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Finding Employment When You Have a Criminal Record

July 1, 2017

When you have a criminal record, it can be difficult to explain to potential employers why they should hire you for the job. While there is a trend towards prohibiting discrimination against those with a criminal history (such as New York City’s “Fair Chance Act”), there are still few protections that would make finding employment easier for those with a criminal record.

A Certificate of Relief from Civil Disabilities can help you with your job search. Many attorneys don’t know about it, or if they do they don’t provide the advocacy to obtain it. At Pappalardo & Pappalardo, LLP, we work with our clients to secure a Certificate of Relief or a Certificate of Good Conduct so there are no statutory bars to their employment. Not only is employment great for you and your family, gainfully employed persons are less likely to have additional contact with the criminal justice system.

What Is a Certificate of Relief from Civil Disabilities?

A Certificate of Relief from Civil Disabilities furthers the general public policy of licensing and employing persons with criminal records. A Certificate of Relief, signed by the sentencing judge, creates a presumption of rehabilitation which relieves you of any forfeiture or disability and removes any bar to your employment automatically imposed by law by reason of your conviction. You may be eligible for a Certificate of Relief if you have a criminal record containing misdemeanor convictions and up to one felony conviction.

A Certificate of Relief is not a pardon or an expungement, nor does it otherwise void the conviction. What it does is prohibit an employer (any public agency or private employer with 10 or more employees) from automatically disqualifying you from employment because you have a criminal history.

Note, however, that a Certificate of Relief only removes statutory bars to consideration for employment – it does not guarantee employment. A Certificate of Relief means you cannot be denied any license or employment absent a finding that there is a direct relationship between your criminal conviction and the specific license or employment sought, or a finding of an unreasonable risk to property or the welfare of a person or the public. For example, someone with a conviction for larceny might still be denied employment at a bank – even with a Certificate of Relief – where he or she would have access to money.

What Is a Certificate of Good Conduct?

A Certificate of Good Conduct provides similar relief to a Certificate of Relief. The biggest difference is that the Certificate of Good Conduct is available to someone who has been convicted of more than one felony. Additionally, it is issued by the NYS Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (“DOCCS”), rather than by the sentencing judge.

Beginning from the time you completed your most recent sentence (including any community supervision), waiting periods before you can apply for a Certificate of Good Conduct range from one to five years depending on the nature of your conviction. In general, to be awarded a Certificate of Good Conduct DOCCS must be satisfied that you have conducted yourself in a manner warranting issuance of such a certificate between the time you completed your sentence and the time you applied for the Certificate of Good Conduct.


  • Correction Law 701.
  • Correction Law 703.
  • Correction Law 706.
  • Correction Law 750.
  • Correction Law 751.
  • Correction Law 753.
  • Correction Law 754.
  • S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, National Institute of Justice. “Offender Reentry – Research on Reentry and Employment.” Available at: (last accessed April 6, 2017).