While Wisconsin has some limits on how employers can use criminal records in making hiring decisions, there are still many ways that it could affect your ability to get a job. The state tries to protect people with a criminal history, enabling them to get a fresh start in life. However, there are limits to what an employer is required to ignore when they run a background check. This could impact how your criminal case proceeds.
The general rule in Wisconsin is that an employer cannot discriminate against a job applicant because of their criminal record. They are not allowed to ask questions about the conviction. The only way that they can ask about a criminal case is if the charges are still pending. However, this prohibition only applies in certain circumstances.
Employers Can Use a Conviction When There Is Substantial Overlap with the Job
The key exception is this prohibition an employer can ask about and use a conviction when it is substantially related to the employment. This is a rather significant exception that allows employers to consider applicants’ criminal histories in a variety of contexts. In order to consider criminal history, the employer must determine whether the circumstances of the conviction and the job substantially overlap. For example, if the applicant is going to work with money, the employer could use a theft conviction to disqualify them from the job.
However, employers still must be careful. They must perform their own thorough investigation to reach the conclusion that there is substantial overlap. They must not rely on innuendo. Even if they see something on a social media profile, it may be safer to actually interview and talk to the applicant. They must make a determination based on the entirety of the evidence as opposed to speculation.
Even if an employer is disturbed by the nature of the conviction because it upsets them morally, they cannot use that as a basis for not hiring an individual. At the same time, if the employer asks for disclosure of criminal history, the job applicant must disclose their record and cannot conceal it.
Employers Must Still Be Careful
There have been cases where courts have ruled against employers who have rescinded offers to prospective employees based on background checks. In one, a man who was convicted of sexual assault and strangulation sued an employer for rescinding an offer after a background check. Even though his crimes were serious, the court held that the conditions of his convictions did not overlap with his job. The court found that, because he was not working alone with women, he would not be in the same situation that led to his sexual assault. The court said that his tendency towards physical abuse and violence happened only when he was in a live-in relationship. This is a case where a court drew a sharp line to punish an employer that acted out of moral disgust. However, you cannot expect that this will always be the case.
Where Employers Could Deny a Job
There are some fields that completely bar people from working in them based on their criminal records. For example, people cannot work in the nursing home industry if they have felony convictions. This is a federal rule. Here are some other career fields that could reasonably reject someone with certain convictions:
- Health care
- Private detective
- Police officer
If your job requires that you drive, the employer may perform a check of your motor vehicle records. For example, if you are driving children or even if you want to work for Uber, a driving record check is a must. If you have convictions for things like DUI, it may hurt your chances of getting a job. This would also extend to things like bus driver jobs. Almost no employer would allow someone with a documented track record of drunk driving to transport anyone else. They may also check your criminal history for drug convictions, and these could also be an impediment.
Convictions Could Keep You from Getting Security Clearance
In addition, your criminal record can hurt you if you are looking for work that requires a security clearance. If you were trying to work for the federal government or a contractor, for example, you may need a clearance. Depending on the type of conviction that you have, you may be denied the security clearance. Even misdemeanors could keep you from getting a clearance. These are some of the convictions that could particularly hurt you:
- Drug charges
- Domestic Violence
Many employers check to see that they are hiring an honest person. Even if you have turned your life around, employers may go with the written record that they see in front of them. This fact is why it is crucial to do everything you can to resolve any criminal case as favorably as possible. You should have a conversation with your lawyer about what a conviction could mean for you in the long run. In many cases, the potential long-term consequences will inform your decision as to whether to take a plea agreement or fight the charges against you in court.
Your case is about more than just the immediate short term. It is about your future and the opportunities that are ahead of you. While Wisconsin does admirably try to protect those convicted of a crime, there are still a number of ways that an employer could use it to deny you a position.
Contact an Appleton Criminal Defense Lawyer
Before you do anything in your case or accept a plea bargain, you should have a detailed conversation with a lawyer about how a conviction may impact your future. Many people lose themselves in the present, which is understandable given the stress of the criminal justice process. Call us today at (920) 450-9800 or contact us online to schedule your free initial consultation. Make sure to get a firm handle on your legal situation before you make any decisions.