How Does a DWI Conviction Impact Someone’s Employment Prospects in New Jersey?
People often ask, “How should I handle my employer?” I tell them up front that there are too many variables for me to give them advice. The impact really depends on the employer. If you work for a smaller employer, they might fire you on the spot just for having the charge, let alone getting convicted. The general rule in employee-employer relationships is that most employment is at will. You can be hired and fired for any reason or no reason at all, as long as it’s not based on race, sex, religion, sexual orientation, etc. But then there are other employers, usually smaller employers, who are offended if you don’t tell them. They want to be kept in the loop because they do like you and want to keep you. It’s a little different with larger employers.
We have a lot of pharmaceutical companies here in New Jersey. I think we are the pharmaceutical capital of the world. Generally speaking, a DWI conviction is the kiss of death if you are a pharmaceutical worker. You don’t want to tell your employer; you want to keep it as quiet as possible, because if you do get convicted and they find out, you are going to be fired no matter how long you’ve been with the company.
Nurses have it really hard. The Board of Nursing regulates nurses very rigidly. If the board finds out about a DWI conviction, they can put nurses through the wringer in terms of evaluation, rehabilitation, education. They are very draconian. It’s funny: Nurses are regulated more harshly than doctors are, which really surprises me.
If you’re a lawyer, the Supreme Court doesn’t care too much unless you show up fall-down drunk in a courtroom. Some professions really don’t care about these things.
The impact on your career if you’re a driver or need a car for work has been mitigated to a very large degree by substituting interlock with revocation. For first offenders, there is a large degree of mitigation, which was the intent of legislation that was passed back in 2019. The Legislature didn’t want people to lose employment and go on welfare.
But the other consideration is, if you are a salesperson or someone who has to drive clients around, do you want to have to explain what that little gizmo on your dashboard is that you have to blow into? While a lot has been done since 2019 to mitigate employment consequences, it’s still very relevant in certain areas of employment and certain professions.
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