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employment consequences

A DUI/DWI conviction will appear on a criminal background check requested by a prospective employer and may adversely affect employment opportunities in some professions, industries, and occupations—especially jobs (1) for which a commercial driver’s license (CDL) is required, (2) for which a person must operate heavy equipment or machinery, or (3) in which a person is entrusted with ensuring the safety of others (air traffic controller, police officer) or safeguarding sensitive information or data. Generally, the only way to remove a DUI/DWI conviction from appearing in some or all of such background checks is to have it expunged or sealed—which is only possible in limited circumstances.

In states in which employment is at-will an employer may terminate an employee for a DUI/DWI arrest or conviction. If the employee has a written employment contract there may be limitations on the grounds on which the employee may be terminated, and a DUI/DWI arrest or conviction may fall within those grounds of termination for cause—in other words, termination for an identified reason, and not for no reason, which is permissible under employment at will.

In Texas, a DUI/DWI conviction will indeed appear on a criminal background check and can negatively impact employment prospects, particularly in fields that require a commercial driver's license (CDL), the operation of heavy machinery, or roles responsible for public safety or sensitive information. Texas is an at-will employment state, meaning employers can terminate employees for any reason, including a DUI/DWI arrest or conviction, unless there is a written contract that specifies otherwise. Expungement or sealing of DUI/DWI records is possible under certain conditions, but it is not guaranteed and is subject to eligibility criteria set by Texas law. If a DUI/DWI conviction is expunged or sealed, it may not appear on some background checks, thereby reducing its impact on employment opportunities.

Texas Statutes & Rules

Federal Statutes & Rules

Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), 15 U.S.C. § 1681 et seq.
The FCRA governs how background check information, including criminal records, can be collected, disseminated, and used by employers.

The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) is a federal law that ensures the accuracy, fairness, and privacy of consumer information contained in the files of consumer reporting agencies. Under the FCRA, criminal convictions can be reported indefinitely, while arrests can only be reported for up to seven years. Employers must obtain written consent from an individual before obtaining a background check report from a third-party agency. If an employer decides to take an adverse action (such as not hiring an applicant or firing an employee) based on information in the report, they must provide a pre-adverse action disclosure that includes a copy of the report and a summary of the consumer's rights under the FCRA. After the adverse action is taken, the employer must give the individual an adverse action notice, which includes information about the consumer reporting agency that supplied the report, the right to dispute the accuracy or completeness of the report, and the right to obtain an additional free report from the agency within 60 days.

Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 1986, 49 U.S.C. § 31301 et seq.
This Act establishes requirements for the issuance of commercial driver's licenses (CDL) and the disqualification of drivers who commit certain offenses, including DUI/DWI.

The Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 1986 aims to improve highway safety by ensuring that drivers of commercial vehicles are qualified to operate those vehicles and by removing unsafe and unqualified drivers from the highways. The Act established a national CDL program, which requires drivers of commercial vehicles to have a single CDL. States are required to adopt testing and licensing standards for commercial drivers. Under this Act, drivers can be disqualified from operating commercial vehicles for certain offenses, including driving under the influence of alcohol or controlled substances. A DUI/DWI conviction can result in the suspension or revocation of a CDL, which can significantly impact employment opportunities for drivers in industries that require a CDL.

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq.
The ADA prohibits discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities, which may include individuals with past drug or alcohol addiction, but generally does not protect individuals with current substance abuse issues.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in several areas, including job application procedures, hiring, firing, advancement, compensation, job training, and other terms, conditions, and privileges of employment. An individual with a past drug addiction that is no longer using drugs illegally and has been rehabilitated may be considered a person with a disability under the ADA. However, the ADA does not prevent employers from taking action against an employee or applicant who is currently engaging in the illegal use of drugs. Employers are also allowed to ensure that the workplace is free from the illegal use of drugs and alcohol and to hold employees who are alcoholics or drug addicts to the same performance standards as other employees. A DUI/DWI conviction may not be protected under the ADA if it is current and reflects the illegal use of alcohol or drugs.

Driver's Privacy Protection Act (DPPA), 18 U.S.C. § 2721 et seq.
The DPPA restricts the disclosure of personal information contained in the records of state motor vehicle departments, which may include DUI/DWI records.

The Driver's Privacy Protection Act (DPPA) was enacted to protect the privacy of personal information assembled by state Department of Motor Vehicles (DMVs). The DPPA prohibits the release and use of certain personal information from state motor vehicle records without the express consent of the person to whom such information pertains. However, the Act provides exceptions under which personal information can be disclosed, including for use by any government agency, including law enforcement agencies, in carrying out its functions, for use in connection with matters of motor vehicle or driver safety and theft, and for use in connection with court, administrative, or arbitral proceedings. Employers may obtain information from DMV records for use in background checks, but typically must have consent from the individual or fall within one of the exceptions provided by the DPPA.

Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA), 8 U.S.C. § 1324a et seq.
The IRCA requires employers to verify the employment eligibility and identity of new employees, which may intersect with DUI/DWI issues if such offenses impact an individual's legal status or work authorization.

The Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) makes it illegal for employers to knowingly hire or continue to employ individuals who are not authorized to work in the United States. Employers are required to verify the identity and employment authorization of each person they hire by completing an Employment Eligibility Verification Form (I-9) and reviewing documents that show the employee's identity and employment authorization. While the IRCA is primarily focused on immigration status and work authorization, a DUI/DWI conviction could potentially affect an individual's immigration status, particularly if the individual is not a U.S. citizen. Certain criminal convictions can lead to deportation or ineligibility for certain immigration benefits, which in turn could affect employment eligibility under the IRCA.