Can businesses deny employment based on a misdemeanor conviction that has no connection to the type of employment desired?

UPDATED: Oct 1, 2022

Advertiser Disclosure

It’s all about you. We want to help you make the right legal decisions.

We strive to help you make confident insurance and legal decisions. Finding trusted and reliable insurance quotes and legal advice should be easy. This doesn’t influence our content. Our opinions are our own.

UPDATED: Oct 1, 2022Fact Checked

Get Legal Help Today

Compare Quotes From Top Companies and Save

secured lock Secured with SHA-256 Encryption

Can businesses deny employment based on a misdemeanor conviction that has no connection to the type of employment desired?

My son has a misdemeanor drug conviction from 3 years ago. He has twice been denied employment after a conditional offer. When they run the background check, they apologetically tell him that they cannot give him a start date due to his background check. This seems grossly unfair and punitive.

Asked on October 12, 2018 under Employment Labor Law, Virginia


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

It is unfair, but it is legal. Employment in this nation is "employment at will": any employer may refuse to hire someone for any reason not specifically made illegal. While certain kinds of discrimination--principally based on race, color, national origin, sex, age 40 or over, religion, or disability--have been made illegal, there is no law saying that an employer can't "discriminate" against or refuse to hire someone due to a criminal background. Employers may use a criminal history, even a minor or old one, as grounds to refuse employment.
Your son should speak to a criminal defense attorney about whether it may be possible to expunge his criminal record. If it can be expunged, it will not come up in background checks.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

Get Legal Help Today

Find the right lawyer for your legal issue.

secured lock Secured with SHA-256 Encryption