Employment Laws for Convicted Felons

Reintegrating into society after a felony conviction isn’t any easy task. There are many people, friends and strangers alike, who will assume that you will always be the person you were when you committed the initial crime. The truth is, time can change a lot about a person.

Many who have been charged with a felony serve their time and, in the process, work to make themselves a better person. Oftentimes, prisons will offer programs where inmates can earn an associate’s degree or certification designed to help them launch into a new career. Sadly, many former felons finish their sentence and start applying to jobs only to discover that, despite having adequate education and experience, nobody will hire them.

What Potential Employers Can and Can’t Do

A prospective employer has rights when it comes to choosing to hire a felon; rights that they often exercise to the fullest extent. Fortunately, as a former felon, you have rights too.

One of the biggest challenges a former felon faces when applying for jobs is the dreaded question: Have you ever been convicted of a felony? This question will appear on countless job applications during the course of your search, but don’t let it intimidate you. Employers can ask this question but they cannot automatically reject you if the answer is yes.

Colorado law specifies that if you’ve committed a crime that has since been expunged from your record, you are not obligated to disclose that information. If you’ve had a crime expunged and are asked if you’ve ever committed a crime or felony, you’re legally able to answer “no” and the potential employer is not allowed to ask further questions.

There is federal law in place to protect the rights of convicted felons. The Fair Credit Reporting Act pertains to the background check that many employers perform as a standard part of their hiring process. To remain lawful, employers must not only get your written consent to perform a background check, but they must also notify you if they intend to reject you based on the content of the report.

Under the FRCA, the firms that provide background checks must also take “reasonable steps” to ensure that the information provided is correct. If you dispute the contents of a background check and that information is found to be incorrect, the firm must conduct further investigations and inform any companies it has provided a report to of the errors within.

These laws help to decrease the likelihood that a felon will face automatic denial when applying for a job. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has also laid out guidelines for companies screening potential employees. Companies must consider the nature of the crime, the amount of time that has passed since the crime, and how that crime could interact with the stipulations of the job. The EEOC also suggests that employers give former felons a chance to explain the situation and present a case as to why it will not affect their ability to work.

Jobs You Can’t Hold

No matter how educated you are, or how much you’ve reformed your lifestyle, there are certain jobs which you may not be able to hold after a felony conviction. Job hunting is hard enough without needlessly wasting time on applying to jobs that you may not get, so knowing what to look out for is key.

Colorado law states that a felony offense cannot, in and of itself, act as an automatic bar to being employed in the public sector or obtaining certain occupational licenses. Be aware that this statute of the law does not apply to law enforcement jobs and jobs involving “vulnerable populations”, i.e. working with children or at-risk adults.

If the felony charge involved the use of a deadly weapon, sexual misconduct, or child abuse for instance, you will likely also be ineligible for jobs as a security guard, first responder, teacher/child care worker, psychologist, or attorney. The law varies greatly state to state though, and Colorado is making an active effort to provide more employment opportunities and less restrictions to those who “have been rehabilitated and are ready to accept the responsibilities of a law-abiding and productive member of society.”

Since your felony will be evaluated on a case by case basis by what the job requires, you may consider consulting with an agency that specifically works to place ex-felons in appropriate positions.

Jobs You Can Hold

More and more companies are realizing that ex-felons can not only be wonderful employees, they can become an asset to the company. Given that, there are a number of companies that offer opportunities to ex-felons and a number of job types that would offer a productive transition into the working world.

Below is a list of career paths that often provide chances for ex-felons to get back into the workforce. Note that these are not guaranteed positions, but rather a list of ideas to do some research on and apply to, should they suit your needs. Again, depending on the nature of the felony and the amount of time that has passed since, you may not be eligible to work in some of these fields.

  • Car Dealerships: You may have to start as a mechanic, or even as a car detailer, but with good employment behavior, car dealerships offer a potential to advance into sales.
  • Airlines: Being a gate agent offers the opportunity to work with people and the added perk of free or discounted flights, depending on the airline.
  • Rental Car Companies: Budget and Avis are two great options for ex-felons. Again, you may only be taking calls or cleaning rental cars, but it’s a solid job in the DIA area.
  • Restaurants: Most restaurants are always looking for kitchen staff and dishwashers. If you can be reliable, consistent, and show up to work on time, you’ll do well in the food service industry. Longhorn Steakhouse, Red Lobster, and Olive Garden are just a few of the companies known to hire ex-felons.
  • Grocery Stores: Stocking shelves or rounding up carts may not be the most glamorous of jobs, but working for a grocery store provides a stable environment that may even offer some benefits. Kroger, Safeway, and Trader Joe’s have all worked with ex-felons in the past.
  • Retail Stores: Sears, Nordstrom, and PetSmart are several retail stores that may hire ex-convicts. Stocking shelves or working as a delivery driver for retail stores is always a good option.
  • Thrift Shops: Both Goodwill and The Salvation Army make an effort to give second chances to those who need them most. Some even offer free job training and help with resume writing.
  • Hotels: Custodian and maid jobs are plentiful and companies like Radisson and Embassy suites have been open to working with ex-felons in the past.

Tips for Getting a Job after a Felony

So, if you have a felony conviction on your record, what can you do to make yourself more hirable? There are several steps and guidelines that, when executed properly, can help make your job hunt a little easier.

  • Adopt a good attitude. Nobody wants to hire someone with a defeatist attitude who has already given up on themselves. Stay positive, smile, and be polite and conversational.
  • Dress for Success. Your clothes will be one of the key factors employers evaluate in their first impressions. Dress in clean, professional attire (slacks, button-down shirts, dress shoes) and maintain good hygiene for the best results. If you’re low on cash, thrift stores like Goodwill offer a chance to get gently used dress clothes for discount prices.
  • Do Your Research. Before applying to any company, and certainly before going in for any interviews, do some research. Employer’s often find it impressive when you can offer up some basic knowledge of the company such as when they were founded, what services they offer, or what their mission is.
  • Don’t be Picky. In this kind of situation, you take what you can get. Especially for your first job following a conviction. Stick it out, get some experience, and you can often improve your working situation within a few years.
  • Talk to friends, go to job fairs, and attend lectures on job finding practices. Do this whenever you can, because the more connections you can make, the better chance you have of finding a position quickly.

Resources for Finding a Job

Finally, we’d like to offer some resources for ex-felons who are about to start their job search. As we’ve already mentioned, there are a number of organizations that will help with finding jobs, from resume writing to free training. Research them, give them a call, and see how they can help you.

There are plenty of resources and employment opportunities available for ex-felons looking to get back to work, but if you’re currently facing a felony charge, your best resource is the assistance of one of the criminal defense attorneys at Wolf Law LLC. We offer compassionate representation to those in need of criminal defense throughout the Denver Metro area and the state of Colorado.

Whether you’ve been charged with a felony or simply accused of a crime, speaking to an experienced criminal defense lawyer is one of your best options to protect yourself. Call us at 720-479-8574 or schedule a free consultation through our website.