Is Your Criminal Record Keeping You From Working?
Is Your Criminal Record Keeping You From Working?
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 it well, 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. 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; and
- public school jobs.
What can an employer find out?
From your criminal record, employers can find out about
- arrests from the last 7 years; and
- any convictions (no matter when they happened).
From your criminal record, employers cannot find out about
- arrests from more than 7 years ago; and
- 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 talk about misdemeanors. If you have to answer "yes" to a question about your history, you can write: "Yes. Will explain at interview." At the interview, you could explain why your record would not stop you from being a good employee. You might say what you learned from your mistake or that it happened many years ago.
- Learn the questions that are usually asked and get your answers ready. You can get a list of interview questions on the Connecticut 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. For some jobs, lying about a criminal record is a criminal offense.
- Think about how you will explain your criminal record.
- Write down your job history. Include the company names and addresses, your job duties, the dates you worked, and why you left.
- Think about how you will explain the times when you did not have a job.
- Get references. Try to find someone from one of your jobs who you trust and who will say good things about you. Ask what he or she would say about you if a potential employer calls. Also ask if you may or her use him as a reference.
Can I correct a mistake or get information taken off my record?
You might be able to get a Connecticut state charge or conviction removed from your record if
- your record should have been erased,
- you can prove there is a mistake on your record, or
- you get a pardon (also called an expungement).
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, or
- you were a youthful offender and were not convicted of a felony before you turned 21.
Records are usually erased automatically, but sometimes that 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. Here is how to correct a mistake:
- Use this form to get a copy of your record from the state police: http://www.ct.gov/despp/lib/despp/reports_and_records/dps-846-c.pdf.
- Send a letter to the state police explaining what is wrong, along with proof that a mistake was made.
- Mail completed form to:
Department of Public Safety
State Police Bureau of Identification
1111 Country Club Road
Middletown, CT 06457
The state police must give you a written answer within 60 days. You have the right to appeal the decision.
There are two types of pardons:
- An expungement erases your entire Connecticut state criminal record. To apply, you must wait 3 years (misdemeanor) and 5 years (felony) from the disposition date.
- A provisional pardon 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
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 who can do the job – even those who have a criminal record – but they don’t have to.
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 the right to appeal.
What if I'm 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:
- The CT Commission on Human Rights & Opportunities (1-800-477-5737) www.ct.gov/chro, and
- 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 used against you or seen by other employees.
Under age 60: Find legal help or fill out an online application.
Over age 60: Get help from legal aid.
Not from Connecticut? Find help in another state.