Can Convicted Felons Work in the Entertainment Industry?
Felony convictions aren't a legal barrier to working in entertainment. Stars including actor Tim Allen and rapper L'il Kim have served jail time for felonies. Successful entertainers have rap sheets that include drug dealing, perjury and rape. Even so, a job-seeker with a felony conviction in her past may have trouble finding work.
The entertainment industry includes all kinds of professions, in front of the camera and backstage. Some positions are more accessible to a convicted felon than others. Breaking into acting might be fine, but a job managing or investing money would be more difficult. If the job requires a security bond -- one that reimburses clients or employers if the employer steal -- it's even harder, as many bonding companies won't cover felons. The federal government does offer a bonding program that may make it easier in some cases.
Even if the job doesn't involve handling money, many employers have a policy or a bias against hiring felons. Having the talent or the skills for the job may not be enough to overcome the fear an ex-con may be be violent, dangerous or simply too unreliable. While some big stars kept their careers going despite charges of drug use or drug-dealing, for instance, others have found it harder to find work because of the perceived risks. This understandably plays an even larger role in positions that don't require a specialized skillset, where qualified candidates are easier to find.
Some state laws place limits on the steps employers can take to screen out felons. New York state, for instance, only allows employers to consider criminal convictions if the crime relates to fitness for the job or creates a risk to public safety, or in other narrow conditions. In 2012, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said laws and hiring practices that categorically ban all felons are illegal. Instead, employers should review applicants on a case-by-case basis.
Treatment of felons is an area of labor law that has seen constant changes as new laws and court cases reshape it. In 2013, Texas challenged the EEOC's position on banning felons, a case which has yet to be settled at time of writing. Several states have adopted "ban the box" policies. Instead of simply checking off the "have you been convicted of a felony?" box on applications, job-seekers get to bring it up later in the hiring purpose when they can explain the backstory further and make the case that similar problems won't occur in the future.