Application Disclosure with a Criminal Record

Application Disclosure with a Criminal Record

American communities are experiencing massive movements of residents each year as 600,000 people are released from jails and prisons. Evidence indicates that between 60 and 75 percent of the formerly incarcerated remain unemployed up to a year after their release, and one poll found that more than one-third of all nonworking men between the ages of 25-54 had criminal records. Because women workers are concentrated in industries that perform more criminal background checks—retail and caregiving—formerly incarcerated females may have still greater challenges in finding employment. And when the formerly incarcerated do find work, it is all too often in low-wage occupations that continue to hamper their ability to contribute to family incomes. The effects of un- and under-employment for the formerly incarcerated are widespread and bad for our communities. And with nearly one out of every three Americans having some type of arrest or conviction record, millions of current union members understand all too well the hurdles their loved ones face when trying to reenter our communities.


Do you have any pending criminal charges by Federal, State, or other Law Enforcement authorities for any violation of any Federal law, Military law, State law, County or Municipal law, Regulation or Ordinance?

Have you ever been convicted by Federal, State, or other Law Enforcement authorities for any violation of any Federal law, Military law, State law, County or Municipal law, Regulation or Ordinance?

This prompt, sometimes called a “disclosure” question in the application, can trigger fear in even a well-credited candidate. What about that speeding ticket in high school? Does a fine for drinking in public count? What will it matter if I ignore that one offense and just answer “no”?

There are some important things to know about disclosure of conduct issues and how to answer this type of question. This article should not be viewed as legal advice, but rather an overview of how to approach disclosure questions.

Instead of getting nervous and avoiding the issue by lying or omitting something on your applications, here is some advice for answering disclosure questions on your applications.

Criminal history does not disqualify you from finding employment with our office

Few applicants need to have a legitimate concern about their criminal history. In most cases, the incident in question is so minor that employers will pay little to no attention to it. Minor traffic violations (other than operating under the influence), noise/party violations, or drinking-in-public tickets, for example, are usually not considered significant by employers.

The disclosure of a minor criminal or civil violation in an applicant’s past will usually not have a negative impact on his/her prospects for employment. This is typically true for driving offenses and civil infractions that resulted in fines or community service hours, based on specific positions applied for.

An incident involving a felony or dishonesty (fraud, larceny, financial crimes, etc.), operating under the influence, indecent exposure, assault and battery, a domestic violence complaint, possession, manufacturing, and/or distribution of illegal drugs could have more of an impact and disqualify you for certain positions.

You may not be discriminated against based on any pending charges and/or conviction record unless there is substantial relationship between the circumstances of the pending charge and/or conviction and the duties and responsibilities of the position.

As a general rule, it is important to note that honesty is a good policy. If you answer something untruthfully and the potential employer finds out, you may be in a worse situation than if you had told the truth.

Hiring consultants look very unfavorably on inconsistencies and intentional misrepresentation. If you lied to a potential employer by signing your name and promising to make honest answers – and then lied anyway – how can anything you said on your application be trusted? How can you be deemed to have the character and fitness to be considered an honest and trustworthy employee?

Do I need to repot things that occurred in another state or just things that occurred in Wisconsin?
You must report all incidents no matter where they occurred

Tips on how to get a job with a criminal record.
You can’t control what an employer does, but you can control how you conduct yourself and how you conduct your job search. The National Employment Law Project suggests 65 million Americans – 1 in 4 – have arrest or conviction records that may haunt them when they apply for a job.

Know which offenses are on your record – The nature of your conviction matters. Certain types of convictions will disqualify you for certain types of jobs. For example, financial convictions will make it impossible for you to work in insurance or banking. You need to think about your conviction and what types of jobs that have nothing to do with your conviction. It is best if the conviction is completely unrelated to the job you are applying for. Don’t just assume that your record will disqualify you from holding a certain job. Consider the relationship of your conviction to the position. Eliminate jobs for which your record will automatically disqualify you. Your record may disqualify you for some positions, especially government jobs requiring security clearances, positions with financial responsibility, or jobs working with children. Staffing agencies are available to help search for jobs you are suited for.

Know what employers are allowed to consider. For most employers, it is illegal to immediately and completely disqualify anyone with a conviction or arrest record. Employers must also demonstrate that your conviction is “job-related” and would hamper your ability or trustworthiness to perform your job. Employers should consider the amount of time that has passed since the conviction or completion of your sentence. It is more difficult for an employer to justify making a hiring decision based on a very old conviction. The type of job you are applying for should also be considered. For example, if you were convicted of a violent assault, it would probably be difficult for you to find a job where you have to interact with people

Seek out positions that might afford you a chance to work “behind the scenes.” You may have a good chance to get jobs in maintenance, upkeep, restocking shelves, etc. You may not be able to get positions which may have you handling other people’s money or put you in social situations. Employers in restaurants and bars are often understanding of past criminal records.

Start small and work your way up. Understand that when a person sees your record, he or she may be slightly reluctant to hire you for a position with a lot of responsibility. That same person may be more than willing to give you a chance in another usually lower-paid position. You can use this chance to demonstrate that you are a reliable and trustworthy employee.

Try applying with a staffing agency. You will need to disclose your criminal record to the agency in full. However, these agencies are sometimes able to place employees at other companies without running additional background checks, which can give you the chance to prove yourself.

Be honest about your history. You may want to lie when an application asks if you have a criminal record, but you must be honest with potential employers. Many employers now conduct some sort of background check. If they find that you have been dishonest on the application, you will not be hired. If you’ve already been hired and the lie is discovered later, you can be fired for it.
Criminal background checks may not pick up older convictions or convictions in different states. Still, if they miss your conviction and find out about it after they hire you will most likely be terminated.

You have certain rights regarding background checks. Your potential employer must get your permission to run a background check. If you are not hired after the background check is run, the employer must give you a copy of the report. They must do this before they make the final hiring decision. This gives you an opportunity to correct inaccurate information. It may also give you the chance to advocate for yourself. Explain your answer if you’re asked about convictions or arrests during an interview. Job applications and interviewers will give you an opportunity to explain the circumstances behind the offense or alleged offense. You may find that the interviewer is interested in someone who made a mistake but is now motivated to get a job.

Try to get an offense sealed or expunged from your record. Even if you committed an offense as an adult, you can try to get an offense sealed or expunged from your record. Ask your attorney, public defender or your parole/probation officer whether you may be able to get the offense expunged (removed) from your record. If you are successful, then you can legally answer “no” to conviction questions.

If you have any questions regarding what charges are on your record – Background check yourself to prevent any awkward conversation in the future.

Information compiled by –

Gail ZietlowStaffing Consultant

Referral Staffing Solutions: 108 W Main St Sparta, WI 54656


Information provided by:

National Employment Law Project –

Anna Ivey Consulting –

wikiHow –