Everyone has a “youthful indiscretion” they would like to forget. Unfortunately, if that indiscretion left you with a criminal record, forgetting may not be so easy. There is a good chance a potential employer will inquire about your criminal history. So what do you do if you were convicted of a crime, and maybe even served some jail time?
The Law Regarding Employee Background Checks in Florida
First, let’s address how the law works in this area. Under the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act, employers must follow certain procedures before requesting criminal background checks on job applicants. The employer must get your written consent in advance and let you know if you will be disqualified based on a past conviction.
Companies that run background checks for employers must also take reasonable steps to ensure the accuracy of any information they provide employers. For example, if your criminal background report contains false or misleading information–such as reporting an arrest as a conviction–you have the right to dispute the background report and demand remedial action.
Also keep in mind that employers who maintain a blanket “no conviction” policy for new hires may run afoul of federal civil rights laws. Although the law does not expressly protect former criminals as a suspect class, the fact that a disproportionate percentage of individuals convicted of crimes–particularly drug crimes–are African-American and Hispanic can give rise to an inference of racial discrimination.
On the other hand, Florida law actively encourages employers to conduct criminal background checks. Under Section 768.096 of the Florida Statutes, an employer is generally protected from “negligent hiring” claims if it “conducted a background investigation of the prospective employee and the investigation did not reveal any information that reasonably demonstrated the unsuitability of the prospective employee for the particular work to be performed or for the employment in general.” In other words, if an employer hires an applicant with a criminal record, and the employee subsequent harms a third party, the employer will not be held liable for civil damages.
Be Honest and Keep Things in Perspective
So what should you do if you have a prior conviction? Obviously, you should never lie. But you also do not need to begin an interview by confessing your past crimes. However, once an employer extends an offer, you should let them know about the facts and circumstances of your record. Remember, the employer is probably going to conduct a background check anyway. It is best to let them know what they’ll find from you rather than wait for the background report to come back.
Also note that not all convictions are treated the same. A misdemeanor disorderly conduct offense from 15 years ago is not the same thing as armed robbery committed 5 years ago. Employers are principally concerned about crimes that demonstrate moral turpitude, such as theft or acts of violence.
Of course, the best way to deal with a criminal record during your job search is not to have one in the first place. If you are charged with a state or federal crime and need representation from a qualified Orlando criminal defense lawyer, contact Moses & Rooth today at (407) 377-0150.