Hello Evil HR Lady,
I’m hoping you can help me with an uncomfortable situation. I promise this is not a fictional story. It really happened. And I’m hoping you can give me some honest feedback.
I’m 43 years old and have been working in medical marketing for the past 7 years or so. For the last two years, my husband was on a short-term government assignment in the D.C area. I decided to freelance (writing and communications) during that time since I knew we would only be in the area for a short time.
My husband was actually working for a certain government agency in the D.C. area. I’m still not clear on what happened…all I know is that his department was being investigated. One day, while conducting an interview for a book I was writing, I heard someone pounding on our front door.
I was still in my PJs.
I went down to answer the door and saw that there were a few people at the door. They were wearing sunglasses and windbreakers. As I started to open the door, a big, gurly guy began to push the door open. I yelled ‘Noooooo’ and tried to shove the door shut. My first reaction was that someone was trying to break into my house and I was terrified.
Before I even realized what was happening, 20 people (cops, federal agents and people in black) were swarming into my house. The rather large fellow who shoved my front door open slammed me against the wall and pulled my arms behind my back.
I realize this all sounds pretty wild and crazy..like an episode of “24” or something…but it really happened. To say I was in shock was an understatement. They showed me the search warrant and began rummaging through my house while I was forced to sit at our dining room table for over two hours.
I did point out that I was injured. My elbow was scraped up and badly bruised. One of the agents got a camera and took photos of my injuries. They asked if I needed “immediate medical attention” and I said “no.” The last thing I wanted at that point was an ambulance showing up at my house. The neighbors were already stopping to see what was happening.
Later that evening, my husband took me to the ER to get checked out. My blood pressure was extremely high and they noted the contusions/lacerations on my arm. I was given Valium and Xanax (for anxiety) and sent home.
I realize that life is not fair, but I’ve never done anything wrong in my life. I’m your basic law-abiding person. I give to charity. I volunteer at soup kitchens. I love animals and am kind to old people. I have the same mood swings as any other peri-menopausal woman, but I’m essentially a good egg.
So, imagine my surprise when I was contacted a week later by one of the detectives who was at my house. She informed me that a warrant had been issued for my arrest. This was beyond shocking. I was told that I was being charged with a FELONY – obstruction of justice.
An attorney friend of mine assures me that the warrant probably happened because the cop who shoved me was worried that I would try to sue him. So he trumped up a charge in order to make it difficult for me to press charges against him.
Maybe that is what happened. I just don’t know. What I DO know is that once I realized what was happening, I was 150% cooperative. It was just that initial burst into my house that scared the wits out of me.
My husband was caught up in all of this, but was totally cleared. He hadnt done anything wrong.
So, just because I tried to push the front door closed when the cop tried to force his way in (and I didnt even realize he was a cop at that point) I was allowed to turn myself in and was booked, fingerprinted, etc.
Two months later, I went to court and my lawyer managed to get the felony charge reduced to a misdemeanor of “disorderly conduct”.
So, the bottom line is, I now have a criminal record. My lawyer told me, “oh, it’s only a misdemeanor. No one will care about that.” But, I’m not so sure. We’ve recently relocated back to Southern CA and I’m afraid to look for work in my field. I have a good repuation in my industry, but I have no idea how I would even begin to explain this situation. It was the biggest nightmare of my life – and I’ve now been penalized for being scared to death.
I cannot have any of this expunged because the state of VA (where this happened) does not do that.
I know that companies do criminal checks. WHAT in the world would I say to a potential employer? Do I tell them upfront that I have an arrest record and explain what happened? I realize it sounds like a wild story, but my lawyer has agreed to talk to any potential employer and back me up.
Will a company automatically reject me because of this? Will I be doomed to doing freelance work forever?
I have been somewhat paralyzed by this situation and am hoping you can help me. I would like the unvarnished truth so that I know what I’ll be dealing with.
The company that I’m most interested is a Fortune 500 company. I’m terrified to even contact them about a job because of my situation.
I apologize for this long email, but look forward to any insights/feedback you can provide.
I normally would edit a question this long, but I found your story fascinating. I would comment on many aspects, but this is not a political blog. Suffice it to say that as a law abiding citizen, I would have freaked out like you did.
You are interested in a Fortune 500 company, but you are terrified to apply because of your “record.” Let me ask this question: What is the worst thing that can happen?
Being a rather cynical and negative soul, I frequently assume the worst will happen, so this is a game I’m good at. Here it is: The worst thing that will happen is that you will apply for the job and they…drum roll please…won’t hire you.
Now, what will happen if you don’t apply? Drum roll please…they won’t hire you.
Notice that you are currently living out the worst case scenario. Why do we do that to ourselves? You had a traumatic experience and you are letting it prevent you from going out and achieving a goal.
Now, as someone who is so traumatized by even the fear of getting a speeding ticket that I am the annoying person going the speed limit (in the right hand lane, mind you, I’m not that annoying), I can see why you are upset.
It is illegal to discriminate on the basis of a past conviction unless it relates to the job. I presume you are applying for a writing job, so I can’t see a good argument for this being job related. Even so, it’s a misdemeanor, not a felony.
The hiring manager will likely never know. The staffing person has seen much, much, much, worse and you will barely get a yawn. Just be honest on your application. Take a deep breath and apply.
You may or may not get the job, but it’s doubtful that a misdemeanor that you’ve declared on the application will be the reason.