As a criminal defense attorney I see the effects of an arrest and/or criminal conviction on a daily basis. Unfortunately, more often the end of the criminal case is only the beginning of the client’s problems. The reality is that employers are discriminating against potential employees based on prior criminal convictions even if the conviction has nothing to do with the particular job. Further, some employers are refusing to hire a person based merely on an arrest record. Thus, people who are convicted and serve their sentences can face an uphill battle in finding employment after the legal system has run its course. Even if a person is never charged with a crime or “beats the case” employers may still refuse to hire him or her based simply on the arrest.
Fortunately, Wisconsin has a fairly robust law prohibiting employment discrimination based on arrest and conviction records. The Wisconsin Fair Employment Law provides legal protection for persons with an arrest and/or conviction record. After all, it is in our community’s best interest to allow people who have been convicted of crimes to obtain employment and contribute to our society because it ultimately reduces recidivism.
A detailed analysis of the law is beyond the scope of this blog. However, here are answers to some commonly asked questions about arrest and/or conviction discrimination cases.
What is an arrest record?
Technically, a person’s arrest record is defined as information that a person has been questioned, apprehended, arrested, or indicted for a crime. The legal definition is fairly expansive.
Can my employer ask if I have ever been arrested
No, an employer is not allowed to ask about prior arrests. However, an employer may ask whether a job applicant has any pending charges or convictions, as long as the employer makes it clear that the arrest and/or conviction information will only be given consideration if the offenses are “substantially related” to the particular job.
Can my employer fire me if I was arrested and charged with a crime?
No, but the employer could suspend you if the offense giving rise to the pending criminal charge is substantially related to the job.
What should I say on my job application about my criminal history?
The best advice is to be honest about any prior convictions and offer to explain the circumstances of the conviction particularly if the offense was less serious. Also, employers are allowed to ask questions about the conviction so it can determine whether the conviction record is substantially related to the job. If you fail to disclose a prior conviction and the employer discovers it via a background check you will likely lose the job because you were dishonest on the employment application.
What should I do if I am refused employment or fired because of my arrest and/or conviction record?
Contact one of our attorneys so we can discuss your case in private. Our attorneys have a strong track record defending people against illegal discrimination and obtaining favorable results. We will evaluate your case and provide you with a honest assessment. If we can prove you were the victim of illegal employment discrimination we will do everything possible to ensure you receive justice.