Consider a hypothetical job-seeker who has been convicted of 30 felonies in the State of New York. This person is willing and able to re-locate anywhere within the United States or its territories, and has no other criminal record.

Are there any jobs this person is categorically forbidden from holding? I'm interested in both private- and public-sector jobs.

My own research suggests that it sometimes depends on the nature of the felony, so if it matters, assume that all 30 felonies are related to falsification of business records.

EDIT: Also, this person's sentence did not include any prison time.

  • 5
    Do you mean forbidden by law or forbidden by practice? There are a lot of industries that won't hire felons such as education, financial, medical, security, transportation among others.
    – Joe W
    Commented Jun 7 at 20:20
  • 1
    @JoeW Forbidden by law.
    – Tom
    Commented Jun 7 at 20:23
  • 5
    It is almost easier to ask what licensed occupation doesn't bar or usually exclude felons There is a 50 state survey at ccresourcecenter.org/state-restoration-profiles/… It is further complicated by the fact that there are many professions (e.g. law) where a felony conviction is not a categorical exclusion but in which its likelihood of being disqualifying is extremely high. Detail on VA can be found at dls.virginia.gov/GROUPS/reentry/meetings/072706/…
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Jun 7 at 21:08
  • 4
    There's also examples of "felons not allowed unless a special waiver is granted", eg the US military; would you count those? (Though if this hypothetical felon is, let's say, 77 years old, then they're also ineligible to join the military due to age.) Commented Jun 7 at 22:07
  • @NateEldredge My hypothetical felon is young, has healthy foot bones, and is willing to serve their country in the armed services, but has no prior history or special qualifications (e.g. Westpoint, ROTC), so is presumably only eligible for "entry level" roles. For my purposes, I won't accept "special waiver," because some people have a knack for obtaining waivers, and others don't.
    – Tom
    Commented Jun 7 at 22:20

4 Answers 4


The conviction of any felony automatically disqualifies a candidate from working for the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation), whether as a special agent or on the professional staff.

Source: https://work.chron.com/occupations-barred-felons-29277.html

  • Does conviction of a felony disqualify the candidate from a political appointment overseeing the FBI? Commented Jun 10 at 10:31
  • @MarkMorganLloyd If you mean the Attorney General, I don't think so. The only requirements for appointment to the Cabinet are that POTUS nominates them and the Senate confirms.
    – Barmar
    Commented Jun 10 at 15:25
  • 2
    It's a toss-up between this and Barmar's answer, so I chose this because the FBI is relevant as an employer to a larger area (both geographically & jurisdictionally) than the MA police.
    – Tom
    Commented Jun 15 at 0:05

You can't be a police officer in Massachusetts

MGL Part I, Title VII, Chapter 41, Section 96A

No person who has been convicted of any felony or whose name is listed in the national decertification index or the database of decertified law enforcement officers maintained by the Massachusetts peace officer standards and training commission pursuant to chapter 6E shall be appointed as a police officer of a city, town or district.

  • 1
    If I'm reading that Ballotpedia page correctly, there are either zero or two jurisdictions where police union agreements bar felons from serving as police. (FOIA denied = maybe)
    – Tom
    Commented Jun 7 at 22:07
  • You're right, I thought one of the colors was prohibited. The text specifically says "zero states or cities have police union agreements". So I'll remove it from my answer.
    – Barmar
    Commented Jun 7 at 22:32
  • I was trying to find a page that collects information about laws like the one in MA across all states, that was the closest....
    – Barmar
    Commented Jun 7 at 22:34
  • 3
    In your defense, the maps on that page are poorly conceived. Instead of showing which places have such limitations, they indicate the level of certainty re: whether each place has that limitation. It is utterly bizarre. But the text was actually very illuminating!
    – Tom
    Commented Jun 7 at 22:35

Yes, but ...

The Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Act (Cth) (HREOC Act) makes it illegal to discriminate on the basis of a criminal record unless it makes them unable to perform the 'inherent requirements' of the job.

Some States and Territories have decided that there are particular types of employment, for instance in working with children, where people with a certain criminal record will not be able to be employed. In addition, some professional and occupational licensing bodies have considered the special characteristics of their field and developed licensing and registration rules which address the relevance of a person's criminal record to that profession.

In other fields there is very little guidance for employers as to what the inherent requirements of a particular job might be and how to assess whether a person meets those requirements.

However, no matter what the inherent requirements of a position are, and no matter what a person's criminal record, each person's ability to fulfil those requirements should be assessed on a case-by-case basis to avoid discrimination.

There are some offences that may bar you from a vocation entirely, for example:

  • assault, child abuse, or sexual offences may prevent you from getting a government-issued Working with Children card and prevent you from working with children, even as a volunteer.
  • espionage offences may prevent you from getting a security clearance and bar you from some, but not all, parts of the defence and government sector
  • fraud and theft offences may prevent you from getting a financial services licence
  • assault or abuse charges may prevent you from registering with AHPRA as a health professional
  • offences involving dishonesty may prevent you becoming a lawyer

However, the law requires that each case be assessed on its merits, and there are no hard-and-fast rules. For example, lawyers have been admitted even when they have had child sex offences or child pornography charges - although it must be said that both were initially refused and only admitted following an appeal to the courts.

For occupations without licencing, employers are allowed to ask for a criminal background check only if they can justify that it might be relevant to the 'inherent requirements'. They can only discriminate on that basis after considering all the relevant factors for the particular individual vis-a-vis the 'inherent requirements', including the nature of the offending, whether there was a conviction or just charges, whether the sentence has been completed, how long ago it was, and the person's subsequent conduct.

Examples of issues that might go to the 'inherent requirements' include:

  • Driving offences for a truck driver,
  • Theft offences for someone handling cash,
  • Fraud offences for a bookkeeper or accountant,
  • Assault offences for a security guard,
  • Drug offences for a pharmacist or pharmacist's assistant,
  • Drug offences for a driver, heavy-machinery operator, or miner,
  • etc.

Again, the employer must have a valid reason to ask for a criminal background check and if there are no obvious 'inherent requirements' reasons for doing so, merely asking is unlawful discrimination. Even if there is something relevant in the check, the employer must make a case-by-case assessment.


Although the American federal government doesn't outright bar felons from most positions, it does require job-seekers to provide sufficient information so the hiring agency can determine the prospect's "suitability or fitness for employment".


...if you receive a conditional offer of employment, you'll need to complete a Declaration for Federal Employment (OF 306) and undergo a background investigation to establish your suitability or fitness for employment. When deciding your suitability, federal agencies will consider the following:

  • Your character traits and conduct.
  • Potential conflicts between your criminal conduct and the core job duties.
  • Potential conflicts between your employment and interests of national security.
  • The nature, seriousness, and circumstance of your criminal activity.
  • How long it's been since your criminal activity.
  • Rehabilitation or efforts toward rehabilitation.

It's important that you provide all the required information about your criminal record when you apply to a federal job so the hiring agency can determine early if a specific prohibition exists.

Source: https://help.usajobs.gov/faq/application/eligibility/ex-offender

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