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Can a Criminal Record Affect Employment in Florida?

June 15, 2024
By The Wiseman Law Firm

The Impact of a Criminal Record on Employment Prospects in Florida 

When it comes to securing employment, having a criminal record can present a significant hurdle. Having a criminal record can affect an individual’s employment prospects in several ways.

Employers may view a criminal history as a sign of potential liability or risk, which could lead to an applicant being passed over for a position. This is particularly true in industries where trust and reliability are paramount, such as healthcare, finance, and law enforcement.

In some instances, a criminal record can also lead to the loss of your ability to work in certain professions. For example, a conviction can mean that you lose your professional license and ability to regain such a license. This loss can affect your ability to obtain new employment as you may lack experience in other areas.

However, there are laws in place that protect applicants with criminal records. Florida law provides employers with an incentive to consider an applicant’s criminal record. Employers are legally presumed not to have been negligent in hiring if they conduct a background investigation before hiring employees, including a criminal records check. Below, we will discuss those laws in further detail.

Laws Governing Use of Criminal Background Checks in Hiring Practices

In Florida, there are no specific prohibitions against employers obtaining and considering the criminal records of job applicants. Unlike some states that have enacted “fair hiring” or “ban-the-box” laws, Florida allows employers wide discretion to rely on background checks when making employment decisions. However, the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and Florida state law impose limitations and regulations on the use of arrest records in employment background checks, including the ‘7-year rule’ and the prohibition of using arrest records for hiring decisions.

The law permits employers to make use of a criminal background check in their hiring process, and they have the right to consider an applicant’s criminal record as part of their decision-making process. Conducting a thorough background investigation is crucial as it can protect employers from claims of negligence. Florida actually incentivizes employers to review applicants’ criminal histories.

It is also important to note that Florida law does not allow employment agencies to deny a person the ability to obtain a license, certificate, or permit unless they are convicted of a felony or first-degree misdemeanor that is connected to the type of work the person will do. The legal and regulatory requirements surrounding the access and use of criminal records for employment purposes, including considerations of criminal offense, are essential for compliance.

There are two federal laws that protect job applicants with criminal records:

  • The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). This federal law dictates that an employer cannot conduct a background check on an applicant without their explicit consent, thereby maintaining the individual’s right to privacy and control over personal information. Crucially, if an employer decides not to hire an individual due to information from their criminal record found in the background check, the FCRA mandates that they must inform the applicant of this decision. This process, known as “adverse action,” includes providing the applicant with a copy of the report and a summary of their rights under the FCRA. If the applicant believes there is incorrect or outdated information on their report, they have the right to dispute it with the reporting company and seek correction, ensuring accuracy and fairness. Federal and state laws regulate employment background checks, limiting access and use of criminal record information to ensure fair hiring practices.
  • Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 serves as a foundational pillar for equal employment opportunities, including for job applicants with a criminal record. This landmark legislation prohibits employers from using arrest and conviction records in hiring decisions if it disproportionately affects individuals of a certain race or national origin and is not directly related to the job. This means that an employer cannot implement blanket policies denying employment to anyone with a criminal past but rather must consider each case individually. Factors like the nature and gravity of the offense, the time elapsed since the conviction, and the relevance of the crime to the job at hand should be evaluated. For instance, an employer might reasonably decide not to hire a convicted embezzler for a finance role, but turning down a candidate for a warehouse job due to a decades-old, unrelated misdemeanor would likely violate Title VII. Ultimately, this law promotes fair hiring practices, giving those with past criminal records a chance to reintegrate into society while also helping employers tap into a wider pool of talent.

Improving Employment Chances for Job Applicants Despite a Criminal Record

Although having a criminal record can be challenging, there are measures one can take to improve one’s chances of securing employment. One such measure is seeking legal help. Legal professionals can provide advice and assistance in understanding the laws relating to the use of criminal records in hiring practices, as well as potentially helping to expunge or seal certain records.

In addition, listing down voluntary involvement in social activities, completing rehabilitation programs, or acquiring new skills can demonstrate personal growth and commitment to change. These actions can potentially make a positive impression on employers and offset the negative impact of a criminal record.

You should also consider targeting applications to employers that do not require a criminal background check, as this may increase your chances of securing employment. Some public employers in Orlando, for instance, are prohibited from asking about criminal convictions on their initial job applications.

Other tips concerning how to obtain a job with a criminal record include:

  • Review any applications carefully. While you should be honest if the application asks about your background, you do not have to offer information they don’t ask for. For instance, if an application asks if you have been convicted of a crime, you don’t have to disclose that you were investigated and/or arrested.
  • Determine whether you qualify for expunction or sealing your record. If you have your record sealed or expunged, you can legally tell people, including potential employers, that you have not been convicted of a crime. However, it is important to note that not every offense can be expunged or sealed
  • Consider how much scrutiny you may receive. Depending on the crime you have been convicted or charged with and the type of job you are applying for, you may face different levels of scrutiny. For instance, when applying for a cashier role, a theft crime conviction may be scrutinized more than a DUI offense.

Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney 

At The Wiseman Law Firm, we understand how impactful a criminal record can be on your life, especially as it relates to obtaining job opportunities. A thorough background investigation can help determine eligibility for expungement services. We offer clients expungement services and can advise you on whether you are eligible for an expunction and how to obtain one. Contact our team online or call (407) 420-4647.

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