Could Occupy Wall Street Protests Hurt Job Prospects?

Nick Fishman

As the Occupy Wall Street protests continue to gather steam and garner national attention, I’ve been thinking about how to correlate this anti-corporate sentiment as it relates to the background screening services we provide.  There have been a number of arrests, whether for disorderly conduct or violence which will inevitably lead to convictions.  And those that express their opinions through social networking sites are creating a digital footprint of these same sentiments.

I’m not really sure I have an intelligent opinion on the merits of these rallies or the lack thereof.  And let’s face it, who cares if I do?  However, the question I have is how this activity may affect their future employment prospects.  We all know that people’s political belief’s are not supposed to be considered in employment decisions.  But how about anti-business sentiment?  Will it scare employers away?  Will arrests and, or convictions for civil disobedience cause employers to move to the next candidate?  There is no real precedence for the answers to these questions.

It would have been interesting to see how these activities would have been viewed by employers had background checks been in vogue in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s protests over things such as racial equality and the Vietnam War.

I suspect that the backlash to participants, specifically those convicted of criminal activity, will be punished by both the justice system as well by future employers.  As far as participation in these rallies and online rhetoric designed to incite people, we’ll just have to see.

What do you think?

Nick Fishman
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Nick Fishman

Nick Fishman is the co-founder of EmployeeScreenIQ, a leading, global employment background screening provider, and serves as the company’s executive vice president and chief marketing officer. He pioneered the creation of EmployeeScreen University, the #1 educational resource on employment background checks for human resources, security and risk management professionals. A recognized industry expert, Nick is a frequent author, presenter and contributor to the news media. Nick is also a licensed private investigator in the states of Ohio and Texas.
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  • During the screening process, the interviewer will disclose to the candidate that there are criminal notes in their history and ask for an explanation (at least they SHOULD). At this time in history, as well as during those tumultuous times cited, a brief explanation about the “criminal” activity is sufficient to overcome the taint. Indeed, some of those protesters of the past and the new crop look forward to being jailed for standing up for their citizen rights in a responsible way. An employer who refuses to hire a qualified person who demonstrates that type of discretion doesn’t deserve the quality of work that person can share.

    On the other side of the picture is the candidate who has applied for the position with that corporation. They would be unwise to seek an opportunity with a company against which they have demonstrated. Research should reveal more about the company’s background and thereby allow the applicant to make a (then) informed decision about whether that is a potential employer of choice.

    I don’t see the demonstrations as harmful to potential candidates.

  • It is important to note that the protesters are not being arrested and potentially convicted for protesting per se. They are being arrested for violations of the law.

    There is a difference between responsible protest and disorderly conduct. Some employers may make a distinction and some may not.