Faces of DFEH – Andres T.

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Criminal History in Employment

What was your experience that led you to seek out help from DFEH?

I was incarcerated nearly a decade ago. It was a time in my life that I regret and to any person that I caused pain to, I profusely apologize.
One year ago, I graduated with my Bachelor of Science degree. I had completed my probation, and was ready to put the past behind me. I had heard about a position that was hiring several people out of college to work at a multinational company via a contracting agency. I applied. The first few interviews flew by and finally a job offer was extended to me. My recruiter had mentioned that there was a background check involved, and I had explained my situation. The crime occurred 8-9 years ago, I had graduated from college, I was out of trouble, and the job responsibilities had nothing to do with that crime.
My background check came back with something on it, but my crime was not listed. I explained myself to my recruiter as soon as I could. And then there was no further contact from him. I reached out a week later, two weeks later, a month later, until I got the hint. Yet, the firm kept posting the same position that I was denied. Two months after I had applied for the position, I filed a complaint with DFEH.

How did that experience affect you?

Most people say after you have been released from incarceration that you have a new lease on life. What they forget to tell you is that it comes with several caveats.
Companies still deny a person employment because of their past misdeeds, even when the job does not call for it. From this experience, I found the necessary tools and people who were willing to help me file for an expungement. As of October 2018, my crimes were expunged. This experience with being denied employment made me see the importance of having tangible paperwork.

What do you want people to take away from your experience?

Be persistent, vigilant, and be loud. A quiet person seldom makes waves and can be trampled on. In the moment, it may seem that a decision is final, but we should never accept that this is all there is. This experience has made me realize that you must keep fighting with words and dogged determination. Rehabilitation, not punishment, is what we need more of.

What do you want people to know about discrimination based on criminal background?

California is one of the most progressive states in the Union, but discrimination is rampant, even in our modern world. One must constantly be on the watch for it.
As far as discrimination as far as crimes are concerned, people who have committed certain crimes should not do certain jobs. But people also need to show that they can change, that they can grow, regardless of their circumstances. To say otherwise, is to deny the human experience.

How was your experience with the DFEH?

In short, wonderful. My case worker never gave up on me and she never looked down on me because I was convicted of a crime. She is emblematic of what the DFEH stands for.
It was a slow process, and I honestly did not expect much out of it. I could not see that a year from when I first filed with the DFEH I would be where I am. I would not have thought that I would be sitting in my office, getting a steady paycheck every Friday, and going home to an apartment with my girlfriend and two dogs. And all this from a guy who was in jail, got out, finished a degree and expunged his record.
Because I got angry enough, because I filed with the DFEH, and because they cared enough, I am here.