Does a criminal background mean you won’t get hired?

CaptureSo you have a criminal record; a DUI from a couple of years ago. Maybe it’s a youthful indiscretion such as shoplifting or perhaps something a little more serious such as assault and battery. One thing that would go a long way towards helping to keep you far away from future scrapes with the law would be a good job. Who has time to get into trouble when they have to be at work by 8 am every morning? But every time you feel like you’ve got a decent chance at a good paying job, it seems the background check comes up, they discover your less than stellar past and it’s good-bye job.

Most would agree that it would be good for society in general if people with a criminal past and a genuine desire to change the direction of their lives could find meaningful employment. But background checks are more the norm than the exception for many employers and given a choice, companies generally go for the candidate with the clean record. Even if they are inclined to offer someone a second chance, often they’re fearful of a negligent hiring lawsuit if the new hire causes harm to a customer or colleague and its discovered they’ve done this before.

In an effort to find a balance between an employer’s responsibility to maintain a safe working environment and society’s interest in keeping criminal offenders from reoffending, many states, including Massachusetts have passed so called ban the box legislation. This prohibits most employers from asking if a job applicant has a criminal past at least until the first face to face interview. The idea is that this at least gives the applicant an opportunity to explain the circumstances and the efforts towards rehabilitation in which they may have engaged.

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