When you get out of prison, you will most likely be eager to start earning money. Finding a job might be difficult at first. Although it might be challenging to determine where felons can work, it’s important to carefully review the laws and practices around hiring felons.
Where can felons work after prison?
In theory, felons should get the same treatment as anyone else looking for a job, but you will find a few exceptions to where you can work after you’re released from prison.
For example, the following industries are generally off-limits to felons:
- Education. You can get an education, but you probably won’t be able to get a job as an educator with a felony on your record. Most government-run schools won’t hire felons, and while some private schools may hire felons, others won’t.
- Government. Many government jobs aren’t available for felons.
- Licensed trades. Many states deny licenses to felons who are pursuing specific careers, but you may find exceptions. In some cases, you might have to work another job first, while in others, you may have to prove you learned a lesson from your felony.
- Health care. Most states do not allow felons to work in the health care industry.
Can employers discriminate against me because of my criminal history?
This is a complicated area. Companies have a lot of freedom over who they hire, and it may be hard to prove discrimination. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employers from discriminating against people. It lists race, color, religion, nationality, and others as protected statuses. To demonstrate discrimination, you must prove either of the following:
- Disparate treatment. This is when an employer treats two equally qualified employees differently. For example, if a company refuses to hire a Black applicant because of a felony conviction, but hires several White candidates with the same criminal record, you might be able to file a lawsuit. But even then, racial discrimination is hard to prove.
- Disparate impact. This is when a policy affects different groups of people differently. For example, a company might have a policy that says it doesn’t hire felons. But certain ethnic groups get convicted at higher rates. That means they may be more affected by this policy than others. A company has to prove that this policy relates to its business — otherwise, this policy could be discriminatory. Keep in mind that this type of discrimination can be very hard to prove.
What is “Ban the Box?”
You may have heard of the activist campaign known as “Ban the Box.” Some job applications have a check box that asks if you have a criminal record. Ban the Box wants to prohibit that.
The goal is to let people show their qualifications before their criminal history. The movement is growing — so far, 25 states and Washington, D.C., have “banned the box.” So has the federal government. More than 150 cities have also joined, and some large retailers have joined the movement too.
Felons can work in most places, but it might be hard to find a job. Many companies still discriminate against felons, and even if the Civil Rights Act protects you, discrimination can still be hard to prove in court. The “Ban the Box” movement could change these practices in the future.