If you have a misdemeanor charge, you might worry about your job prospects. Understanding your rights and how to handle the situation can help you navigate employment with a misdemeanor on your record. Many employers conduct background checks, and a misdemeanor can influence hiring decisions. However, not all misdemeanors affect employment. Factors such as the nature of the offense, the time elapsed, and the type of job sought to play significant roles.

How Can a Misdemeanor Charge Affect Employment?

Understanding Misdemeanors and Their Impact

What is a Misdemeanor?

misdemeanor is a minor offense compared to a felony. Examples include petty theft, public intoxication, and minor drug offenses. While less severe, misdemeanors can still affect your employment opportunities. The legal definitions and consequences of misdemeanors vary by state, influencing how employers perceive them. Understanding your misdemeanor can help you better prepare for job applications and interviews.

How Long Does a Misdemeanor Stay on Your Record?

Misdemeanors typically remain on your record unless expunged. The duration can vary by state. Some states allow expungement after a few years, while others may keep it longer. Knowing how long your misdemeanor will be visible to potential employers is crucial for planning your job search. Check your state’s laws to understand the expungement process and eligibility criteria.

Employer Background Checks and Misdemeanors

Does a Misdemeanor Show Up on a Background Check?

Yes, misdemeanors usually appear on background checks. Employers may access your criminal record, including misdemeanors, which could influence their hiring decisions. Knowing what employers will see and being prepared to discuss your record honestly is important. Being upfront about your past can sometimes mitigate concerns an employer might have.

How Employers View Misdemeanors

Employers may view misdemeanors differently. Some may overlook minor offenses, while others might have stricter policies. Knowing an employer’s stance can help you prepare for potential questions. Larger companies might have formal policies, whereas smaller businesses might handle cases individually. Researching company policies can give you an edge in your job search.

State Laws on Misdemeanor Employment

State laws vary on how misdemeanors impact employment. Some states restrict the use of criminal records in hiring decisions, providing protections for applicants with misdemeanors. Understanding these laws can help you navigate the job market more effectively. For example, some states have “ban the box” laws that prevent employers from asking about criminal records on initial job applications.

Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) Protections

The FCRA ensures the accuracy of background checks. Employers must get your written consent before requesting a check and notify you if they decide not to hire you based on the findings. You also have the right to dispute inaccurate information in your background check. Understanding these protections can help you address potential issues during your job search.

Title VII Protections Against Discrimination

Title VII prohibits discrimination in employment. Employers cannot use criminal records to disproportionately exclude applicants based on race, ethnicity, or other protected classes. If you believe you’ve been discriminated against, you can file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Knowing your rights under Title VII can empower you to take action if necessary.

Mitigating the Impact of a Misdemeanor

Expungement of Misdemeanors

Expungement removes a misdemeanor from your record. Check your state’s laws to see if you’re eligible and how to apply for expungement. An expunged record can significantly improve your job prospects, as it will no longer appear on background checks. Consult a lawyer to understand the process and ensure all requirements are met.

How to Explain a Misdemeanor to an Employer

Honesty is the best policy. Explain your misdemeanor upfront, highlighting any personal growth since the incident. This can demonstrate responsibility and integrity. Practice your explanation to ensure it is concise and positive. Focus on how you’ve learned from the experience and the steps you’ve taken to prevent it from happening again.

Should You Reveal Your Misdemeanor?

While you may not be legally required to disclose expunged or non-conviction arrests, voluntarily sharing this information can build trust with potential employers. Consider the nature of the job and the company’s policies when deciding whether to disclose. Transparency can sometimes work in your favor, showing you have nothing to hide.

Steps to Take After a Misdemeanor

  1. Understand Your Rights: Know your legal rights regarding employment and criminal records. Being informed can help you navigate the job search process more confidently—research state and federal laws to understand what employers can and cannot ask about your criminal history.
  2. Seek Expungement: Expunging your record can significantly improve your job prospects if eligible. The process involves filing a petition with the court and may require legal assistance. Successfully expunging your record means it will not appear on most background checks.
  3. Prepare for Interviews: Be ready to discuss your misdemeanor honestly and positively. Practice your explanation and focus on what you’ve learned from the experience. Demonstrating personal growth can reassure potential employers.
  4. Research Employers: Look for companies known to hire individuals with criminal records. Some employers are more willing to give second chances. Organizations that work with reentry programs can also be good resources.
  5. Consider Legal Advice: Consult a lawyer to understand your rights and options. Legal advice can help you navigate complex situations and ensure you’re taking the proper steps to mitigate the impact of your misdemeanor.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Will a misdemeanor affect employment?

Yes, a misdemeanor can affect employment. The extent of the impact depends on the nature of the misdemeanor, the job you’re applying for, and the employer’s policies. Some employers may overlook minor misdemeanors, while others might have strict no-tolerance policies. It’s important to research and understand potential employers’ specific requirements and attitudes.

Can you get a job with a misdemeanor?

Yes, many people with misdemeanors find employment. The impact varies by industry and employer. Some industries, such as finance and healthcare, may have stricter hiring practices.

What jobs can you not get with a misdemeanor?

Jobs in sensitive areas like education, healthcare, and law enforcement may have stricter policies. Each employer has different criteria, so it’s essential to research individual companies.

How can I get my misdemeanor expunged?

Check your state’s expungement laws and apply through the court system. The process may involve filing a petition, attending a hearing, and meeting certain eligibility criteria.

Do I have to disclose my misdemeanor in an interview?

It’s often best to be upfront, even if not legally required. Honesty can help build trust. However, understand your state’s specific legal requirements and the job you’re applying for.

Will a misdemeanor affect my professional license?

It depends on the profession and the licensing board’s policies. Some boards may deny or revoke licenses based on certain misdemeanors. Check with your specific licensing authority for details.


Navigating employment with a misdemeanor requires understanding your rights and being proactive. You can mitigate the impact and find meaningful employment with the right approach. It’s essential to stay informed, be honest with potential employers, and seek legal advice when necessary.