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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2017 - 2018 Regular Session


Posted: December 8, 2016 03:17 PM
From: Senator Stewart J. Greenleaf
To: All Senate members
Subject: Use of criminal records by employers
I will be reintroducing Senate Bill 1135 of last session. As a nation, we destroy the lives of hard-working people and cripple our ability to compete in a global marketplace by using criminal records as a black mark against a potential member of the labor force. Criminologists tell us that after seven years with no new charges, an offender is just as likely to commit a new crime as anyone else in the general population. There are as many as 200,000 people in the Commonwealth with criminal records that are 10 or more years old. Even though meaningful employment is a crucial factor in predicting recidivism, we impose a life sentence of poverty and unemployment on people with criminal records by allowing those records to be obstacles to employment.

Under current law, an employer may only consider felonies or misdemeanors in the criminal history record information of a job applicant if the felonies or misdemeanors are relevant to the applicant’s suitability for employment in the position for which the applicant has applied. The employer must notify the applicant in writing if the decision not to hire the applicant is based in whole or in part on the applicant’s criminal record. The law provides for a cause of action against employers who violate this limitation on the use of criminal records. This bill would not prevent an employer from suspending or terminating an employee who gets arrested while working for the employer; the bill only applies to the use of old criminal records to justify an adverse employment action.

There is, however, no such limitation on the use of criminal records for existing employees. Common sense indicates that there is no greater indication of a person’s suitability for a particular employment position than actual experience in that position. We nonetheless allow employers to terminate an employee on the basis of a criminal record.

Please join me in sponsoring this legislation to give the same protection to existing employees that applies to job applicants. My bill will clarify that criminal records may be used to justify an adverse employment decision against current employees only if the criminal records are relevant to the employee’s suitability for the particular position.

Introduced as SB1043