What can I do if I was fired due to my criminal history record?

UPDATED: Jul 25, 2011

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What can I do if I was fired due to my criminal history record?

I was working full-time for the past 3 months. The company was sold and the new company that took over fired me the day of closing because of my background check. I was the victim in a domestic violence dispute 5 years ago. My ex-boyfriend pressed counter charges against me saying I hit him first. All of the charges were immediately dismissed in court. The new company mailed me a letter telling me I was terminated because of my criminal history. They attached my history with bold letters and several exclamation points. Is this normal?

Asked on July 25, 2011 New Jersey


M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

Generally, at-will employees of a NJ company can be fired for any reason or no reason. However, there exceptions to this rule.  At-will employees generally cannot be fired because of their age, race, sex, religion, disability, for taking a qualified medical leave, for objecting to a polygraph test, for serving on a jury, for fulfilling military duties, or merely for having a criminal conviction. And in your case there wasn't even a conviction; there was a dismissal of your case. So unless you lied on your job application, your former employer appears to have had no grounds on which to fire you (at least based on the facts that you have presented). I would urge you to speak with an employment law attorney.

Additionally, there is a legal remedy known as "expungement" which is applicable to your situation. The fact is that certain offenses can be cleared from a person's criminal history record (i.e. rap sheet). In some states the information is completely obliterated. In others it is sealed from public view; the latter is the law in NJ. Therefore, this incident will no longer appear when an employment background check is done. You should speak to a criminal law attorney about this. They can assist you in getting your arrest expunged (there will be no waiting period since the charge was dismissed). This way you never have to worry about this issue again. Prospective employers will not see your record when you apply for a job and a background check is run.

FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

Most states have laws where one's employment by a business he or she works for is terminable-at-will. Meaning, an employer can terminate an employee for as long as there is no wrongful purpose for the termination such as retaliation for reporting a crime or discrimination.

Most companies have employee handbooks where certain conduct such as honesty and no criminal issues are required. Likewise, there may be a probationary period for an employee that must be passed before the job becomes more secure.

It seems that your former employer terminated you due to your past criminal history which seems to be substantiated. In all likelihood, your termination may be allowable.

You should consider making an unemployment claim since you are no longer working. You might consider consulting with a labor law attorney to see if your termination from employment was justified.

Good luck.

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 AttorneyPages.com 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.

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