Sometimes, good people make mistakes. When they have served their time in jail or prison, we say they have “paid their debt to society.” In many cases, people who have made one mistake in the past and have spent time in jail and want to make better choices in the future.
In order to do that, one of the first things anyone will need to do after serving a sentence is to seek a job. Legal employment offers benefits and structure. It can create a system of support and can provide an income needed to pay for housing, food and other necessities.
In many cases, however, people who have served time in jail or prison feel discriminated against. In some states and cities, private employers are allowed to run background checks and ask about previous convictions and charges. Unfortunately, in a competitive job market, employers are unlikely to choose someone with a criminal record.
When employers are allowed to ask about past charges and base hiring decisions on past convictions, it can be a challenge for someone with a record to get a job. To address the issue, cities are passing laws to remove this part of the hiring process.
In Philadelphia, for instance, employers are not permitted to consider convictions seven or more years old. A new law going into effect in the city in March 2016 does not permit private employers to ask about more recent convictions until a provisional offer has been made. Before March 2016, employers could ask the question at the interview stage.
In Philadelphia, employment cannot be denied because of a conviction until an employer has examined the specifics of your record and has conducted an assessment. Even then, a denial of employment based on a record can only happen if there is a risk to the business, customers or co-workers. Thus, someone convicted of harming children cannot be denied work at a manufacturing plant where no children work or visit — unless the company can prove the record somehow impacts job performance. Even then, employers need to submit a written letter to the potential employee explaining their decision and giving the applicant two weeks to respond.
Starting Life Over
Someone starting life anew after a conviction faces many challenges. Employment doesn’t have to be one of them. More than 60 cities and 16 states have “ban-the-box” rules preventing employers from asking about convictions on job applications.
If you have a record and feel you have been discriminated against during the hiring process, your prospective employer may have violated employment laws, state/city rules banning questions or hiring practices targeting those with records. To find out whether you have a claim or other remedies, contact McCarthy Weisberg Cummings to speak to one of our employment claims attorneys.
Our law firm is deeply committed to ensuring employees are protected in the workplace. Our legal team listens attentively and creates personalized plans of action for those whose rights have been affected by unfair employment practices.