1. Employment Contracts
Many employers require employees to sign employment contracts. These contracts may contain the terms of your employment as well as other agreements that govern what you may and may not do when your employment terminates. For example:
a. Non-compete provisions that restrict former employees from working for competitors or within a specified geographic area for some amount of time after leaving the job. (Ex: You cannot work for a company that does the same type of work within Pima County for one year after leaving your employment.)
b. Non-disclosure provisions to insure that employees do not take protected information from the employer and disclose it to others. (Ex: You cannot take or use your employer’s client lists except in the course of your employment or give them to others.)
c. Agreements that all work of the employee becomes the property of the employer. (Ex: Any patents issued for devices or processes you invent or design at any time during your employment will be the property of your employer.)
It is very important that before you sign an employment agreement, you read it carefully and ask any questions you may have. If you have concerns, think seriously about seeking legal advice. An hour of an attorney’s time may be a very wise investment in your future financial well-being.
2. Background Checks
When filling out employment applications, applications for graduate school, professional licenses, etc. you may be asked questions about your background. For example: “Have you ever been convicted of any crime?” or “Have you ever been disciplined by a college or university at which you were a student?”
Students are sometimes confused about how to answer these questions because they aren’t sure of the definitions of some of the terms.
“Arrested” means a police officer gave you a criminal citation and while he or she was doing that you were not free to leave the scene. You do not have to be taken to jail to have been arrested—you just have to be held by a police officer and given a criminal citation.
“Charged with a crime” means that you received a criminal citation or were arrested and charged (formally accused) of committing a crime.
“Convicted of a crime” means that you either pleaded “guilty” in court or that you went to trial and were found guilty of the crime with which you were charged.
Consider this scenario: you are leaving a party and stopped by a police officer, who questions you and then gives a citation for “MIP”—minor in possession of alcohol—but you participate in a diversion program and the charge is dismissed. If asked on an employment application if you have ever been convicted of any crime, you should answer “no,” because, while you were arrested and charged, you were not convicted because you did diversion and the charge was dismissed.
3. Signing Releases
You may be asked to sign a release allowing your university or college to release information about you. If you sign such a release, you are waiving your rights under the Family Educational Privacy Rights Act (FERPA) , which prevents colleges and universities from releasing information about you without your permission.
Signing such a release will allow the University to release your transcript, showing classes taken and grades received. It will also allow the University to release records of any disciplinary action that was taken against you by the University, including for violations of the Student Code of Conduct and the Code of Academic Integrity. The University of Arizona maintains disciplinary records for five years or until the student graduates, whichever come first. After that time period has passed, the records will no longer be available.
For example, if you are found with alcohol in your dorm room, you may be sent to the Dean of Students Office charged with violating the Student Code of Conduct. If the Dean decides the Code was violated, you will be required to complete some community service and take a class on the effects of alcohol. There will be a record of that discipline maintained by the University for five years or until you graduate. So, if you are asked to sign a release for a summer internship while you are still attending the University, this information will be provided to the employer offering the internship. But if you have already graduated, the record will have been destroyed and the information will not be available for release.
4. Being Honest
It is important to answer questions on employment and graduate school applications truthfully. A minor infraction in your past is unlikely to carry much weight when a decision is being made about whether to hire you or admit you to a graduate program. However, a lie on an application is very serious and, if discovered, will almost certainly result in your being rejected for whatever you are applying for.
Another scenario: during your sophomore year of college, you are cited for underage drinking and plead guilty and pay a fine. If you are asked whether you have ever been convicted of a crime, you must answer “yes.” You will then be given the opportunity to explain what the crime was and the circumstances surrounding the incident. If you answer “no,” and the potential employer does a simple public records search, it will be clear that you are lying, as information about criminal charges and convictions is usually a matter of public record easily found by anyone with a computer and an internet connection.
Career Services wishes to thank ASUA Students' Legal Services Advisor, Susan Ferrell , for the providing the information on this Web page.
* More information on employment-related legal issues: © National Association of Colleges and Employers - Legal and Ethical Issues