Please create an account to participate in the Slashdot moderation system

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Businesses Crime IT

Ask Slashdot: Can a Felon Work In IT? 720

First time accepted submitter Lesrahpem writes I'm a felon with several prior misdemeanor convictions from an immature time in my life. I've since cleaned up my act, and I want to go back into the IT sector. I keep running into potential employers who tell me they'd like to hire me but can't because of my past record (expunging won't work, I'm in Ohio). Does anyone have any suggestions for me? Should I just give up and change careers?"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Ask Slashdot: Can a Felon Work In IT?

Comments Filter:
  • by Bohnanza ( 523456 ) on Sunday December 07, 2014 @12:33PM (#48542565)
    ...and home of the lifetime sentence for nearly every crime. Best of luck to you.
    • by Alomex ( 148003 ) on Sunday December 07, 2014 @12:42PM (#48542639) Homepage

      Well if you don't like it you can exercise your democratic right and vote against it... unless you live in one of the many states that do not allow felons to vote.

      Nice ain't it?

    • by xevioso ( 598654 ) on Sunday December 07, 2014 @12:52PM (#48542703)

      While it sucks, there's a good reason why companies have asked people about their past criminal history or have done searches.

      If you have past felony convictions for, say grand larceny or other similar crimes, and are hired, and then go on to commit a crime against a customer while working, it's very easy for that company to get sued for millions. It's would be incredibly easy to make the argument that the company knew or should have known that Mr. Felon (who supposedly cleaned up his act) had prior convictions and was a risk to the company and its customers. Then, BLAM, the company is out millions of dollars, all because it didn't check or didn't care.

      Now, while this sucks for the felon trying to land a job, it also sucks for the company, and lets face it, the recidivism rate among past felons is generally pretty high. Why should a company want to risk it's own livelihood or existence just to give you a second chance?

      This is a risk mitigation issue, and maybe it's a good thing that states are making it difficult to ask or check, but companies will do it anyway, just for the reasons I've outlined. Maybe companies in other, "more enlightened" societies haven't had their pants sued off them enough to make this an issue, bit is one here.

      • by vidarlo ( 134906 ) <vidarlo@bitsex.net> on Sunday December 07, 2014 @01:01PM (#48542757) Homepage

        Now, while this sucks for the felon trying to land a job, it also sucks for the company, and lets face it, the recidivism rate among past felons is generally pretty high. Why should a company want to risk it's own livelihood or existence just to give you a second chance?

        I think there's a circular logic somewhere there. If you don't have a job, I guess you have a lower threshold for crime. If you have a job, and everything to loose, I guess crime is not so tepmting.

        In most of Europe, criminal convictions is simply irrelevant to jobs. Some jobs require your record, but mostly not the full - only a limited record. For instance, if you work with kids, you need a record clean of child abuse and sexual assaults. But for a general job in IT? Noone would even ask about your record. I have not been asked ever - except for a visa application to the USA.

        I believe the European system is better at integrating convicts back into soceity, stopping them from committing more crime.

        • by Cytotoxic ( 245301 ) on Sunday December 07, 2014 @01:22PM (#48542877)

          I agree with the concepts your are talking about, but I cannot imagine an IT shop failing to check the background of a system administrator who will be working with banking systems, for example. Think about the fallout if Deutsche Bank hired a database administrator with prior convictions for banking fraud, only to see that employee steal 100 million from the bank.

          I'm going to bet that criminal convictions are pretty important in the relevant areas, even in Europe. They probably do a better job of discriminating which information is relevant and which positions are sensitive.

          The part where they ask about prior history might also be different in Europe. In the US I think a large part of the reason for asking about prior criminal history is to set up a situation where it is easy to terminate an employee if they lie on the application. In Europe they might not have to ask before running a criminal background check. And lying on the application might not make a difference when it comes time to terminate an employee.

          • by vidarlo ( 134906 )

            I agree with the concepts your are talking about, but I cannot imagine an IT shop failing to check the background of a system administrator who will be working with banking systems, for example. Think about the fallout if Deutsche Bank hired a database administrator with prior convictions for banking fraud, only to see that employee steal 100 million from the bank.

            Of course it's checked for some positions, and finance is one of those. But in general, it's not legal to ask about it. If you apply as a progr

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              That's because Norway (and many European countries) is run by competent people, who care about their country. America is run by greedy and amoral corporations who view their country as a feedlot and a labor camp. Fatten them up by selling them shitty food and sedentary entertainment so you can keep them barely working and dependent upon expensive drugs, and keep them working all the time so they only have time to buy and eat the shitty food and expensive drugs, never time to get a real fucking education tha
              • That's because Norway (and many European countries) is run by competent people, who care about their country.

                It's because the working class organizations (consumer organisations, trade unions) are so strong in most parts of the EU and especially Norway, they have gained a lot of rights and limitations to the powers of capital.Nothing inherently competent about the Norwegians - a competent crook is still competent after all - but the ability of companies to get away with things most people find offensive has been limited by rules like this.

          • by johanw ( 1001493 ) on Sunday December 07, 2014 @01:49PM (#48543059)

            I don't know about other EU countries, but in The Netherlands employers can ask for a "declaration about the behaviour" of the applicant. That's a document the government issues, and the employer has to indicate what kind of possibly sensitive things the job requires, like working with children, working with large sums of money, with sensitive/secret information or with dangerous substances. If you're convicted for hild abuse you still can get such a document for working in a bank, but not for a job in childcare (and in childcare the employer is required to ask for such a declaration). If you're convicted for bank fraud the opposite, you are still alowed to work with children.

            That's all most employers can ask, and most won't ask it because if they indicate the job does not require to work with anything like that the declaration will always be given and it's a waste of money and effort. Employers can ask beyond this of course, but I've never eard of it happening and I even think you are legally alowed to lie, the same like an employer isn't alowed to ask if you're pregnant but if he does and you lie a court will not alow the contract to be broken for that.

          • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) * <mojo@@@world3...net> on Sunday December 07, 2014 @02:09PM (#48543177) Homepage Journal

            In Europe convictions are considered "spent" after some time, and you don't have to report them even if they ask. Credit reference agencies and the police are not allowed to reveal those convictions to employers, banks or anyone else.

            So, the OP should move to Europe.

        • by dnaumov ( 453672 )

          This very much depends on "what average IT job". I am in Finland and work a "very average IT job" and a major telco, me and my colleagues don't just have to provide our criminal record to the employer - the Finnish intelligence services (not regular police) do a full background check on us.

        • by Jhon ( 241832 ) on Sunday December 07, 2014 @03:19PM (#48543513) Homepage Journal

          " If you don't have a job, I guess you have a lower threshold for crime. "

          I've been homeless and I've been jobless and I cannot disagree with you more. I think the reason it MIGHT appear that way is that people are willing to risk potential punishment for quick rewards rather than put in the work necessary to earn them. It's really as simple as that. There is virtually no place in the US where someone who is homeless and jobless cannot get enough assistance from city/state/private agency to change their situation. The exceptions are those in similar circumstance who are UNABLE to work or manage their own care/life due to mental illness or substance abuse.

      • by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Sunday December 07, 2014 @01:09PM (#48542805)

        While it sucks, there's a good reason why companies have asked people about their past criminal history or have done searches.

        My experience is that most companies do NOT check. I have worked for half a dozen tech companies, over several decades, and have been involved in hiring over a hundred people. Except for a couple cases that involved security clearances, we never did a criminal background check. Why should we? Studies have shown [economist.com] that people with criminal backgrounds tend to do no worse on the job. You are better off screening out people that use MSIE to fill out their application, since that is actually correlated with poor job performance.

        • by jd2112 ( 1535857 )

          You are better off screening out people that use MSIE to fill out their application, since that is actually correlated with poor job performance.

          Ah, that explains why I couldn't get that job that I applied for. The application page was IE only and changing the agent string on my browser didn't work.

      • by Lunix Nutcase ( 1092239 ) on Sunday December 07, 2014 @01:09PM (#48542807)

        Now, while this sucks for the felon trying to land a job, it also sucks for the company, and lets face it, the recidivism rate among past felons is generally pretty high. Why should a company want to risk it's own livelihood or existence just to give you a second chance?

        Yes, it's pretty high precisely because of all the people like yourself with such an attitude. If an ex-felon cannot find a legitimate job they will simply turn to crime and thus will land in prison again. And because of that you will pay more and more in taxes to support that.

        So if you want a society in which recidivism rates go down and ex-felons are reformed rather than becoming life-long criminals who get repeatedly locked up in prison, we should all be trying to push for more ex-felons to be given a second chance.

      • by timeOday ( 582209 ) on Sunday December 07, 2014 @01:16PM (#48542835)
        It's not hard to understand why companies might be slow to hire ex-cons in a market with a long-term labor surplus. What is harder is fixing the problems created by such policies - you release somebody from prison into society. You deny them voting rights, and employment, and even welfare and food stamps. They literally have no way to get food. And then sit back and wait for the self-fulfilling prophecy of recidivism. You could hardly design a system more likely to fail if you tried.
        • Fail? High recividism rate succeeds perfectly in reinforcing the idea that world has good people and bad people. This, in turn, helps justify the use of violence against the bad. And, certainly entirely coincidentally, the USA has invested very heavily into the capacity to use such violence.

          What's a few ruined lives next to an empire?

  • Clearance (Score:5, Interesting)

    by gcnaddict ( 841664 ) on Sunday December 07, 2014 @12:37PM (#48542601)
    Seek federal jobs which offer a clearance. If you admit to everything thoroughly and give the investigators the truth, and if they're not worried about you after all of that (they think the risk of recidivism is low), you'll get the job and you can say on your resume you were cleared for federal work.

    Whenever you decide to leave, the fact that you had a clearance might actually help counteract your priors.
  • by Minupla ( 62455 ) <minupla.gmail@com> on Sunday December 07, 2014 @12:38PM (#48542609) Homepage Journal

    I've hired people with misdemeanors before.

    Be honest about the crime, don't have it be a surprise that I find out during the background check part of the hiring process.

    I also know other managers who've done the same. Its tough to find good people. A drug offense 5 yrs ago, with proof of a completed drug treatment program for instance isn't going to stop me from hiring a good IT worker.

    Min

    • by yog ( 19073 ) *

      Your drug example is understandable, but would you hire a convicted felon as well?

      • by geogob ( 569250 )

        Why wouldn't he? Giving a decent work to a past felon shouldn't be a question at all. I'd even say that not giving him a job because of its past is a strict contradiction to the justice and rehabilitation process.

        Giving him a job is not just good for him, its also good for society. And he might even be good at it!

        • First thing to do is see if it's even relevant to the hiring process. Here, our human rights laws do not allow employers to discriminate based on the fact that someone has a criminal record.

          Second, as others have pointed out, there's a difference between a misdemeanor and a felony; there's also the difference between convictions where a minor was tried as a minor as opposed to a minor tried as an adult. It's not clear when in the poster's life these events occurred. Like so many of these "ask slashdot"

        • by hey! ( 33014 )

          While I agree in principle, I would consider the nature of a felony and its relevance to the job. For example I wouldn't hire someone convicted of embezzlement for a job where he has access to sensitive financial data, no matter how long ago that offense was. I would tend to overlook certain drug related charges because of the long history of overzealous prosecution of "drug offenses" in this country.

          I'd also consider the amount of time since the offense, particularly for offenses committed by people when

      • Your drug example is understandable, but would you hire a convicted felon as well?

        Your statement seems to imply that a felon is some sort of untouchable non-human. You realize that many ex-felons were not convicted of, for example, a violent crime, right? What world would you rather live in? One in which felons are given second chances that have been proven to reduce recidivism or one in which we keep treating them as if they are untouchables who become life-long criminals because they happened to make a mistake in their life?

  • by zr ( 19885 ) on Sunday December 07, 2014 @12:38PM (#48542613)

    unfortunately i'm not speaking from experience, just spitballing ideas.

    best of luck to you!

  • by kamapuaa ( 555446 ) on Sunday December 07, 2014 @12:39PM (#48542619) Homepage

    I'm a little confused by the phrasing. Being a felon is a roadblock to a career. Having misdemeanor convictions probably isn't. If you're a felon, why even bother mentioning that you've had misdemeanor convictions?

    • Better to be fully honest. If a felon, a prospective employer will check that. When checking, the misdemeanors will appear. Unmentioned, it could look like trying to hide the garnish.
    • by hey! ( 33014 )

      I'm guessing they're asking whether he's ever been convicted of a crime, and being honest these days he answers "yes".

    • It also speaks to prospective employers about a pattern of behavior. A single screw-up when you were in your early 20's is one thing, a string of criminal activity across several years is another. It does increase his difficulty in finding employment.

      I'd think it would also depend on the crime and the role you are looking to fill. A felony fraud conviction would not help you find a job as a system administrator for a financial institution, for example. The help desk / admin side has access to passwords

      • A string of convictions for assault and battery might hurt your chances in a team situation, or customer service situations

        Sounds more like useful experience to me...

  • It may take a few tries, but a lot of places don't do background checks, and some that do won't care too much.

    I know a guy who several felony, recidivism, his mug shut come up as the first hit on google if you google him... and he was able to get a job in a few weeks.

  • I managed a contractor that never would have been hired by my or most engineering companies due to a criminal history and being a registered sex offender. He worked for a company that otherwise is H1B and Green Cards from India. I know he got paid quite a bit less than if he worked for my company, but he at least got in the door after his prison term. If you are skilled, one of these companies may take a flier on you.
  • by sjbe ( 173966 ) on Sunday December 07, 2014 @12:52PM (#48542707)

    I keep running into potential employers who tell me they'd like to hire me but can't because of my past record (expunging won't work, I'm in Ohio). Does anyone have any suggestions for me? Should I just give up and change careers?

    Sadly that problem will not be confined to IT. Even if you try to change careers a felony record is going to follow you and (right or wrong) there aren't a lot of employers who are going to be willing to take a chance on an ex-con. Companies just generally do not want to take on avoidable known risks and a felony makes a job candidate into an avoidable known risk.

    Your best chance is probably through personal networking but it's going to be tough. The good news is that there are companies that will work with people with troubled pasts but finding them usually takes a lot of work. If your skill set is in IT and your convictions aren't for things related to IT then I see no particular reason to switch because the same problem will exist regardless of what type of job you seek.

  • Drugs you can show completion of a program, swear you've been clean for two years, have testimonials from your preacher, rabbi and yoga instructor.

    Theft is tougher and would probably be a bar for any financial company (except apparently at the top executive levels). Might be better to lie or not check either "Do you have a criminal record" checkbox and hope they don't do the background check.

    Violent crime, property damage stuff you can just give your side and claim that it was a minor offense and the other

    • by plopez ( 54068 )

      "Might be better to lie or not check either "Do you have a criminal record" "

      No! In many places that is a felony! Don't do it!

  • awww.... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Connie_Lingus ( 317691 ) on Sunday December 07, 2014 @12:57PM (#48542733) Homepage

    hello and welcome to my life.

    it's well documented here on /. that i struggle with this same issue, and have for over a decade.

    i wish i had good news for you, but i don't. it's going to be hard for you for find "regular" employment.

    my advice? try to find a small company where you can get hired without a lot of fanfare. finding and owner/ceo who does the hiring, or a contracting company where they have no real interest in caring about your background because it will cost them money if they don't place you, is pretty much the only way i've been able to get back into a stable, well-paying job.

    pretty much anyplace with a fulltime HR department will discover your transgressions and gleefully report to the hiring manager that they "gotcha" and are doing a really great job keeping reprobates like us away from their "sanitary" workplace.

    i've started my own small consulting company and have found that it's fairly easy to work from home (im a software guy) doing the code monkey thing...it beats digging ditches that's for sure. i advertise back-end/full-stack web development/server management on craigslist and it works.

    good luck...you are going to need some.

    • Re:awww.... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by QuietLagoon ( 813062 ) on Sunday December 07, 2014 @01:52PM (#48543071)

      ...pretty much anyplace with a fulltime HR department will discover your transgressions and gleefully report to the hiring manager that they "gotcha" and are doing a really great job keeping reprobates like us away from their "sanitary" workplace....

      My experiences working with a full-time HR department ("HR Team") both as a candidate and as a hiring manager correlates yours, but more generally --- the HR department looks for reasons why a candidate is not suitable for the position. The more reasons the HR department finds for not hiring a candidate, the better the job they consider themselves to be doing.

      .
      I've overridden a HR department on more than one occasion because they focused on minutiae instead of qualifications. In those instances, the candidate was hired and became a very good performer. At times I wonder if I would be able to hire anyone if I listened to HR's opinion of the candidates.

  • by yog ( 19073 ) * on Sunday December 07, 2014 @12:59PM (#48542737) Homepage Journal

    You really have very few choices. There are employers out there who actually seek out people with priors, but for the most part you're going to be frustrated in your attempts to land a job.

    Your best bet is to start your own business, for example web design or outsourced PC network maintenance. There are lots of people making a good living as free lancers.

    Once you have gotten established, which admittedly may take a couple of years of networking and marketing efforts, you may not wish to be an employee again anyway. You can set your own hours, choose your own customers, and take full charge of your life. It's not easy, and requires more skills than just showing up and doing a specific task from 9 to 5, but much more fulfilling in the long run, and few will run background checks.

    You're still going to have trouble getting loans; just work hard and build up equity, and the rest will follow. Best of luck.

  • If they are misdemeanors, no problem. Just be honest. Also check your state law, even though they may ask if you've EVER been convicted, records may be unavailable after a certain number of years and the law may allow you to check the "no" box.

    If they are felonies, it makes it harder to get hired, but not at all impossible. You'll just need to submit more resumes than you otherwise would. Maybe take a class on resume writing and interviewing, to balance a weakness with some strengths.

    Starting your o

  • I understand your situation. I don't know how long ago the felonies are for you but it sounds like they might be a while ago. I am in North Carolina and expungement won't work for me either. I had to go into restaurant work (serving, bartending, then became managers at independently owned restaurants that I was completely honest with when applying for a manager position. Corporate restaurants and companies frown on this and it won't work without executive and HR approval. I have a degree from a good co

  • by Anonymous Coward

    As a hiring-manager for IT roles, I'd totally hire someone with a felony from their past. As long as they were upfront about it, and it wasn't a "background check surprise" and they showed real talent and openness. The biggest unfair downside, is that you kind of have to open up about it and share more about your life than you'd probably want to with the hiring manager if you didn't have any previous convictions. That is, you'd have to provide a context for understanding the crime that would make me feel co

  • by phantomfive ( 622387 ) on Sunday December 07, 2014 @01:19PM (#48542859) Journal
    Like all employment problems, with this one, some companies will not hire you but other companies will. You don't need to work for every company, you only need to find one.

    Different companies have different ideas. I got rejected by four different companies last time I was looking for a job, then I found a sweet gig. No big deal. One company even told me, "you have natural talent, but lack experience." I don't even know what that means, if anyone ever looked at the early code I wrote, they would NOT say I have natural talent.

    My point is, to play the numbers game. If you get in an interview, they ask about your felony and don't hire you because of it, then move on to the next company. No big deal.
  • OP said: "I'm a felon with several prior misdemeanor convictions".

    Don't you mean a felon with prior felony convictions? As far as I understand (please do correct me if I'm wrong) you cannot be treated as a felon for misdemeanor offenses, no matter how numerous.

    Also, I'm going to give the benefit of the doubt that the statement was just clumsily phrased but even so, the wording ought to be fixed to be crystal clear.

  • Look for jobs in areas which do not overlap the felony. E.g. if the felony was fraud or embezzlement, stay away from financials. And forget systems administration or network administration, too much access to passwords. You may need to start out doing some sort of tech support, but it does pay the rent while you acquire some references and experience.

    Then try some volunteer work, the real kind not the 'I'm doing it because the judge told me to' kind. My favorite example maintaining we pages is the no kill a

  • The misdemeanor convictions likely won't hurt your career, but depending on the nature of the felony you might have a hard time. For example, I've seen a felon with a computer fraud and abuse conviction get all kinds of great job offers. Conversely, at my company we tried to hire someone who had been convicted of murder and served his time, figuring he'd paid his debt to society and that this was now irrelevant, but our hiring decision was overruled by the legal department. Finally, there may be specific
  • You would need to get a little lucky and also have the chance to explain what's changed since your crimes. Find a smaller company where you can talk with someone who won't dismiss you because they have 200 other job candidates without your issue.

    But remember that IT work generally revolves around security. And this makes it a job where trust is paramount. Convince an employer that your past was due to youthful exuberance and not a character flaw (you'll want to provide examples of other's trust in you),

  • It depends profoundly on what the felony conviction was for. I'm afraid the fact that you asked a very vague question and expect a somehow useful answer is, itself, a much stronger indication that you do _not_ belong in IT. Expecting a useful answer from such a vague question is not a good engineering approach, especially in IT where incredible resources can be wasted addressing unspecified requirements. I'm afraid that, if I saw your resume after this, I'd reject it on the grounds of the horrible question without even having to consider the felony itself.

    I've met people with drug convictions and who practice medicine, after treatment and with regular blood tests. I even knew of a child care worker with a kidnapping conviction. (She helped hide a mother and children from an abusive father under extraordinary circumstances.) And if "expunging" is not available, perhaps a pardon is feasible: Ohio apparently can seal court records with a pardon, though it's not automatic.

    So a conviction is not necessarily career ending. But without more details, the question is too vague to be usefully answered.

  • why (Score:4, Interesting)

    by cas2000 ( 148703 ) on Sunday December 07, 2014 @06:30PM (#48544371)

    why are americans such judgemental pricks?

    when you've done your time, you've done your time. that should be the end of it and, aside from some very limited cases like not letting pedos work with kids, discrimination against former criminals should be illegal....even a fuckwit yank should be able to figure out that if ex-crims can't get jobs and have no choice but crime to support themselves then that's what they'll do.

  • by kilodelta ( 843627 ) on Sunday December 07, 2014 @07:28PM (#48544579) Homepage
    Misdemeanors shouldn't even show up on a criminal record. Only felonies. But then you did say you're in Ohio and they have one of the more archaic legal sysems in the U.S. Time to get the hell out.

    I suggest you have an NCIC check done - if nothing shows up there just move to another state that isn't as ass backward as Ohio and you'll be in the clear.

    I say this because I know in most states the look mostly at NCIC but in some places the look at the state BCI. Thing is, NCIC only records felonies not misdemeanors. So it looks like those rejecting you are running state BCI checks.
  • by readin ( 838620 ) on Sunday December 07, 2014 @08:19PM (#48544741)
    I suspect (I'm speculating though) that most large companies have policies in place that prevent hiring of people with criminal histories. However small companies and start-ups are often more free to make case-by-case decisions. My one datapoint is having worked for a small company with an excellent programmer with no college degree. When I started at a large well-known company he asked about working there as well. I recommended him to my boss who told me they had a strict rule - you need a college diploma to work there.

    So look for firms of less than 200 employees where you have a decent chance of the top guy finding out about you and overriding any policies in place (if there are any).

"The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts." -- Bertrand Russell

Working...