Does a Criminal Record Affect Your Job Prospects?

Ellie writes in:

I love your blog! It’s a great source of information and so entertaining.

I’m interested in becoming a PA (I’m sure you hear that alot). However, I made some bad choices in my past (6-8 years ago). I now have a criminal record. Not that there’s any excuse but I was going through a bad time and obviously acted out stupidly. The offenses are 2 misdemeanors and. here’s the kicker, a felony. I’ve turned my life around, and because of this, I actually work harder and appreciate jobs way more. I have a degree and  previous working experience in theatre.

I’m not afraid to be upfront and honest about my past (without going into too much detail) if I have to. Should I even bother trying to get into the business with my record? Am I damned to a life as a waitress? Help!

First off, let’s start with the law. In California1:

Employers can consider criminal convictions only if it’s relevant to the job. Employers in California can review job applicant arrest records ONLY if (i) the arrest(s) resulted in a conviction, or (ii) if the applicant is out of jail but pending trial. Otherwise, arrest records are off-limits. Felonies, misdemeanors and arrests are reportable for 7 years. [Cal. Civil Code §1785.13]. Employers in California can NOT inquire about marijuana convictions that are more than 2 years old. Juvenile criminal records are also off-limits to employers.

So, six years ago, they can ask you about your record. Eight years? Nope.

That being said, I’ve never once been asked about whether or not I even have a criminal record, much less what I did. Maybe I just have an innocent face. Or maybe this is the industry that gave a child rapist a standing ovation at their highest award ceremony.

Either way, I wouldn’t worry too much about. Even if the question comes up, unless you committed an especially heinous crime, I doubt anyone will care.

Footnotes    (↩ returns to text)

  1. Check your own state for details.
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3 Responses

  1. Thanks for posting this… It was actually my question. I was convicted of Shoplifting in VA but because of the high value of the items from Saks (over $250) it was a felony. Unfortunately, in VA you cannot get anything expunged… Unless it’s a pardon. The conviction sounds much worse than it is… Grand Larceny. Sounds like I stole a car instead of 3 skirts. Anyway… I appreciate your help very much. I have yet to move yet because of… I think I would hate myself if I never gave it a shot. Thanks again.

  2. The only time I’ve seen it come up is on a show with minors. One transportation guy I worked with had a felony, and no one batted an eye.

  3. I’ve worked with many crew members who have a blot on their criminal record. Sometimes it helps. 🙂

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