In addition to the state-mandated penalties for an impaired driving conviction, a DUI can affect the offender's personal and professional life, including his or her employment. Many employers frown upon any criminal history and certain jobs prohibit DUI convictions outright. But there are ways to reduce the impact of a DUI and possibly keep your career intact. This article will outline how a DUI can affect employment and some options that might help to minimize a DUI's impact on your work situation.
Before we get into the specifics of how a DUI can affect employment, let's take a look at whether employers are allowed to fire you for a DUI. The short answer is yes. In most situations, an employer can terminate current employees who get convicted of driving under the influence.
Most jobs are considered at-will employment. With at-will employment (as long as there aren't issues with unlawful discrimination), the employer is free to fire a worker for any reason or no reason at all.
So there's generally nothing that would prevent an at-will employer from discharging an employee for a DUI conviction or any other reasons. It's really just up to the employer. Many employers have policies related to criminal convictions or DUI convictions in particular, which might or might not require termination.
A DUI can affect your employment or job prospects if an employer or professional licensing agency finds out about the conviction. There are several ways employers and agencies obtain this information.
Many employers conduct criminal record and background checks on prospective employees. A DUI conviction generally will show up on a criminal record or background check.
However, many employers don't conduct periodic criminal record checks for current employees. So, if you get a DUI and you're already employed, your employer might not find out about it unless you say something.
Certain employers and licensing agencies (such as the nursing board or state bar) have self-reporting requirements for criminal convictions. Generally, self-reporting rules specify what types of criminal convictions must be reported to the employer or agency (sometimes, it's just felonies) and how long the employee or licensee has to make the report.
It's also common for job and professional license applications to include questions about criminal convictions.
Employees and licensees who don't abide by self-reporting requirements or answer application questions about criminal convictions untruthfully typically face termination from employment or discipline from the licensing agency.
A DUI conviction can impact your employment or job prospects in a number of different ways. For example, certain types of employment require a clean criminal history or that employees specifically not have any DUI convictions. With other jobs, it might be the loss of driving privileges that comes with a DUI conviction that disqualifies a prospective employee. It all depends on the type of job and the policies of the employer.
There are certain jobs you can't get with a DUI conviction on your record. These types of prohibitions can be due to company policy or required by law or regulation.
For example, rideshare app companies generally don't accept drivers who have recent DUIs on their records. It's also common for state laws and regulations to contain licensing restrictions related to DUI convictions. For example, in many states, drivers with recent DUI convictions are disqualified from becoming school bus drivers.
Even if an employer doesn't have a policy that prohibits employees from having a DUI history, a recent DUI conviction can still be a problem because of the loss of driving privileges.
Of course, many jobs require the worker to drive as part of their duties. But one of the most common penalties of a DUI conviction is license suspension. So, if the loss of driving privileges prevents you from performing your job duties, it could put your employment in jeopardy. (But, see below, because you might have a remedy for this situation.)
Commercial drivers—those who hold commercial driver's licenses (CDLs)—are held to higher standards than are other drivers. Pursuant to federal regulations, CDL holders are prohibited from operating a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) for one year after a first DUI and permanently after a second DUI conviction.
With many professions—like piloting, nursing, teaching, and practicing law or medicine—active practitioners must hold a state- or federally-issued license. Licensing boards and agencies are in charge of ensuring that licensees are competent to perform their duties.
Depending on the situation, DUI convictions can lead to professional license suspension, revocation, or restrictions. At the very least, a DUI conviction will normally trigger an investigation by the licensing agency.
The best way to prevent employment-related problems from a DUI conviction is to keep your record clean by avoiding the conviction in the first place. This isn't a "don't drink and drive" pitch. If you're reading this article, we're assuming you've at least been arrested for a DUI.
However, even if you're arrested for driving under the influence, you might have some options that can keep a criminal conviction off your record. You might also be able to take remedial action to limit the impact of a past DUI conviction.
Many states have diversion and first-offender programs that allow participants to keep a DUI conviction off their record. Basically, these programs are designed to give first DUI offenders a second chance. Program requirements often include things like substance abuse treatment or education, drug and alcohol testing, and community service.
Commercial drivers generally aren't allowed to avoid the consequences of a DUI conviction by participating in these types of alternative sentencing programs.
Even if you do get convicted of a DUI, you might be able to expunge or seal the record to ensure no one sees it. Sealed and expunged records generally won't show up on most criminal background checks. But, typically, these kinds of remedies are available only after a certain number of years have passed since your conviction.
However, laws related to record expungements and sealing vary quite a bit by state. If you're interested in cleaning up your criminal record, it's best to talk to a knowledgeable attorney in your area to find out about your options.
If your job is in jeopardy due to the loss of driving privileges, you might be able to obtain a "restricted" or "hardship" license. Generally, these licenses allow you to drive for employment purposes but come with restrictions such as on where and when you can drive. In some states, the installation of an ignition interlock device is a requisite for obtaining a restricted license.