Last Updated on 2023-12-06

Does Amazon Hire Felons? Sometimes - Here's When

We worked with these active, experienced gig-workers to write this article and bring you first-hand knowledge.

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Davis Porter

Experienced writer/researcher in the gig industry working alongside our gig-workers

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Jesse Gauthier

T1 Associate with two years of experience working in the Packer, Problem Solver, and Scanner roles

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Justin “JJ” James

T1 Asssociate in a Delivery Station with 2+ years of experience working in the Stower, Picker, and Stager roles

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James Enright

L5 having worked in a Fulfillment Center, Sortation Center, and in Reverse Logistics with 6+ years of experience across Receive Dock, Decant, Waterspider, Stower, Picker, Count, Packer, SLAM Operator, Problem Solver, and Unloader roles

Amazon's hiring practices for felons are defined by a complex mix of legal mandates, ethical considerations, and business needs.

The legal framework itself is quite diverse, with guidelines changing from one state to another. Ethical considerations, meanwhile, are driven by the company’s aim to reintegrate convicts back into society.  Then its business needs are concerned with optimizing operational efficiency while overcoming the workplace risks that such recruits may pose. 

To exhaustively address all those, Amazon has basically opened up its entry-level warehouse job opening to individuals with felonies but, at the same time, restricted qualification on a case-by-case basis. This creates fair employment opportunities without compromising workplace safety and integrity. 

Does Amazon hire felons?

As a second-chance employer, Amazon extends its job opportunities even to individuals with felony convictions. Many of the available openings are in entry-level roles that do not demand high levels of security or trust. You might, for instance, get hired as a warehouse associate in one of its fulfillment centers , sortation centers , or delivery stations

By doing so, Amazon manages to tap into a pool of motivated individuals who are often eager to reintegrate into society and contribute positively. It gives them a chance to demonstrate their skills and value in the workforce, despite their past.

Official recruitment policy for workers with a criminal history

Amazon's official policy on hiring individuals with felony convictions is not explicitly detailed in its public-facing documents. The company does, however, adhere to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) guidelines – which prioritize an individual's qualifications and the job's specific requirements over their criminal history.

This approach stems from Amazon's commitment to corporate social responsibility, legal compliance against discrimination, and the desire to maintain a positive public image. Hiring individuals with felony convictions positions the platform as a progressive and inclusive employer.

For those with such records, Amazon's policy implies that while employment is not assured, opportunities exist. Prospects are better if the felony is unrelated to the job's responsibilities or if a significant amount of time has passed since the conviction.

How they uncover your past convictions

At Amazon, applicants undergo a thorough background check after providing consent during the initial hiring stages. Through this check, the company verifies your criminal history. The findings are then used to determine your suitability for the specific role that you’re applying for. 

Investigation is done by third-party background check providers like Sterling Infosystems, Accurate , and First Advantage . They use advanced algorithms and cross-referencing techniques to search through national and county-level criminal databases, public records, and court documents. Your background check report is ultimately generated and forwarded to Amazon, with a detailed breakdown of your past criminal offenses. 

This whole process operates within the boundaries of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) . It compels Amazon and its background check providers to respect your privacy and rights when collecting and using the information. Any inaccuracies can otherwise be disputed through a formal application. 

How far back do they check?

The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), which governs the Amazon background check , restricts the reporting of most felony convictions to seven years.

Application of the rule can, however, vary depending on job location and felony category. States like California, Kansas, Maryland, Massachusetts, Montana, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, and Washington limit the look-back period for criminal convictions to seven years, whereas others may allow for longer or shorter periods for selected offenses. 

Not all felonies are treated the same way

Felonies are not all viewed equally by Amazon's hiring team. Instead, the company chooses to evaluate its applicants’ records on a case-by-case basis.  

They normally take into account the severity of the crime, the circumstances surrounding it, and any subsequent rehabilitation efforts. The information is then cross-referenced with Amazon’s job requirements to establish the potential risks or impacts that the applicant poses on the company.

For example, a history of theft might be concerning for roles in inventory management but less relevant for other positions. Similarly, violent crimes will typically invite more scrutiny than non-violent offenses.

Take it from James Enright , an L5 veteran with six years of experience across a Fulfillment Center, a Sortation Center, and roles in Reverse Logistics (Returns). He confirms that some of his colleagues in L4 and L5 manager positions came into the company with records of shoplifting convictions and third-degree theft charges. 

However, Jesse Gauthier , a Michigan fulfillment center associate, warns that the leniency might not extend to applicants who’ve previously been caught stealing from Amazon itself. He emphasizes that the company is unforgiving even towards ex-employees blacklisted for stealing from their colleagues in the break room. 

The outcome depends on your state, too

The hiring of individuals with felony convictions at Amazon is also influenced by state-specific regulations. These guidelines define the look-back period for criminal records and the types of offenses that can be considered by employers.

In states with lenient laws, individuals with older convictions may have an easier time finding employment at Amazon. However, stricter states might pose more challenges due to a more extensive review of criminal history.

Consider, for instance, the " Ban the Box ” law, which has already been implemented across 37 states – including California, Illinois, Nebraska, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, and Washington. It prohibits employers from starting their applications with inquiries about criminal history.  Applicants in those jurisdictions should first be assessed on their qualifications, and only after getting a conditional job offer can their criminal history be reviewed. 

Applicants with felony convictions should thus refer to state-specific resources to understand how their employment prospects shape up at Amazon. You can begin with publications from the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) or your state’s Department of Labor. Then for personalized assistance, you might want to consult a lawyer or employment counselor.

Types of felonies that may disqualify your Amazon warehouse application

Having established that felonies are not all treated the same, here are some specific types that may reduce your chances of getting hired by Amazon: 

  • Violent Crimes: Convictions for domestic violence, aggravated assault, manslaughter, or armed robbery are serious concerns for Amazon, especially in a warehouse setting where employee interaction is frequent. They are viewed as major threats to the safety and well-being of the workforce. 

In the two years Justin James has worked in an Amazon delivery station, he hasn’t witnessed any disputes or violence between workmates. He attributes this constant harmony to Amazon’s zero-tolerance policy for violence. 

  • Theft and Fraud: Felonies involving theft, embezzlement, or fraud directly conflict with the level of trustworthiness required for roles that manage inventory. Amazon needs reliable personnel in these positions to coordinate its extensive inventory and loss prevention strategies. 

“As far as I know, there is a zero-tolerance policy on theft as well,” adds Justin

“I've even heard of some sites installing security checkpoints at the entrances and exits,” he explains. “My site has no security checkpoints but there are cameras everywhere.”

  • Drug Trafficking: While personal drug use may be assessed more leniently, convictions for drug trafficking or manufacturing suggest deeper criminal involvement. They raise suspicions about potential illegal activities on the premises, which may compromise workplace safety and legal compliance.
  • Sexual Offenses: Individuals with convictions for sexual offenses might face disqualification due to the public and legal sensitivities surrounding the crimes. They contravene Amazon's commitment to maintaining a harassment-free workplace. 
  • Serious Traffic Offenses: For roles that involve operating vehicles or machinery – such as forklifts – serious traffic offenses like DUIs imply a potential threat to the physical safety of the workplace and operational efficiency. 

Misdemeanors vs felonies

In the United States, criminal offenses are primarily categorized into misdemeanors and felonies. The former are less severe and they carry lighter sentences of not more than one year in a local or county jail. Examples include petty theft and minor drug violations.

Felonies, on the other hand, are more serious crimes with sentences often exceeding one year in state or federal prisons. This is where you place aggravated assault, robbery, and drug trafficking, among other major violations. 

The team at Amazon maintains the same inclination in the treatment of the two categories of crimes. Misdemeanors tend to attract fewer consequences for applicants since they pose less risks to the platform’s operations.  

That’s not to say they’re irrelevant. Misdemeanors can still influence the company’s hiring decisions, especially if they are recent or directly relevant to the job responsibilities. 

The assessment of misdemeanors at Amazon also considers the frequency of occurrence. A pattern of similar offenses might, for instance, suggest a habitual behavior that could be problematic in the workplace.

That notwithstanding, James insists that it can be difficult to know exactly where Amazon’s recruitment team draws the line.  

“I’ve seen a lot of felons coming into our New Jersey warehouses,” he says. 

“I even have an area manager who is a multiple-time felon in three different states.” He then adds, “If you were to google his name, you’d find all sorts of articles written about his family, run-ins with the law, police chase incidents, and criminal cases.”

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. James further admits that he’s also seen Amazon hiring felons who are fresh out of jail after serving time for manslaughter charges. 

Tips for getting hired on with a felony record

Applicants with a felony record can boost their chances of securing a warehouse job by:

  • Preparing for the Background Check: Amazon's background checks are outsourced to third-party companies like Sterling Infosystems or Accurate. Familiarize yourself with their platforms, and compile documentation that verifies your employment history and educational qualifications. If there are gaps due to incarceration, fill them up with relevant evidence of your rehabilitation.
  • Developing a Disclosure Statement: If your felony is likely to surface in the background check, prepare a statement to discuss it during the interview. It should cover the nature of the felony, rehabilitation efforts, and any community service or skill development undertaken post-conviction. 
  • Networking and Seeking Employee Referrals: Connect with people working in Amazon warehouse roles. Their referrals may greatly enhance the likelihood of your application being pushed through in the event of any controversy. You could also establish direct networks by attending job fairs hosted by Amazon recruiters. 

As James clarifies, “The majority of felons who work in my building started as temporary or white badge workers and then worked their way up from there.” 

Steps to take when your Amazon job application is rejected due to criminal past

If Amazon rejects your job application because of a felony record, you can take the following steps to address the issue:

  1. Understand the Rejection: The process begins with an email from Amazon's recruitment team, informing you of the rejection. It’ll also specify the reason, which may include a failed background check due to a felony.
  2. Request a Background Check Report: Under the FCRA, you are entitled to a free copy of your background check report if it played a role in the rejection. Request it from either Amazon or the third-party agency that conducted the check.
  3. Examine the Report for Errors: Carefully review the report for any inaccuracies or outdated information about your felony. Check for mistakes in dates, charge details, or the status of your conviction (especially if records have been expunged or sealed.)
  4. File a Dispute Over Inaccuracies: If you find errors, dispute them with the background check provider. Submit a formal dispute letter with supporting documents – like court records or legal documents – to validate your claim.
  5. Wait for the Background Check Company’s Response: Upon receiving your filed dispute, the background check company is supposed to conduct investigations within 30 days or so. They should then rectify any inaccuracies and update your background check report
  6. Follow-up with Amazon: Once the report has been corrected, reach out to Amazon's HR department to inform them of the changes and request them to reconsider your application.
  7. Prepare for Future Applications: If, after these steps, your application remains rejected, you can switch to strengthening your profile for future job opportunities. Continue participating in rehabilitation programs, skill development courses, and community service. While at it, document all the efforts as they’ll help in showcasing your commitment to personal growth and rehabilitation in subsequent applications.

According to Jesse , you can reapply to Amazon 90 days after the rejection and the platform will reevaluate your eligibility afresh. 

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