OWI Convictions and Employment in Wisconsin
The consequences of an OWI/DUI conviction stretch beyond court-ordered penalties. In addition to driver’s license revocation, fines, ignition interlock, and even jail time, you may still face negative social consequences. Finding secure employment after an OWI conviction can be a hurdle due to the background checks requested by most employers.
In Wisconsin, only certain circumstances allow employers to ask prospective employees about past convictions. Even so, in our experience, whether or not it is lawful, some employers will not hire or retain employees with OWI/DUI cases.
An OWI Conviction Could Get You Fired
Wisconsin law protects employees from discrimination based on arrest or conviction records in most circumstances, but not all. For example, if the circumstances of your conviction are substantially related to your job duties, your employer could terminate you or choose not to hire you on those grounds.
For example, a shipping company has legal grounds to fire a truck driver with an OWI conviction because the conviction is substantially related to the job or driving. Similarly, a cashier’s theft conviction could result in termination because their job includes money handling.
Some employers prohibit criminal convictions in their employment contracts. If you have pending OWI charges or a recent conviction, review the employee handbook or code of conduct to see if an OWI conviction is grounds for dismissal.
How Will My Employer Know I Got A DUI/OWI?
In Wisconsin, all criminal cases and even some civil (first offense) OWI/DUI cases are easily found online. In addition, many employers routinely search online court records. While it may or may not be necessary for you to disclose an OWI/DUI case voluntarily, making a false statement about it is never a good idea. If an employer discovers that you provided false or misleading information on your job application, interview, or other employment paperwork, it raises questions about your integrity. You could be fired on that basis alone- regardless of whether or not your conviction was substantially related to your employment.
In addition to online court records for all Wisconsin circuit courts and even some municipal courts, there are other background checks your employer has a right to perform that could include your conviction. For example, comprehensive background checks that include the Department of Transportation or the Wisconsin Department of Justice Crime Information Bureau may reveal an OWI conviction, which could result in employment termination.
It is important to be aware that some background checks include arrest records. If you have pending DUI/OWI charges, contact an attorney specializing in aggressive OWI defense to avoid a conviction’s damaging impact on your career.