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Employment in Wisconsin with a Felony

What do comedian Tim Allen, Martha Stewart and actor Robert Downey Jr. all have in common? They all spent some time in jail for criminal activity. However, the public forgave their flaws and embraced them nonetheless. They were able to find employment after their crimes.

 So what do you do if you have a felony; now how can you get a job? We have been asked numerous times how someone might get a job once they are saddled with a felony conviction. The obvious and truthful answer is that a felony conviction will have a negative effect on finding employment. Of course, anyone with a felony already knows that. However, we have found some things that might be helpful to people in that situation. Please note that the advice set forth in this blog is based on the information available at this time, but does not constitute accounting or legal advice. You should talk to your attorney at Petit & Dommershausen and/or your tax preparer and/or consult with the Internal Revenue Service to determine whether the advice given in this blog is still current as of your reading of same.

Obviously, filling out a job application and lying about whether you have a felony conviction can have negative consequences. Most employers will access the Wisconsin Circuit Court Access Page which allows them to easily check whether someone has a felony conviction. In addition, many employers use other websites that allow them to do a more thorough search than even the Wisconsin Circuit Court Access Page allows. Therefore, what do you do if you have a felony conviction?

In most cases, if you know the employer will do a background check and become aware that you have a felony conviction, an honest answer is probably going to be the way to go even if it means you may not get the position. However, there is nothing to stop you from putting a notation on that answer and providing more information than a simple yes I have a felony conviction.

You may find that many employers are not as worried if the felony conviction is remote in time or if it is something that doesn’t affect your employment. A marijuana conviction from 1980 probably won’t have a lot of negative impact if you are looking for a construction job in 2021. However, a theft from employer one year ago would certainly not be helpful. You may want to get  ahead of this by letting the employer know that the felony conviction exists and, if necessary, provide additional information to show how rehabilitation has taken place, that it was an aberration in behavior, and that it would not affect your work place performance.

Another possibility might be to inform your potential employer that a potential federal tax credit is available if they hire a felon. You may want to provide them with IRS form 8850. According to the IRS instructions for form 8850, dated March 2021, an employer may be qualified for a tax credit if they hire an ex-felon. According to that publication, “an ex-felon who has been convicted of a felony under any federal or state statute, and is hired not more than one year after the conviction or release from prison for that felony” may have the employer eligible for this tax credit. This may be enough of a benefit to an employer that they may be willing to hire a felon to save themselves money and get an employee that might be very grateful for that opportunity. It is currently difficult at this time to hire qualified workers in this economy given the labor shortage. By informing a potential employer that they could get a tax credit for employing a felon could be  the incentive they need to do so and would certainly let them know that you are smarter than the “average bear” when it comes to ingenuity and resources. While there are certainly limitations to the tax credit, the discussion itself may lead to an interview and open the eyes of a potential employer.

Finally, one should understand that, under Wisconsin law, there is certainly the chance for a pardon. A pardon would serve to remove the felony from one’s record. If you are interested in a pardon, you certainly can contact Petit & Dommershausen to see if you qualify under the criteria that is currently in place in the State of Wisconsin.