Depending on the job, being convicted of a DWI—or even having been arrested—may hinder your ability to get a job. Many employers ask about job applicants’ criminal record, and many run background checks to help them find the perfect candidate. While hiring decisions are, ultimately, at the employer’s discretion, there are some protections for job applicants who have had a DWI or other conviction.
A simple DWI arrest generally won’t affect your job search because most states permit employers to ask only about convictions. However, some states permit employers to ask applicants about certain arrests.
Some employers may be more concerned about DWI arrests and convictions than others. Positions requiring driving—particularly a company vehicle such as delivery, bus, and truck drivers—could be problematic. In California, for example, employers require applicants to disclose any DWI- or drug-related arrests if they are applying for certain jobs with access to medications. Similarly, if you are looking to work with children, seeking a government job, or applying for a job that involves handling sensitive and confidential information, a DWI conviction may prove problematic.
Other potential problems
In addition to having a criminal record, getting a DWI can also raise concerns in other areas related to employment. For example, if you get your driver’s license revoked or suspended, you may be left without reliable transportation in order to get to work. This may be particularly troublesome if you live in an area without adequate public transportation or don’t have anyone to rely on for a ride.
The law may protect you
There are two federal laws that provide somewhat limited protection to job applications who may have criminal records: Title VII and The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).
Title VII—Criminal record-based discrimination
Part of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title VII protects job applicants and existing employees from employment discrimination which include hiring and screening practices. Because arrest and incarceration rates are significantly higher for certain minorities in the US, if an employer has a policy that categorically excludes any applicant with a criminal record, s/he may be guilty of racial discrimination.
To address this, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) provides guidance for employers to weed out risky applicants without discriminating against them. Among the factors for consideration include the nature and seriousness of the offense, the time since the offense or sentence, and the nature of the job being applied for. The EEOC also urges employers to afford candidates the ability to explain the circumstances of their case.
Fair Credit Reporting Act
The FCRA handles accuracy concerns because some background checks may include errors. Such errors can include:
- Recording the same offense multiple times
- Failing to report exonerations
- Incomplete information
- Records that have been expunged
- Misclassification of offenses
- Records belonging to someone else with the same name
The FCRA requires that employers who request criminal background checks on job applicants get the applicant’s written consent prior to the check, inform the applicant that information contained in the report may exclude him/her from consideration, and notify the applicant of their decision to not consider the applicant based on information contained in the report.
Minnesota recently joined the ranks of a handful of other states by enacting “ban the box” legislation, This law prohibits employers from asking, considering, or requiring applicants to disclose any criminal history until they are chosen for an interview or offered a conditional employment offer without an interview. Employers may, however, notify candidates that certain criminal offenses will automatically disqualify them from certain jobs.
The bottom line is to be truthful. As mentioned, while you don’t have to volunteer any information, likewise, you shouldn’t lie either. If asked, be honest. After all, a background check will likely provide the employer with the necessary information. Being honest and up front is indicative of good character, as is admitting you had a lapse of judgment, are remorseful, and have learned your lesson.
A good DWI lawyer can help
If you have been charged and/or convicted of a DWI, consulting with a knowledgeable and experienced DWI lawyer can go a long way toward protecting not only your freedom and financial situations, but also future job prospects. Your lawyer will seek to secure you a not guilty plea, negotiate penalties, and even work to get your record expunged, if applicable.