Thursday, March 4, 2010

Job Fair for Felons

CNN reports that more than 3,000 people turned out in Houston, Texas for a job fair. In this down economy, it's certainly not unusual to have a job fair, and it's practically the norm for there to be a line around the block. What makes this one interesting is that it was designed for convicted felons.

The job market is brutal right now, but particularly rough for those with criminal records. Both employers and potential employees with criminal records should familiarize themselves with the law regarding hiring criminals. Pennsylvania has a statute governing this very issue:
"(b) Use of information.--Felony and misdemeanor convictions may be considered by the employer only to the extent to which they relate to the applicant's suitability for employment in the position for which he has applied."
18 Pa. C.S. § 9125. There is also a provision requiring employers to notify employees when a hiring decision is based on criminal history.

In short, employers are generally free to grant second chances to candidates with criminal records. Employers that don't wish to take a chance on an individual's second chance may take prior convictions into consideration to the extent they relate to the position.

There's another side to this equation though. That is, employers must be aware of when they can consider criminal convictions and situations in which they must. The Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (PHRC) has invited comments on its Policy Guidance Concerning the Disparate Impact Discrimination Implications of a Denial of Employment Based on a Criminal Record. Disparate impact liability is one consideration, but I actually linked to the guide because it contains a helpful appendix.

The appendix highlights employment prohibited by law. For example, airports may not hire individuals convicted of federal hijacking, and child care may not hire individuals with convictions for kidnapping. The appendix also highlights issues concerning the implications of criminal convictions for Pennsylvania occupational licensing.



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Posted by Philip Miles, an employment lawyer with McQuaide Blasko in State College, Pennsylvania.