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Friday, August 10, 2007

Past Mistakes

Dear Evil HR Lady,

SO glad I stumbled across your website, as I need some direction.

5 years ago and fresh out of college, I got a DUI. I did not learn my lesson, because in March of 2006, I got a second after happy hour w/ a client.

Long story, short, it was both a nightmare and an eye-opening experience. I did a mandatory 5 day jail sentence, completed numerous hours of community service and alcohol-related classes, and lost my drivers license for one year. Although it was one of the most challenging times of my life, it could have been worse. My company kept me on board (I'm in sales---I hired a driver for 12 months so I could continue to perform my job), and I truly learned from, and am a different person from the experience.

My question is this: I'm currently interviewing for a different high-profile sales job w/ a different publishing company, and I'm about 48 hours away from an offer. I have not yet mentioned anything about my record, because I haven't yet filled out any formal paperwork. A background check hasn't been conducted, but I know it's in the cards.

Do I have a chance?

I'd like to know:

1. What my chances are of being employed at a company w/ two DUIs under my belt.
2. When I should bring everything up. I've always felt that being up front is what's best, but I'm not sure when/and how to address all of this.

Thanks in advance for your thoughts,

Learned from my mistakes...the second time around.

This is a very good question. Legally, you cannot discriminate against someone because of a past conviction that is unrelated to the job.

The problem is, defining related to the job. 2 DUI convictions doesn't exactly add gold stars to your resume, as you well know. (And as a side note, I hope you have stopped drinking altogether. You've proven you lack judgment when drunk.)

Here is a copy of the EEOC's Guidelines on Conviction Records. Three things a company must consider
1. The nature and gravity of the offense or offenses;
2. The time that has passed since the conviction and/or completion of the sentence; and
3. The nature of the job held or sought.

Here is your advantage: You feel like you are close to an offer and they haven't asked you to fill out an application.

Here is your disadvantage: The job is in sales and while I am in no way representing this as the absolute truth and I could be completely wrong here (remember, Evil HR Lady is not a lawyer and does not do hiring) (Do I have enough disclaimers here?), but I think a company could successfully argue that a DUI is related to a sales job because of the driving involved.

Now, here's the tricky part. If they make you an offer and THEN they have you fill out an application or conduct a background check they are in the awkward position of having to say, "we are not hiring you because of your DUI convictions." As I said, I'm no expert in this area, but the burden would be on them to prove that it's job related.

Here's my advice. I do not think this is something you needed to put on your resume, so I think you are fine there. (Note to HR types: Have people fill out an application which asks about convictions prior to conducting interviews.) But, when they make you an offer, it will undoubtedly be contingent on a background check, reference check and drug screen. (And if it's not, boy the HR department in the prospective company is asking for trouble.) At this point you tell them about your DUI conviction.

And you tell them what you told me. Tell them that you hired a driver to do your job. Tell them that you don't drink any more. (Only if this is true. I'm hoping that it's true.)

The thing you don't want to have happen is for them to find out through the background check about your DUI. You do want to be upfront about this. I would tell them even if they don't say they are going to run a background check. Why? Because they will find out anyway. Secrets like that are not easily kept. And even if it's their own darn fault for not knowing (since they didn't have you fill out an application), they'll hold it against you.

So, will this affect your chances of getting the job? Yes. Does it guarantee that they won't hire you? No. Do people realize how a mistake such as this can have devastating effects on every aspect of your life for years to come? No.

Here is someone else's thoughts on DUI convictions:
The denial of employment for a DUI conviction, specifically, always seems to be a gray area. How many times did one drive drunk to get convicted? How many convictions does it take to deny someone a job based on character? If the applicant answered the DUI question no and the background check shows them to have lied, then the issue of character goes not to the DUI, but to the falsification of the employment application.

I know I have readers out there who are experts in this type of area. Hopefully they will offer you some guidance in the comments.

Good luck.


Anonymous said...

DUI is a barrier to employment as a car salesman. The dealership can't get insurance for the test drives.

Wally Bock said...

Anonymous raises a good point about insurance. It may come into play if your job includes a company car.

But there's another issues that concerns me. Your second DUI was only a little over a year ago. I don't know what state you're in and the mandatory revocation laws, but at best you've only been DUI-free for four months. I'd want to know when your first DUI happened. I'd want to know if there were any conditions for restoring your driving privilege, such as use of a Breath Alcohol Ignition Interlock Device.

Evil gave you excellent advice about making sure you're the source of the information about your DUI, but I'd also make sure you tell the whole story.

Simon said...

Hi There,

It sure would be great if every applicant read this post prior to completing application documents! Actually it would be even better if they would read it prior to driving drunk. There is the law and then there is the real world. There is rarely only one reason why someone is not hired. If the reader doesn't get hired, it's likely that some other reason will be sited instead of the two DMV convictions. Of course, the smartest hiring folks wouldn't give any reasons at all. Evil is right, the reader is in reasonably good shape because the process has gone so far without application docs. That's really bad hiring practice but good fortune for the reader. Of course one should wonder about the solidness of any company with such poor hiring practices. I wonder what other practices they treat in the same slap dash manner? Paying commissions perhaps...

Ian said...

Ah, joy. Y'know, I've never had a drug screen up here in Canada, and I worked for years for one of the largest multinationals in the country. This idea that you have to pee into a cup to get a job is just so obnoxious.

Jyoti said...

What's even more obnoxious is that people willingly kill their brain cells with toxic substances, but what do I know? Drug use is a decent indicator of character, and if my applicants are dependent on mind-altering chemicals (especially illicit ones that they're willing to risk legal trouble for possessing), I sure as hell would like to know about it.

Point #2: You *don't* have to pee in a cup just to get a job. You only have to pee in a cup if you want someone else to provide you that job. You can always provide your own by working for yourself. No drug screen necessary. :)

common$ense said...

Your comments dont make any sense Jyoti. What does drug use say about character? And what does drug use have to do with dependency? And I think your missing the point with your comment labeled "point #2"

You do have to pee into a cup to get a job. Companies want you to be robots. Policies are dependent on people who can be BRAINWASHED into conforming to the status quo set by the company. It doesnt really matter what job performance goes on, as long as you sell out.

Take for instance the kid with the DUIS and the sales job. He could be the best salesman in the world and not have to drive a second on the job. With his record of driving, which is a BS moneymaking scheme in itself, he might lose out on employment by someone who cant speak effectively and only obtained the position because of a clean BMV record.

That doesnt make sense. Its as bad as affirmitive action.