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Criminal convictions and employee rights

It can be difficult to secure and maintain employment in Missouri with a clean criminal history, but for job seekers or workers with criminal records, it can almost be impossible to find decent employment.

More and more often, employers are running their prospective employees through databases of criminal records to determine whether they should be hired. Even already employed workers who seek advancement in their field may find their careers stalled if the promotion involves a security clearance and they have a criminal background.

Employers make adverse employment decisions based on criminal background checks of workers all the time. Some restrictions are imposed by the state, such as those convicted of sex offenses being forbidden from working where they have any access to children.

Employers required to conduct criminal record checks are typically engaged in businesses that involve so-called "vulnerable individuals" such as children and elderly adults; examples include childcare, education and home health care.

States can impose restrictions on companies as to what they can and cannot ask when determining if their employees have a criminal record. While this is not universal, employers generally cannot automatically exclude someone who is otherwise qualified for a position based solely on a criminal record. Juvenile criminal records may not be introduced or asked about, but adult convictions are fair game and should be disclosed.

Most companies ask only about convictions and not arrests, but in certain types of employment such as law enforcement or where safety and security are paramount, arrests may also be factored in.

The conviction may also be weighed against the applicant or worker and his or her ability to get the job done. For instance, a conviction for driving while intoxicated would likely disqualify a potential applicant for a bus driver's position, where a misdemeanor shoplifting arrest may not.

Some employers only consider felony convictions, while others assess misdemeanor convictions as well. Because most cases of employment are at-will, which gives an employer enormous latitude to fire at will, it can be very difficult to prove that qualified applicants are screened out solely for criminal convictions. If you have been discriminated against due to criminal convictions, seek professional legal advice.

Source: Employeeissues.com, "Criminal Record - Job and Employment Decisions" accessed Feb. 06, 2015

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