to give applicants an opportunity to explain the circumstances regarding their criminal history before the employer can completely exclude them from the job opportunity.
Tips for a Successful Job Search
While those with criminal histories may have a few more challenges than others when looking for work, there are a few things to keep in mind that can make things a bit easier.
- Be Honest About Your History – While applying or interviewing for a position, do not attempt to hide your felony conviction. They will find out about it during the background check phase, and many potential employers will take that as a sign of dishonesty. Be upfront about your circumstances and help them understand that you are ready to move beyond your previous mistakes.
- Apply to Small Businesses – Often, larger companies have a blanket policy covering multiple jurisdictions that bars anyone with a conviction from working there. Smaller businesses can make their hiring policies more suitable to the local markets they are serving. In the hiring process, such establishments are more likely to see you as a human being with a unique set of talents and knowledge rather than as a set of data.
- Have Your Record Expunged – In the state of Wisconsin, it is possible to have some felonies expunged from your criminal record. After an expungement, your criminal history would not turn up on background checks for your potential employers. There are several restrictions on the types of felonies that could be expunged and the circumstances in which expungement is possible, but an experienced criminal lawyer will be able to advise you on all aspects of the process in your case.
Contact Us Today
If you were convicted of a felony in the past and are currently looking for employment, the Milwaukee criminal defense lawyers of Hart Powell, S.C. can help. Whether you are looking for an expungement or simply for advice on how best to communicate with potential employers, contact us today at (414) 271-9595 for a confidential consultation.