Sunday, August 4, 2019

Felony or Misdemeanor ~ Does it Really make it Difference to Your Job Search?


Is a misdemeanor criminal record treated differently than a felony record when it comes to employment background checks?

This question was recently posted on the question and answer site Quora. The answer is relevant to anyone who has even a minor criminal record and is searching for a job.

The answer I posted is…it depends! 
"A lot has to do with the employer requesting the background check. Do they have a policy to reject anyone with any criminal record? If so, it doesn’t matter. Some companies, by law, cannot hire anyone with a criminal past. These types of companies include banks and government jobs. Other employers simply choose to make that their policy. These kinds of “blanket rejection” policies are coming under fire. Background check guidelines are requiring employers to justify why the criminal record would make the applicant unable or unsafe to fill the open position and how long ago the offense occurred. Then there are employers who are willing to hire those with a criminal history. In those cases, a misdemeanor conviction is definitely distinguished from a felony conviction. In addition, many of these employers look at other factors to determine employment such as what type of crime it is and what the applicant has done since their crime to better themselves."

You can read more responses to this question here!


When it comes to trying to find a job, anyone who has any kind of criminal record is justifiably concerned. 

Ex-offenders recognize the stigma that comes with having been convicted of a crime and how it lessens their chances of gainful employment.

What they may not know is that there are laws and regulations that can help. These guidelines govern how criminal histories can be used to determine employment.

When a background check uncovers a criminal history, employers must consider the following:

  • How much time has elapsed since the crime? ~ Most background checks go back 7 years so any criminal record that bears weight on a company’s employment decision should have occurred during that timeframe. 
  • What type of crime was committed?, Does it relate to the job being filled?,  Would committing that crime result in the job being done unsafely? When hiring someone with a criminal history, employers consider the answers to these questions extremely important. 



To truly answer this question, it is important to understand how employers think. 

Employers are only human. When an applicant has any kind of criminal past, it can have an impact on what an employer thinks about that applicant. This can be true no matter what the crime.

While committing a serious felony would certainly give an employer pause, lesser crimes may not have the same impact. What should really matter is whether the crime could effect how an applicant does the job!  

Even those employers who are forward thinking enough to overlook a criminal past, will most likely want to see evidence that the offender has taken responsibility and tried to improve themselves since being convicted of their crime.


The responsibility for easing the mind of a potential employer should fall squarely on the ex-offender!

It is important that ex-offenders take the initiative and make themselves a more attractive choice to employers. They have to take any and all steps necessary to get hired.

These steps include: 

  • Taking responsibility for their criminal past ~ Don’t try and blame what happened on others. Own it.
  • Share what you they been doing since their conviction to better themselves ~ Get any letters of recommendation that they can from current and former employers, mentors, or anyone who can vouch for their commitment to move on from their criminal past.

Find out more in “How Do You get a Decent Job with a Criminal Record?”.


But no matter how much ex-offenders do to make themselves less of a risk for employers, nothing can be accomplished without the employers themselves getting on board. 

“Many employers are hesitant to hire people with criminal records ….. Employers are concerned about the trustworthiness of those with prior criminal records. And if a position requires a worker to be unsupervised or come in contact with customers, those employers are even more cautious.

There is also the very real fear of the legal ramifications of hiring an ex-offender. Businesses are often held liable for the actions of their employees. Negligent hiring lawsuits are not uncommon”, excerpt from “Once a Criminal, always a Criminal ~ Why We believe in Second Chances!”.

Making a a blanket decision to never hire anyone with a criminal past is unnecessary, and recent suggested background check guidelines are looking to make it unlawful.


But Employers need a reason to change their mindset when it comes to hiring ex-offenders.

We need to make it easier and more appealing for employers to take a chance on an ex-offender.

The best way to accomplish this is to lessen their liability.
One of way is to offer qualified ex-offenders “A “Certificate of Relief”. This certificate is a statement by the court that an ex-offender has met a certain pre-defined set of circumstances and conditions concerning their past conviction(s). This certificate is designed to help reduce the risk to employers who hire ex-offenders.

But this certification is not given to everyone. While specific criteria may vary state to state, common conditions that ex-offenders must meet to be eligible for a “Certificate of Relief” are:

  • The Offender has had a limited number of felonies and / or misdemeanors
  • There has been a specific period of time since the completion of their sentence
  • The Offender has completed all the terms of their sentence
  • The Offender has not violated or failed to comply with any term of their sentence
  • The Offender must be engaged in, or seeking, lawful employment, an education, training, or registered in other rehabilitative programs
  • The granting of the “certificate of relief” cannot put the safety or welfare of the public or any individual at unreasonable risk

Find out more about what you need to know about a “Certificate of Relief” here!

The bottom line ~ ex-offenders must be ready to do the work. They need to learn new skills and be ready to prove themselves to any employer who gives them the chance. 
It is then vitally important that employers do their part.


Only then can we help ex-offenders find jobs, move beyond their criminal past, and become proud, productive members of society.

Authored by  



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