Try as everyone might, to keep their personal lives separate from their work lives, there may be times that an off-the-clock decision can have consequences on your job. It’s easy to see how being arrested for a DUI may affect an on-the-road job, but it is possible to affect your paycheck even if you do not drive for a living?
Laws Regulating Background Checks
The Fair Credit Reporting Act governs all states. Though it bans reporting arrests that are more than seven years old, convictions (such as DUI) could be reported indefinitely. Additionally, such restrictions are limited to jobs with a salary of $75,000 or less. While the federal courts have frequently ruled that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII) prohibits employers from refusing employment to a person with a conviction unless there is a compelling, or related, business reason to support it, there are times that it may conflict with state laws. It can be difficult for a citizen to know which applies.
Most states allow employers to deny employment to any who have a conviction, with some going as far as allowing denial to applicants with only an arrest record. Some states offer a rehabilitation certificate that may be used to remove the limits on finding employment.
If running for office, or applying for state professional licenses, it is required to report a DUI for 10 years.
Background Checks 101
There are about 20 types of information that may turn up in a background check, such as driving records, vehicle registrations, character references, and, of course, criminal and court records. In the age of Google, public records make many criminal convictions available in a simple search (there are even apps that are specific for this purpose). Employers are going as far as searching applicants’ social media accounts to determine personalities and risks since some people post about their legal indiscretions.
When directly asked, be sure, to tell the truth. It is much more likely that an employer will overlook a DUI than a lie during a first impression.
Things That Can Combat the Label
While the outlook can seem bleak for job hunters with a criminal background, it isn’t an automatic blacklisting. The right candidate can reasonably expect to be a strong contender for a position that is the appropriate fit. Here are a couple of things that you can do to raise your desirability as an employee above the negative connotation of the conviction.
Use the Best of Your Tools: One of the best things to override an unappealing past is a terrific present – as promoted by your referrals. To be high enough to lift the appeal, the higher the status of the reference, the better. Clergy, judges, respected members of the community…when an individual of importance is willing to put their name on a reference, it can impress an employer to consider the applicant as fully rehabilitated and trustworthy. Bonus points for anyone in said positions who can also attest to your work practices.
Lead the Employer’s Focus to What You Contribute: Just as you want to sell yourself above the other applicants, now is the time to make your employment seem necessary. Focus on what you bring to the table to solve the employer’s problems and guarantee its success. Address the needs covered in the job description and keep the attention on your ability to satisfy those requirements.
Even if the DUI does not directly result in termination of employment, the process of the legal system can jeopardize your job. Any days spent in jail, or time held up at court (or other appointments), could lead to missing hours of work that are not compensated. Administrative court costs and fines add up quickly, doubling the financial woes if work hours are lost. Add in costs for any type of classes or courses that are mandated in the final order, and the expenses can continue long after the incident. Auto insurance will likely increase, despite how clean of a driving record you may have. Other professional insurances, such as malpractice and liability, may also be impacted.
Clearing a DUI Conviction
Laws governing this vary widely from state to state, but a DUI offender may consider having the conviction expunged (when a court seals a record of arrest or conviction). For the purposes of most employment background checks, this is as close to erasing a conviction as it gets.
The impact a DUI can have on your work life can be catastrophic. It is important to speak with an attorney who is familiar with all possible areas affected to better understand the recourse options, as well as to develop a plan to minimize the detriment to your ability to earn a living.