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Is Your Criminal Record Keeping You From Working?

This article was produced by LARCC in cooperation with CLS, GHLA, NHLAA, and SLS.

Is Your Criminal Record Keeping You From Working?

Introduction

Getting a job is hard and it can be even harder if you have a criminal record. Many employers will do a "background check" before they hire you. If you can get a job and do well at it, finding your next job should be easier.

To know your rights and help you get and keep a job, you need to know what is on your criminal record. In some cases, you can truthfully answer "no" to a question about your criminal record. This booklet talks about your criminal record and

  • What an employer can and can’t find out
  • Tips on how to answer questions about your record
  • How to get something taken off your record, and more.

Do all employers run a criminal background check?

No, but many employers do run a criminal background check. Most private employers have a choice, but it depends on the job. You will have a criminal background check for these jobs:

  • Nurse and nurse’s aide
  • Child day care center or group day care
  • Licensed home child care provider
  • Lottery, casino, horse or dog racing, and off-track betting jobs
  • Public school jobs

What can an employer find out?

From your criminal record, employers....

CAN Find Out

  • Arrests from the last 7 years
  • Any convictions (no matter when they happened)

CANNOT Find Out

  • Arrests more than 7 years ago
  • Records that have been: Erased, Expunged, or Pardoned

How do I answer questions about my record?

Tell the truth. If you lie when you apply for a job, you might be fired because you lied. Read the question carefully and answer only what it is asking. For example, if you are asked about felonies, you do not have to tell about misdemeanors. If you have to answer "yes" to a question about your history, you can write, "Yes, will explain at interview." You could explain why your record would not stop you from being a good employee. For example, you could explain what you learned from your mistake, or that it happened many years ago, etc.

Tips:

  • Learn the questions that are usually asked and get your answers ready. You can get a list on the Department of Labor website: Interview Questions.
  • Tell the truth. If you lie about certain information, you might be fired for lying and you might not be able to get unemployment or state welfare. And, for some jobs, lying about a criminal record is a criminal offense.
  • Plan how you will explain your criminal record.
  • Write down your job history. Include the company name and address, your job duties, the dates you worked, and why you left.
  • Plan how you will explain the times when you did not have a job.
  • Get references. Try to find someone you trust from one of your jobs who will give you a good reference (say good things about you). Ask what he would say about you if a potential employer calls. Also ask if you may use him as a reference.

Can I get information taken off my record or correct a mistake?

Yes. You might be able to get a charge or conviction removed from your record IF

  • your record should have been erased, or
  • you can prove there is a mistake on your record, or
  • you get a pardon (expungement). See below.

Erased Records

"Erased" means that the record will not show up on your criminal record or background check. You can tell employers that you do not have a criminal record. An employer cannot find out about any erased charges, arrests or convictions.

What records can be erased?

Only some types of records can be erased, including those where:

  • You were found not guilty.
  • Your case was dismissed or thrown out.
  • Your case was "nolled" at least 13 months ago.
  • Your case was put on hold at least 13 months ago and you finished an "accelerated rehabilitation program."
  • You were a "youthful offender" and were not convicted of a felony before you turned 21.

Usually, records are erased automatically, but sometimes it does not happen. If your record was not erased, you should contact the court.

Correcting a Mistake

It might be easier to correct a mistake than to try to explain to an employer that your record is wrong. To correct a mistake:

  • Get a copy of your record from the state police. It costs $50.
  • Send a letter to the state police. Explain what is wrong and send proof that it is a mistake.

The state police must give you a written answer within 60 days. You have the right to appeal the decision.

To get a copy of your record or to correct a mistake:

Department of Public Safety
State Police Bureau of Identification
1111 Country Club Road
Middletown, CT 06457
860-685-8480
http://www.ct.gov/dps/cwp/view.asp?a=2154&Q=294426&dpsNav=|

Form and instructions to ask for a copy of your record:
http://www.ct.gov/dps/lib/dps/reports_and_records/dps-0846-c.pdf

Pardons

There are two types of pardons:

  • Expungement – erases your entire criminal record. To apply, you must wait 3 years (misdemeanor) and 5 years (felon) from the disposition date. 
  • Provisional – does not erase your criminal record. But, it might make it easier to get a job. A provisional pardon makes it illegal for an employer to refuse to hire you just because of your record.

How do I ask for a pardon?

You will need to fill out an application which you can get from:

Board of Pardons and Paroles
55 West Main Street
Waterbury, CT 06702
Phone: (203) 805-6605

Or go to the Department of Corrections, Board of Pardons web site.

Are there certain jobs that I cannot get because of my record?

Yes. Your criminal record can keep you from getting certain jobs or licenses. The laws are very complicated. Employers are supposed to try to hire people–even those with a criminal record--who can do the job, but they don’t have to.

Licenses

You need a license for some jobs. Your criminal record may keep you from getting certain licenses. A youthful offender record will not stop you from getting a license. If you are turned down for a license, you  have a right to appeal.

What can I do if I am not hired because of my record?

If you believe you were not hired (or you were fired) because of your criminal record, ask if your record was the reason. If you are Black or Hispanic, you might have a discrimination case. You can file a complaint with:

1. The CT Commission on Human Rights & Opportunities (1-800-477-5737) www.ct.gov/chro, and

2. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (1-800-669-4000) www.eeoc.gov.

You must file your complaint with CHRO within 180 days and with EEOC within 300 days. You can file without a lawyer.

Who at work will know about my criminal record?

 Only the people who interview and make hiring decisions can see information about your record. After you are hired, your criminal record information should not be seen by other employees or be used against you.

This pamphlet was produced by the Legal Assistance Resource Center of CT in cooperation with CT Legal Services, Greater Hartford Legal Aid, New Haven Legal Assistance Association, and Statewide Legal Services.

The information in this pamphlet is based on laws in Connecticut as of November 2012. We hope that the information is helpful. It is not intended as legal advice for an individual situation. If you need further help and have not done so already, please call Statewide Legal Services (see above) or contact an attorney.

For more information, contact:

Statewide Legal Services: 860-344-0380 (Central CT & Middletown) or 1-800-453-3320 (all other regions).

Not from Connecticut?

Most of the information on this web site is for Connecticut residents only. Visit LawHelp.org to find a legal services program and/or a legal information web site in your area.