A criminal conviction in Alabama means the convicted will spend some time behind bars. After the sentence, the individual has theoretically paid his debt to society and ideally makes plans to renew a normal life including becoming gainfully employed.
Except that is not the way it happens. In reality, there are a number of invisible barriers to rejoining society after a prison sentence that work against an individual, no matter how hard he tries.
Barriers to Employment
A 2018 study by the Prison Policy Initiative found an unemployment rate of over 27 percent for the formerly incarcerated. That’s the highest unemployment rate in U.S. history including the Great Depression.
According to a Council of State Government report, those once imprisoned earn 40 percent less every year then prior to their incarceration.
That is not surprising since the majority of employers, 92% according to one survey, perform criminal background checks when they are hiring. Many states have legal protections in place so that an employer cannot discriminate due to a criminal record.
Alabama is one of several states that does not afford those protections. Employers can turn you down for a job simply on the basis of your criminal record.
Even a DUI conviction cannot be expunged in Alabama, so employers are free to use criminal records in making hiring decisions.
Two federal laws may offer some protection to those trying to be gainfully employed after prison.
The Fair Credit Reporting Act – This imposes an obligation on employers conducting criminal background checks to get written consent from the job applicant before requesting the check.
Since there can be many errors in these reports, for example, details about incarceration, charges, exoneration, and misclassification of a crime, the applicant must receive a copy of the report so he can correct any errors. Any third-party firm conducting the background check is also required to make sure the information is accurate.
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission – Under EEOC guidelines, employers must consider the type of offense and the nature of the job in deciding if the offense disqualifies the applicant. EEOC requirements encourage the employer to give the applicant an opportunity to explain the circumstance.
If you are turned down for a job and believe it was because of your criminal past, you have these federal laws to pursue in finding justice.
Darley Law may be able to help you with the legal process called expungement, meaning it is removed from your record. Some non-violent felonies may be expunged if certain conditions are met.
Darley Law understands the charges can be expunged, not convictions, and having those removed from your record will be helpful in pursuit of employment.
Alabama New Statute
Alabama removed some of the barriers to employment for the formerly incarcerated with a new law in 2019.
Under it, an occupational licensing board cannot deny an applicant a license simply based on his or her criminal past. If denied, the application for any job can petition the court for a review. The court then provides a certificate to the licensing board which has the final say.
Prior to this law’s passage in 2019, there were 783 sections of Alabama code that essentially restricted former convicts from holding some jobs, even though they had done their time and may have training in that area.
Even though it is taught in prison, cosmetology and hair licenses would not be issued if you spent any time in jail.
Other areas where you would find roadblocks to employment included:
- Interior design
- Utility worker
- Purchasing a beer wholesale business
- Operating a billiard room
- Becoming a private investigator
- Receiving a public school teaching certification
- Owning a recreational vehicle dealership
- Obtaining a commercial motor vehicle license.
Common sense laws remain in place that would prevent a convicted sex offender from working with children or someone convicted of a financial crime from working in a financial institution.
The Alabama Law Institute (ALI) committee helped draft the legislation with the idea that when someone is employed, they are less likely to reoffend and instead become a productive citizen who contributes on the tax base through employment.
Work with an Alabama Criminal Defense Lawyer
A criminal conviction comes with many long-term consequences, including difficulty obtaining employment. If you have been charged with a crime, the best move is to put together a strong defense and do everything possible to avoid a conviction in the first place.
If you are facing a criminal charge in Alabama, attorney Darley Law is here to help. Contact attorney Jason Darley today by calling 251-732-7058 or sending us an online message.