Can My Personal Life Affect Security Clearance?

There are various state and federal laws which govern the workplace – these laws fall under the category of “employment law.” Such laws address when someone can be fired, sexual harassment in the workplace, discrimination, whistleblower claims, pregnancy and disability, workplace injuries, workplace safety under OSHA guidelines, immigrant workers, employment contracts, and so on.

When it comes to one’s job, their personal life may or may not affect their employment status. It depends on the facts of the case. For example, it’s illegal for a person to be fired because of their gender or sexual orientation. As far as personal finances, a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy in an employee’s past does not usually affect traditional employment, nor should an employee’s affiliation with a foreign influence.

A criminal conviction can affect anyone’s job, especially since most states are “employment at-will” states, meaning an employer can fire someone for any reason as long as there’s no contract and it’s not based on discrimination. According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), it’s illegal for employers to discriminate against workers due to age, disability, genetic information, national origin, pregnancy, race, religion, retaliation, and sex. But what about security clearance, do applicants have the same rights and protections as people applying for civilian jobs?

Holding Applicants to Higher Standards

When someone applies for security clearance, they are definitely held to a much higher standard than those who apply for traditional civilian jobs. However, that doesn’t mean that applicants are being discriminated against – that’s not the case. The U.S. government has to protect national security and for this reason, applicants go through a rigorous screening process, which includes a background investigation that looks far back into an applicant’s past.

“Can I be denied security clearance because of my personal life?” In a word, yes. The background investigation will look at your financial history, it will look for any history of drug or alcohol abuse, any mental health problems, foreign preference, alcohol consumption, criminal conduct, foreign influence and even sexual behavior. So, while a diagnosis of clinical depression, a recent Chapter 7 bankruptcy, a conviction for domestic violence, or complaints against you for sexual harassment may not affect your ability to get a job in the civilian world, they can lead to a security clearance denial.

How is this so? Because, for people to gain security clearance, they must show that they have a strong character, that they are trustworthy, honest, reliable, and exercise sound judgement. Unfortunately, applicants can have issues in their personal life that can cause investigators to question their strength of character. In effect, such issues can lead to the denial of security clearance.

Was your application for security clearance denied because of your personal life? If so, contact our firm to discuss your case with a security clearance attorney.