Everyone makes mistakes, but some mistakes carry a bigger penalty than others. In the case of domestic violence, you could wind up with a criminal record that will affect your chances of getting a job. Many employers ask specific questions about your past and conduct criminal background checks to determine if a potential employee is a risk for theft, fraud or workplace violence. A domestic violence misdemeanor charge can keep you from getting a job in some fields.
Charged Is Not Convicted
An arrest is not sufficient reason for an employer to deny you a job, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. This is because arrest records don’t indicate whether you were convicted, acquitted or even prosecuted. A domestic violence charge is not the same as a conviction – it could have been a case of mistaken identity or the accusation of a vengeful former partner, for example. Being charged with a crime simply means the law enforcement agency involved has – or should have – reasonable evidence to believe a crime has occurred. However, the arrest may still be on your record when a prospective employer performs a background check.
Reporting the Charge
If you’re looking for a job after a domestic violence misdemeanor charge, you’ll go through the normal process of reviewing want ads and filling out applications. That’s the point at which your misdemeanor charge becomes an issue. When you complete the application, you might be asked to indicate if you have a criminal record or have ever been convicted of a crime. Depending on how the question is worded, you might not need to report your history. If the application form asks about convictions, you could honestly answer “no.” However, if your employer later finds out about the charge, it could become a problem for you.
Clearing Your Record
In some cases, a misdemeanor charge can be expunged from your record, especially if you were not convicted of a crime. In an expungement, your criminal record can be sealed, making it accessible only to law enforcement agencies and some government organizations. Potential employers cannot see sealed records, and you can honestly state on the application form that you do not have a criminal record. Expungement typically occurs when you were found not guilty, the charges were dropped or dismissed, or a grand jury entered a “no bill” and it has been at least two years since the judgment.
Honesty Is Best
If you can’t expunge your record, the best thing to do is be honest. Note on your application or in your interview what happened. State what you’ve learned and how you have changed since the charge was originally brought. Explain extenuating circumstances. In some cases, no matter what your efforts, you’re not going to get the job. For example, in health care, teaching or occupations where contact with children is part of the job, the employer has a responsibility to protect vulnerable patients and children. In other situations, you may be able to make your case and go to work.