If you've recently been arrested, you're probably scared to tell your employer and unsure whether or not you have to. While an arrest is not synonymous with a conviction, some industries and jobs require that you report all legal run-ins to your boss. Whether you were in the wrong place at the wrong time or you made a serious mistake, it's better to be open and honest with your employer about your recent arrest than to try to sweep it under the rug.
Reporting requirements vary by state and by employer. In some states and at some companies, you're under no obligation to report your arrest to your boss. In others, you are, and can face serious consequences -- including getting fired -- if you fail to do so. Jobs that require a commercial driver's license, for instance, require that you report any arrests for driving under the influence or while intoxicated. Jobs in education, law enforcement and aviation typically require the court to notify your employer of any criminal activity, so there's really no way to get around telling your boss. Look through your employee handbook or contract to see what guidelines are in place for reporting. Regardless of industry or state laws, you might have to tell your boss if it is company policy.
Honesty is always the best policy, and being proactive and truthful about your arrest may keep you in your boss's good graces. Taking initiative and telling your boss right away looks better than trying to hide it and her finding out eventually from someone else. It also gives you the chance to explain your side of the story. According to Carroll Toberman Law, employers don't always rush to terminate employees simply because they've been arrested. Your employer may wait to see if the charges are dropped or dismissed, or if you're acquitted in the event your case goes to trial.
The most obvious disadvantage to notifying your boss about arrests is the possibility of termination. If you're an at-will employee, your boss can technically fire you at any time for any reason, and this includes firing you for getting arrested. Even if you aren't terminated, disclosing your arrest could cause tension in the workplace between you and your boss, as her view of you may be slanted after you tell her. While both of these possibilities can be frightening, it's better to take your chances and be up front about your arrest.
Tips and Considerations
If you decide to tell your boss, it's better to do so as soon as possible. If you're stuck in jail and unable to make bond right away, you'll have to tell her why you won't be able to make it in to work. If you have upcoming hearings and court dates, you'll need to arrange time off to ensure you're able to appear. Before you talk with your boss, you might want to discuss your case and specific rights with your attorney for a professional opinion on approaching the topic with your employer.