Can I Lose My Job If I’ve Been Accused of a Crime?

It’s incredibly stressful to find yourself accused of a crime. There are many scenarios that can run through your head when you’ve been accused. These can include questions like, “How will this impact my life?” “What will this do to my reputation?” and, of course, “Can I be fired from my job because I’ve been accused of a crime?”

The following information can help you to feel more secure and informed at a time when you’re likely feeling fearful and uncertain.

New Jersey is an at-will employment state

This means that employers in the state of New Jersey can terminate an employee at any time without providing cause. Although this doctrine has some limitations and can be overridden by an employee handbook or anti-discrimination law,  these limitations may not apply to pending criminal charges.

It can be incredibly frustrating, but many employers can terminate employment for reasons that are unfair. In many instances, an employer may legally fire an at-will employee for pending criminal charges.

Should I inform my employer if I’ve been accused of a crime in New Jersey?

It’s important to remember that being accused of a crime and being convicted of a crime are not the same thing. The court system provides the “presumption of innocence”, which means that those accused of a crime are to be treated as innocent until they are proven guilty.  Depending on your occupation, you may by statute be required to disclose your arrest.

A strong criminal defense attorney can help you navigate the issue of whether you should disclose criminal accusations to your employer. The Law Offices of Robert J. DeGroot regularly assists clients with this specific issue.

Employers can obtain employee’s criminal info in New Jersey — but there are conditions

New Jersey law allows employers to obtain and review an employee’s arrest records, convictions, and charges.

Historically, this type of information has been requested prior to or at any time during the hiring process, even appearing in job ads as a way to screen candidates with criminal records. Because of what was interpreted as an abuse of requiring criminal background checks (90% of employers in New Jersey made such measures mandatory) new restrictions have been put in place and are designed to provide greater protection to those who have criminal records.

The New Jersey Opportunity to Compete Act was enacted in 2015 to limit an employers’ ability to require or request criminal history in the initial stages of the hiring process. It’s that word “initial” that some see as a means to still screen candidates further into the employment application process. Not all businesses are required to comply with the law, and not all types of job applicants are protected by it. Companies with fewer than 15 employees are not required to adhere to the The New Jersey Opportunity to Compete Act, and jobs where a criminal record would automatically disqualify a candidate — like those in law enforcement or homeland security — are not offered the same immunities as other professions.

Contact a New Jersey Criminal Defense Attorney

If you are under investigation or have been accused of any crime in New Jersey, criminal defense attorney Robert J. DeGroot is ready to meet with you. For a free initial consultation, call 866-970-0783 or contact our Newark law firm online.

If you are incarcerated, our criminal law attorney can meet with you in jail. Reach out today, because we’re here to help!