If an employment application only asks about convictions, what about a pending case?

UPDATED: Aug 25, 2011

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If an employment application only asks about convictions, what about a pending case?

I’ve been hired for a job, contingent on a background check, etc. The paperwork I completed only asked about convictions, so I did not check the boxes or fill in the blanks, as I have no criminal record or any convictions. However, I do have a case pending – misdemeanor theft. I was arrested and charged, but have pleaded not guilty. Should I offer this information to the employer, as I figure it will come up in the background check? Or, should I not offer this, as I was only asked about convictions? I really can’t lose this job and don’t want to jeopardize my offer.

Asked on August 25, 2011 California


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

Legally, you are  only obligated to answer the questions that are asked, so if the paperwork only  asks about convictions, you would not have to respond about a pending case--especially since, if you are going to defend yourself rather than plead, you may end up not being convicted at all.

That said, whether you should or should not mention the pending case, especially in light of the likelihood of it coming up during a background check, is a  judgment call. There is no right or wrong answer; instead,  you must be guided by what you believe is both the right thing to do as well as the action or answer which is mostly likely to get you to the result--a job offer-which you want. Good luck.

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