Ever been arrested on an employment application

I have seen have you ever been convicted of a crime on a job application but my friend tells me that the private company that does work at and for the FDA asks about arrests.

How does one deal with that if they have an arrest for possession of drugs but was never convicted?

I told him to answer truthfully or just not answer the arrest part and answer NO to the conviction part.

I believe he is looking for some experiences and reassurance. Do not know what the time frame is for getting an arrest record expunged - but it seems like an option.

If the application just asks about convictions, it sounds like you can honestly answer no. If it asks about arrests, I don’t know if it’s always the best answer, but I have heard that some counselors advise clients to write “will discuss” on the application. That gives you the opportunity to tell the interviewer about your situation and put it in the best possible light, but doesn’t put your personal business on display for every clerk who handles your application. It’s also hard for anyone to accuse you of concealing information if you are offering to talk about it. But never lie–that could come back to bite you years down the road.

Luckily I’ve never been arrested. But I think a dishonest question deserves a dishonest answer. This question is dishonest because it presumes guilt. Unless you apply for a privleged position there will never be a background check thorough enough to find an old arrest, especially if you’ve moved since and aren’t listing that address.

Unlikely, since any company that wants to know if you have been arrested wouldn’t hire you if the answer was yes. Only the naive would believe otherwise. If your lie is found out and you are fired, at least you had a period of employment you would not have otherwise had anyway.

I don’t buy your argument for a minute. You are generalizing way out of proportion from the available data. Certainly I’ve worked with people who had arrests and convictions on their records that were known about during the hiring process.

Lying and getting found out would certainly have gotten them fired, however. Sometimes a question is just a starting point, no more, no less.

Discovering a lie on the application is one sure-fire (pardon the pun) of getting rid of an employee. It’s indefensible, legally. IIRC, it can even be considered “fraud” under some circumstances.
Here’s an off-the-cuff idea:
What about leaving that question unanswered. When reviewing appliactions, they might think nothing of it, figuring you missed it, and decide to have you fill it in during the interview. At which point you can discuss what happened to you, and if you’ve managed to impress them, it may not matter. That way you haven’t lied, but you haven’t prejudiced yourself either.

What do you guys think?

I’ve never been arrested, but it really does strike me as an incredibly obnoxious question. Convictions are one thing, but asking about arrests is (IMO) akin to asking if anyone ever accused you of doing something illegal, even if the accusation was malicious or unable to be supported. Unless you were convicted of something it’s really none of their business.

I hope someone from a human resources department will weigh in here. But let me offer a couple of thoughts:

1/ You don’t know what will turn up from your past or when. Computer databases are becoming easier to access and more widely interlinked, connecting not only criminal records but medical, credit and insurance records. This is NOT a Good Thing, in my opinion, but it is a fact of modern life. If the original poster avoided a drug conviction by, say, entering a rehab program, that could turn up in the medical records. Maybe your prospective employer won’t find out about your past problem. But if you are caught in a lie on your application, you are not only screwed with that employer but you are also finished with any employer the first one shares information with.

2/ Assume that your employer doesn’t catch your lie and hires you. Your original application hangs over your head forever. Suppose you are involved in a traffic accident driving a company vehicle, and either the police or the other driver or your employer’s insurance company decides to check you out? Suppose your employer experiences a theft problem, and hires a security firm to check out everybody on your shift? Suppose you get a promotion that requires you to be bonded? And what will you tell your next prospective employer after you get fired for dishonesty?

3/ It’s a mistake to assume that an arrest by itself will keep you from getting hired, especially if it’s just because you did something stupid when you were young, and if it’s for a job that the employer is in a hurry to fill. If you have skills that an employer wants he’ll find a way to hire you. A drug arrest is pretty damned common, and it’s not like a murder conviction. If you tell your story right you might be able to impress the interviewer with how you’ve turned your life around and get him/her on your side.

I again contend that telling the truth is the way to go.

Me, I’d check with your state’s labor department to find out if it’s even legal to ask the question. In some states it’s not.

I don’t think it’s a good idea to leave the question unanswered. A prospective employer will probably assume straight away that you have been arrested at some stage and that you’re just not willing to admit to it.

I think it’s best to tell the truth and hope that the screening process won’t automatically exlude your application.

Otto is right:


Also related to the orginal question:

I agree with the truth except the whole truth, as it was told to me, sounds like “I did not inhale” Really, it was not my pot!
It was his car and he was driving so he was charged but they did not prosecute. He can file to have his record expunged after one year - still about four to seven months away.

So far I am thinking the “will discuss” idea sounds like his best bet - thanks.

Also agree that it is a foul question.

A job application has never convicted me of a crime.

One did try to frame me.

Any employer that shares this kind of information is opening themselves up to an expensive lawsuit. Ask any HR person what they can reveal about former employees, and it is pretty much limited to confirming employment and salary. I would welcome the opportunity to sue the pants off any employer who did otherwise. I would never have to work again.

Fear Itself – I’m curious, how exactly could a company be liable for an HR person saying (truthfully) “We fired Mr. Fizziwig because he lied on his application.” ?

I understand that many companies choose to err on the side of extreme caution (hey, no skin off their back if someone else hires the liar), but wonder what possible basis there could be for a successful suit against the company.

Agreed. However, in the real world it is very common for people to discuss this stuff “off the record”.

If such a question could legally be asked, I would consider putting down N/A rather than leaving the question blank. A hurried glance at the application might mistake that for a No, and it is not a lie to say that the question is Not Applicable.

I would also not put “Will discuss” down. If they do ask you about it, repeat that it is not applicable and change the subject to your qualifications (“It’s not applicable - I have never been convicted of any crime, ever, and I have extensive experience in the field. For instance, …)”

The purpose of a job application is to screen you out. You want to get past that, and get an interview with whoever is making the hiring decision.

Never lie. It is always better not to answer than to lie.


A lawsuit doesn’t even need a chance of success in order to be very expensive for a company. They will elect to defend themselves, and the legal fees will mount quickly. That is why companies are so conservative.

I also do not agree that being fired for lying about such a dishonest question is indefensible. I think if you can prove that the question is a priori discrimination which is quite doable if you are in a protected class with higher arrest rates, then you’d have a federal case on your hands that could end up in the Supreme court and turn around a lot of state laws. Maybe this has already been attempted…but criminal law interpretation is getting increasingly liberal especially in regard to racism and privacy issues. If if this didn’t work - if you carried it far enough you’d cost your company millions.

Hey, if you think that’s bad, you should try filling out the immigration forms for immigration to the US.

They actually ask if you have ever committed a crime (whether or not you have been arrested or convicted).

Wording includes:

1)… an alien who has been convicted of, or who admits having committed, a crime…

2)Have you ever been arrested or convicted for any offense or crime, even though subject of a pardon, amnesty, or other similar legal action?

Oh, and my ultimate favourite - one of the forms actually asks if you are planning to enter the US to engage in terrorist activities.


Riiiiiighto then.

Wow, that sucks.

It’s easy to arrest someone :frowning: Employers shouldn’t get to ask about arrests that never went anywhere.