Felony Conviction and Employment in California

A felony conviction can result in time spent under incarceration for at least one year. But a felony’s impact does not end there. In California, various privileges and civil rights enjoyed by the general population can be lost due to a felony conviction. It can be increasingly difficult to find gainful employment. A felony conviction can make life difficult for years after jail time or probation has ended, making rehabilitation into society difficult for convicted felons.

When applying for a job, one must disclose felony convictions on applications. Disclosing a felony conviction may result in not getting hired. However, failure to disclose a felony conviction on an employment application may result in termination of employment and an inability to receive unemployment benefits. Unfortunately, an employer is legally allowed not to hire a candidate based on a prior conviction. However, a prior conviction may also be a pretext to decline to hire a felon on the basis of illegal bias, violating Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin). Federal guidelines only recommend that employers do not automatically disqualify convicted felons on the basis of their conviction. California has adopted this, but an employer may still refuse to hire a convicted felon if there is a valid business reason for the refusal. For example, if the potential job involves access to narcotics, you may be disqualified based upon a felony drug conviction.

If you have been convicted of a felony, it is important to know your rights regarding employment interviews prior to interviewing. You need to know what is illegal for the potential employer to ask and what information you need not disclose. It is important to consult an attorney if you feel you have been illegally discriminated against for past crimes. For example, a prospective employer may not ask you about:

  • Arrests not resulting in conviction;
  • Marijuana offenses for personal use that are over two years old;
  • Juvenile arrests that have been sealed;
  • Arrests for which drug diversion has been successfully completed;
  • Sealed, expunged, or legally eradicated convictions;
  • Misdemeanors for which probation has been completed and the case dismissed.

If an arrest or conviction falls into any of the above, you need not disclose it on an application for employment or in a job interview with the exception of applying for a California state license (i.e. real estate license), running for public office, or employment with the California State Lottery Commission. Convicted felons are prohibited from service as an officer of the peace (i.e. police officer).

A felony conviction can have far-reaching impacts on your life beyond completing the initial consequences. The experienced criminal defense attorneys at the Law Offices of Sean F. Leslie will fight for you to reduce your charges and/or punishment. Contact us today for a free consultation.