Final job interview this weekend. How do I disclose my felony?
January 30, 2013 2:43 PM   Subscribe

Final job interview this weekend. How do I disclose the federal felony and prison time on my record?

10 years ago I served 1 year in a federal prison for crimes related to child pornography. Since then, I've been in same high level job at my father's company for nearly 10 years. I've been in therapy and have been married for three years. I've completely turned my life around.

I have been through two rounds of phone interviews with a company in another city. (It's a small office, a part of a large national company) and am possibly flying there for a final interview in person this weekend. They have already made a preliminary offer, pending the final interview.

I am thinking that I will disclose my past to them while I am there. I don't want to take the chance that I quit my job and move there, then they find out about my past 6 months later and fire me. I have not yet filled out a job application asking "have you been convicted of a felony" but of course they might have me fill one out there. Even if they don't ask the question, I think they could still fire me if they wanted to.

My thought is that after spending a little time with them - interview, lunch, etc - I will tell them something about my past. My hope is that they'll like me enough by then that they can put this information in context of me as a person.

The charges I was convicted of were not explicitly related to pornography, but if they do some research online I'm sure they can find the whole story. It's embarrassing and was the result of being lonely, immature and addicted to pornography. I'm a completely different person now, and a successful professional in my field with a ton of experience. Still, I realize there's a good chance they won't hire me, especially due to the nature of the crime.

So my question is - how much do I disclose and how do I do it?

if you'd rather reach me via email, my throwaway email is:
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (15 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Personally, if they didn't ask, I wouldn't volunteer the information. Mostly from embarrassment. But if you feel comfortable enough to tell them, more power to you.
posted by tacodave at 3:15 PM on January 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

You don't have to say anything unless you are asked, and I would NOT bring this up otherwise.
posted by brujita at 3:15 PM on January 30, 2013 [6 favorites]

I would absolutely not disclose this information unless directly asked about it. If they are going to no-offer you because you have a child pornography conviction on your record it will likely be because of the conviction, not because you did not volunteer the information without being prompted. While I can understand that you may want to get this out of the way early given the fact that you would have to move for the job, you need to weigh it against the likelihood that the (1) will no-offer you because of the conviction and (2) if they were looking for this information they would have found it already. When I look at that balance, I come out in favor of not saying anything.

So short answer: Nothing and you don't.
posted by craven_morhead at 3:17 PM on January 30, 2013 [2 favorites]

I don't want to take the chance that I quit my job and move there, then they find out about my past 6 months later and fire me

Most employment in the US is at-will, so you have this risk even without the conviction. If they do not ask, there is no point in disclosing it. If they do ask about it, you have to answer honestly. A large national company has a good chance of asking.

By the way, I think it is probably a little naive to think that if they "like you enough" that they'll overlook this conviction if they find out. It is hard to imagine a crime that has more stigma than child pornography.
posted by Tanizaki at 3:30 PM on January 30, 2013 [16 favorites]

I wouldn't say anything unless they ask. They might ask you to fill out a form to consent to a background check, and if they do then you could talk to them first.

Also someone could have googled you already - is this information easily findable by a casual google search?
posted by fromageball at 3:32 PM on January 30, 2013

Are you seriously thinking about disclosing this? Don't be an idiot. If they ask, be honest. If they don't, keep your mouth shut. There is no crime in the world that has a worst stigma than child porn.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 3:38 PM on January 30, 2013 [20 favorites]

I'm all for honesty... but you're not going to get a fair shake if you disclose this. I would NOT disclose unless asked about felonies.
posted by zug at 5:07 PM on January 30, 2013

Never disclose anything to employers that you aren't absolutely required.

This is none of their business.
posted by Pudhoho at 5:14 PM on January 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

Now sounds like a great time for you to consult a lawyer about the possibility of getting your felony expunged.
posted by bq at 5:25 PM on January 30, 2013

Answer honestly WHEN THEY ASK, and not otherwise. And it's probably better, when they ask, to tell them/fill out on the application nothing more or less than the EXACT charges you were convicted of: unless the word "pornography" or the phrase "child pornography" were part of the names of those charges, do NOT say/write them. Keep it to JUST the actual charges, do not expand.

Good luck, and bq has a good idea: consult a lawyer about expunging your record.
posted by easily confused at 5:42 PM on January 30, 2013 [2 favorites]

Another wrinkle: Are you likely to have to register in the new state where the job is? If you do, will someone from work find out through the registry?
posted by yellowcandy at 6:24 PM on January 30, 2013

IAAL. Since expungment was mentioned, just a brief comment on that.

It's not going to happen. Expungement of federal criminal records is a rarely granted remedy where the arrest was unlawful/unconstitutional, the government engaged in misconduct e.g. had no probable cause, that sort of thing. As a sort of "catch all", some circuits allow expungement if it is somehow unfair for the person to have a public record of the matter.

Most importantly, it is for people who have been acquitted or indicted but never prosecuted, and then only rarely. Again, acquittal itself is not enough for expungement. So, it is not for people who were prosecuted, found guilty (or pled guilty) and served time, especially not for a crime they admit committing.
posted by Tanizaki at 6:27 PM on January 30, 2013 [2 favorites]

Short answer: you don't, unless asked. If they do ask, I would answer only the question asked and start with the title of the statute of conviction rather than go right into the surrounding circumstances. If you only served one year, it sounds like you may have pleaded to a lesser offense than possession or receipt of child pornography. I defend people in these sort of federal offenses and I can tell you that otherwise nice and reasonable-seeming folks who would not have a bad reaction to hearing that their neighbor, friend, or employee had a theft or assault or drug conviction will go b-a-n-a-n-a-s over anything related to child pornography. It hits a primal nerve ending in people.

Ask your lawyer about your options, but there is not, to my knowledge, a federal expunction statute. Instead, you might seek a presidential pardon.
posted by *s at 6:29 PM on January 30, 2013 [2 favorites]

I think that you should not disclose unless asked and should prepare ahead of time what you would say that would keep it factual and brief (and so that you feel comfortable saying the words). I will add that for my current job I went through the whole process without an application, did several rounds of interviews and then received a formal offer, conditional on passing a background check. Like someone said above, you do have to consent to the check and that might be the time to talk to them about it. Good luck with the interview.
posted by artdesk at 7:01 PM on January 30, 2013

I think you've gotten some interesting answers from other attorneys in this thread, but I would add one note. I don't practice employment law, but I know enough about it to know there's a lot I don't know. I'd suggest you speak with an attorney who specializes in that practice.

If we could go back in time to your conviction or release, I'd recommend that you invest in an hour of an employment attorney's time before entering the workforce. Just consider it part of the cost of your sentence. Your situation (conviction, sentence, nature of the crime, "high level" employment, etc.) is complicated enough that it's probably beyond the employment-law expertise of most criminal-defense attorneys; and if "high level" means to you what it means to me, then the advice is probably worth the expense. Get a professional's perspective on potential pitfalls, ramifications, etc. What will come up in the course of applying? What may arise once you're employed, and how should you respond? What are your rights, and your duties?

Shifting back to the present, "I have an interview this weekend" is short notice. But if you get on the telephone tomorrow morning, you should be able to have a conversation with an employment attorney in the next forty-eight hours. I don't know whether it makes sense to talk with someone in the jurisdiction where you live or the jurisdiction where you'd be working, but you might consider whether the conversation would be worth the cost.

Just so we're extra-super-clear: None of this is legal advice. I am probably not licensed in your jurisdiction, and even if I were I wouldn't answer your question ("How do I disclose my felony?") because I'm not an expert on job interviews and I have no idea what your felony is. I'm not your lawyer. As an Internet stranger I would, however, suggest that you consider getting legal advice from someone else.
posted by cribcage at 8:15 PM on January 30, 2013 [2 favorites]

« Older On-wall audiophile speaker recommendations for...   |   Help me write the text for my license to be an... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.