This article is the first in our series on how criminal records affect employment opportunities in Oklahoma. Just like education and housing, the opportunities for employment are can be limited when you have a criminal record.

We’ve previously explained how nearly a third of young people have a criminal record. This is because our governments arrest people for things that were not crimes in the past, such as drug use, as well as school-related fist-fights.

Men and women of prior generations did not have to face such strict scrutiny for youthful run-ins with the law. Today, our young men and women have criminal records because they simply experienced the normal “growing pains” of American adolescence, which involves sometimes getting in trouble.

Because having a criminal record is so common, many young people do not realize how damaging it can be to improving one’s socio economic status in our society. This is not something that young people tend to think about until they are in their late 20s or early 30s. How to get a better job, make more money, and because financially free and secure.

Different Industries have Different Standards when it comes to hiring people with arrest records

Therefore, the first question many young people ask is “how serious does a crime have to be to affect employment?”

There is no standard test, as every profession and industry differs. Instead, focus on what type of career you want and look at the standards within that career. Construction will have different standards than nursing.

The most strict will be professions in the health sciences arena. This would include all types of nursing as well as physical therapy, occupational therapy, and mental health counseling and rehab. Any type of offense can be a barrier to entry in these professions. This is because you will be checked multiple times throughout the process.

First, the colleges and schools that teach these programs will check your background. Then, the clinics will check during internships, and later when you apply for a job, you will be checked again. So if it isn’t caught the first time, your arrest or criminal record will eventually be flagged by one of the above.

How serious does the crime have to be? For these professions dealing with patient care, you can be banned for pretty much any type of offense. These are competitive industries that pay well and have lots of applicants.

But a sure way to guarantee you won’t get the job is to have a record with anything that reflects a lack of care or thoughtfulness for others. Other red flags will be crimes that involve dishonesty. That means any type of theft crime, whether simple larceny of merchandise or embezzlement will prevent you from getting into this profession. The good news is that theft and white collar crimes can be expunged from your record.

Companies in Oklahoma can deny you the job because of minor offenses on your record

There is no clear-cut rule on how serious a crime has to be to keep you from getting a good job. It all depends on the job, the company, and the industry.

Many people are able to find jobs with simple misdemeanors on their records. But this depends on the employer. Some employers will not mind if the employee has a record for simple possession of marijuana. However, bump that up to possession with intent to distribute and that can be enough to prevent you from getting the job.

The funny thing is that the amount of marijuana a person could have had in a possession case versus a possession with intent may be a trivial amount. It could have been up to the discretion of the prosecutor who chose to charge you with a felony. This is the unfortunate game of chance we play in the criminal justice system. We don’t get to pick what judges or prosecutors we get.

I have people tell me they could not get a job at Walmart because they had a Possession with Intent to Distribution on their record that involved a small amount of weed. The good news is that because they received a deferred sentence, the case can be expunged even though it is a felony.

How criminal records affect employment in Construction, Trucking, and Oil & Gas in Oklahoma

Probably the most common place where people can get decent jobs with criminal records will be in the construction industries. Jobs that involve manual labor and/or dangerous circumstances are also places with criminal records are sometimes overlooked. This would include jobs working on oil rigs.

Jobs that involved driving or the trucking industry will be very strict on driving records and any type of crime that involves operating a vehicle. These jobs look not just for crimes such as DUI but for simple speeding tickets!

The good news: speeding tickets are eligible for expungement the day you pay the fine.

The conclusion of this is that it all depends. It depends on the crime that is on your record; it depends on the industry you work in; and it depends on the specific employer.

In our next article, we will look specifically at how misdemeanor records affect employment opportunities.