Although it is difficult today for a sex offender to get a job, it is definitely possible. We’ll be exploring the challenges and restrictions which create challenges for those trying to move forward with their lives as well as opportunities that may not be immediately obvious for those who are seeking employment.
What is a sex offender?
A sex offender is a person who has committed a sexual crime in their past, whether this is a misdemeanor or a more serious felony. This is obviously a very wide range of crimes, including public sex to sexual crimes relating to minors, and an individual who finds that they have a sexual crime on their criminal record may face real challenges when looking for gainful employment. For those who have been convicted, these can stay on criminal records for a number of years even if it would usually disappear from the record in a non-sex crime case.
Restrictions for a sex offender
There are many restrictions on the type of work that a sex offender is not allowed to work in at all – these are areas that should not be considered by those who have sexual crimes on their records as they will not be possible at all, and they mostly relate to working in areas where we would expect to find children. A non-exhaustive list of examples would include daycare workers, teachers, coaches, and healthcare providers.
In an effort to keep the children in a community safe, sex offenders will not be offered positions in these types of work and as such are to be avoided. Although an institution should not discriminate against those who have faced a conviction, it is also not possible to gain employment in areas which are “child safety zones”.
These zones largely overlap with the previous example given, but to be some examples of them would be: schools, parks, youth centres, athletic centres, and daycare centres. Whilst employment within those establishments is extremely unlikely to be possible, it is also worth noting that finding a place of residence or employment within 500 feet of these institutes will also be impossible for a sex offender. As such, you should consider not only if the job is appropriate for you, but also the area that surrounds a potential place of employment.
Additionally, there are a number of restrictions that a sex offender is faced with when a prison sentence has been served, which generally include:
Limited or no access to the internet; in the modern world, this can be a significant stumbling block in making your way as a self-employed individual, but it is the law up to a certain time limit. When searching for employment, looking for options that may demand an online presence may not be wise.
Having movement restricted to a certain area; as you will need to report when you are residing and any changes in that residence to the police, jobs that will require you to make long trips may not be possible either. This is not always the case, but you should look into the restrictions placed upon you and if you will be able to make long trips.
Restricted contact with minors or a victim; obviously, this is a very serious restriction that is wide-reaching. Areas, where employment will not be possible, are mainly concerned with at very least the minors section of this restriction and will be closely examined. Due to the implementation of Megan’s Law in 1996 – that states must enact laws and provide registers of those who have been convicted of sexual crimes – it will also not be possible to circumvent these restrictions (which would not be a good idea regardless!) and you should be clear with any potential employer exactly what these restrictions mean.
Inability to own or purchase firearms; as with all felons, unless they have special pardons, sex offenders are not allowed to possess, use, or (in some cases) be in the presence of firearms where it could be construed that the individual would have the opportunity to use one. Because of this, searching for employment where a firearm would be necessary, such as in the police, the army, or as a hunter, would not be possible. However, if one was wanting to find employment in the area of hunting, it may be possible to hunt with a bow or crossbow as they are not considered firearms. Please refer to state laws before enacting this advice as it is not true for all American states.
Regular drug and alcohol screening; as a rehabilitated individual, it is important that you make sure you are “living clean” – this is not necessarily related to gain employment, but ensuring that you do not re-offend and end up back in prison. If you were to find employment in an area that does also run drug and alcohol checks, however, it would be important to bear this in mind.
Limited housing options; again, although this may not be entirely related to employment, it will affect the options and choices you have for potential employment. If you lack access to transport, you may have to carefully consider what kind of employment would be possible for you to carry out.
Expunging a crime
An excellent plan for dealing with a felony conviction of any kind but especially with one related to a sex offense is looking to expunge it from your record when you are able to – this will clean up a criminal record and allow you to move forward with your career. It is, however, important to note that an individual can still be restricted from working with minors or in an area that would require a great deal of interaction with minors, so explore this will a legal professional before planning future employment opportunities.
Laws surrounding employment – California
From the beginning of life post-conviction, there will be difficulties in finding work. However, in a number of states, it is against the law to discriminate against a potential employee due to the use of a sex offender register – in essence, an employer in California cannot refuse employment to an individual due to being on the register.
This, however, does not stop people from searching the register and making choices informed by that information. This creates obvious barriers to those who are wishing to find employment, but it is still important to be upfront and honest about your convictions.
If you do not disclose your criminal past, it is likely that on discovery you will be automatically refused regardless of your ability or willingness to work. It is better, to be honest in this situation as you will not be automatically barred. Explain briefly and accurately and take ownership of the mistake, whilst also showing how you have grown as an individual.
However, if an application only asks about previous felonies and you have only committed a misdemeanor crime, you have no obligation to list it. Be sure to read application forms carefully to follow the instructions to the letter – do not expose yourself more than is necessary, but be as honest as the employer requires.
Getting an education – college
On leaving prison (or possibly during your incarceration), it would be an excellent idea to gain an education. Many colleges are willing to provide an education to those with a criminal past and you may find appropriate courses for you that will allow you to find an excellent career in an industry that is not barred to you. Examples of courses that will allow you to work are criminal justice and rehabilitation and engineering – many courses that are highly skilled and specialized will not be restricted to an individual with a sexual offence against their name, so it may be wise to explore these options.
However, finding employment with a sexual misdemeanor or felony conviction will still be difficult, so be aware of this before making any long term financial decisions. Also up to 60% of colleges reportedly will consider criminal history in the admissions process, but there will be a school somewhere that will probably take you on as long as you can show ability and willingness to learn.
Getting an education – truck driving
Although not immediately obvious, truck driving is a very real option for a sex offender looking to find employment. The standard recommendation for entering this line of work is getting a Commercial Driver’s License and exploring jobs in your local area. Note that if you have restrictions on the areas you are legally allowed to live in and the distance that you are legally allowed to travel you may not be able to take long-distance job opportunities.
Getting an education – learning a trade
Searching for education and employment in physical jobs such as trades is also a very viable option for individuals, especially within smaller companies in the fields of electrician work, plumbing, welding, roofing, and carpentry. You will have low interaction with minors and be able to work in these necessary and often lucrative areas.
Can Sex Offenders Get Jobs? Sure, Here are some Jobs for Sex Offenders
Some other industries that may not require extensive training to work in as a sex offender are restaurants, animal shelters, temping, and working for yourself.
Many restaurants and fast-food chains have been known to take on sex offenders, including big-name brands McDonald’s and Subway. Finding entry-level work for you to move on from when you gain your required qualifications or even that you can climb the ladder internally would be ideal for a sex offender.
Animal shelters are also known to hire sex offenders, as long as they can be trusted with animals and do not have a violent history, as they typically have little contact with the public. Be sure to be open and honest with any potential employers in case they have days allocated throughout the year which could be problematic due to the restrictions that are placed upon you, e.g. school visits.
Temping is another choice for felons looking to get back into work, as you will be able to work for a wide variety of employers and find some businesses which are happy to offer a chance at redemption for those with felonies on their record. Additionally, you may even be able to get into a full-time position if you are successful enough with your temporary employment.
Many sex offenders find it difficult to get long-term, reliable work opportunities, so have taken it upon themselves to becomes independent contractors or setting up a full business in its own right. If you have valuable skills that can be offered or you see a gap in the market, becoming self-employed may be an excellent decision moving forward. However, if you plan to work in a section of the market that will be greatly improved by having an online presence, you may benefit from taking on an employee to handle that side of the business or considering other options.
Aid for sex offenders
Getting back into the world of work after any prison stay can be very difficult, but there are measures that you can take to encourage potential employers to give you an opportunity.
Tax relief and insurance coverage
The Federal Bonding Program provides insurance and assurance to a potential employee that if they take on a worker with a criminal past that they can get insurance coverage for potential losses from hiring said, high-risk employees. This would allow them to apply for bonding as well as potential tax benefits which would aid the business. Although you want to earn a job in your own right, having these extra benefits and presenting them to a potential employer could be of great interest to them.
Certificate of Rehabilitation
If expunging your record is not possible (possibly due to a time limit or any other reason), you may search for a Certificate of Rehabilitation or a Governor’s Pardon (in California) that could potentially allow you stop registering as a sex offender and, if not, will be the first step on the road to that goal. This would be of great help in getting back into the world of work as, although you would still have the criminal conviction on your record, it will show a potential employer that you have reformed and have been recognized as being a reformed individual since your conviction. If this is something that you think you would like to pursue, seek legal help, and discuss your options with a lawyer.
Robert Gomez was born and raised in the Bronx, New York. He currently lives in Northern California with “the wifey,” “the kids,” “the dog,” and “that cat,” 🙁 He is also a former journalist who has interviewed murderers on death row. Felonyfriendlyjobs.org was born to help ex-felons get a second chance in life.