We have previously written that a criminal record can follow a person for years and negatively affect their reputation and job prospects. This is sometimes true even when the offense was minor and the conviction happened in one’s teenage years.

As just one example, a 58-year-old Milwaukee woman was recently and unceremoniously fired from her job with Wells Fargo Home Mortgage despite more than five years of working there and numerous awards for excellent service. Why was she fired? Simply because a recent background check turned up two shoplifting arrests from 40 years ago.

The woman admits she was arrested for stealing clothing from a department store on two occasions in 1972. The incidents resulted in a $50 fine and a year of probation, respectively. She was only 18 at the time.

She says she regrets what she did, adding: “I changed my life. I went to school. I went to college. I didn’t graduate, but I did go and try to be a good person.” Since then, her criminal record has been virtually spotless.

So why should she be fired for small offenses from her youth? A spokesman for Wells Fargo said that the company has been doing background checks on nearly all employees to make sure that they do not hire or retain anyone who “we know has a criminal record involving dishonesty or breach of trust.”

Therefore, the woman was terminated. She notes: “I just got the FBI report on Saturday in the mail. Monday, they said you’re fired. They never let me say what happened, explain myself, nothing.”

Hopefully, most employers will show considerably more flexibility and understanding. After all, who among us is the exact same person we were at age 18?

Nonetheless, this case shows that even small criminal convictions on your record could disrupt your life decades down the road. That’s why anyone charged with a crime may wish to seek the help of a qualified criminal defense attorney.

Source: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “Will your employer dig up your arrest 40 years ago?” Jim Stingl, May 5, 2012

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