Having a felony criminal record can have devastating consequences for Utah residents when it comes to finding housing and work, however even a minor arrest can result in undesirable consequences to one’s employment.
An arrest is public record
When an arrest takes place, that information can instantly become public knowledge. The arrestee’s information along with facts related to the crime may be logged on a bookings page with the county sheriff or a small blurb may be written in the incident section of the local newspaper. Often this embarrassing publicity can go undetected by employers or coworkers of the person arrested. If it is noticed, which is often the result of increased coverage by the media for being a “bigger story”, it can quickly spread around the office, making the workplace unwelcoming for the defendant.
Returning to work
Returning to a place of employment following a night or two in jail should not result in anything more than awkward sideways glances from coworkers. If the arrest occurs due to illegal behavior at work however, the accused will likely be put on temporary administrative leave before being permanently terminated if or when convicted. If the arrest takes place off the clock, in a setting not remotely connected to a person’s employment, an employer is usually discouraged from releasing an employee from his job. If not, they could be in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Know your employment rights
For individuals who were recently arrested and are worried about the effects it will have on their career, it is important to know first what rights employees in the State of Utah have. According to the Utah Labor Commission and the Equal Employment Opportunity commission regarding Title VII, employees are protected from job related discrimination following an arrest. Aside from actual convictions, especially those including felonies, an arrest cannot be used as the basis of terminating employment. As the EEOC states, “The fact of an arrest does not establish that criminal conduct has occurred. Arrests are not proof of criminal conduct. Many arrests do not result in criminal charges, or the charges are dismissed. Even if an individual is charged and subsequently prosecuted, he is presumed innocent unless proven guilty.” The EEOC adds however, that “although an arrest record standing alone may not be used to deny an employment opportunity, an employer may make an employment decision based on the conduct underlying the arrest if the conduct makes the individual unfit for the position in question. The conduct, not the arrest, is relevant for employment purposes.”
When an arrest is still used against an employee
Just because an employer cannot safely fire one of their employees based on an arrest, it doesn’t mean they won’t find other ways to punish the arrested employee. In fact, if an employer is unhappy about the arrest of their employee, and they were previously lenient about certain rules and codes of conduct related to the job description, they may increase enforcement of those rules without as much risk of retaliation from the employee. This may be the employer’s way of trying to encourage the arrestee to quit, by ensuring the workplace isn’t as enjoyable as before. Although an employee can attempt to press charges or wait for the ill feelings to eventually dissipate, some take the easier way out by finding another job where their dirty laundry isn’t known by all.
Protect your record, protect your employment
Most employers in Utah are kind and understanding following an arrest. This is particularly true if the defendant is eventually found to be innocent of all charges. The ideal way to protect your employment following an arrest is to protect your record. With any arrest, contact a criminal defense attorney to give you a better chance of walking away with a clean record and job security.