Pennsylvania state Rep. Darisha Parker, a Democrat whose district covers parts of Philadelphia, introduced a bill this week that would seriously restrict an employer’s ability to consider a job applicant’s criminal history in hiring decisions.
Off-limits to employers under the Fair Criminal Record Screening Act would be questions about an applicant’s juvenile criminal history, summary offenses, “cases that did not result in convictions, and cases that were expunged or pardoned,” according to The Pennsylvania Daily Star, an online newspaper in the Keystone State.
“All too often otherwise qualified individuals are not considered for jobs because they have a past criminal offense,” Parker said in a news release on her government website.
In the statement, Parker said statistics that show that almost one-third of all Americans have a criminal record.
“Many of these offenses are unrelated to the job in question, are non-violent in nature, or occurred in adolescence,” she explained in the news release.
On the other hand, some offenses are relevant to many jobs. A criminal history of repeated thefts comes to mind.
Parker continued: “While both federal and state law offer some protections in this area, it is clear more needs to be done to give these job seekers, as well as those currently employed, a second chance by removing unfair roadblocks to economic stability. Not only is this good for job seekers, it is also good for employers who might overlook otherwise qualified individuals because of a mistake made years ago.”
“This legislation is a win-win for employees and employers alike,” Parker said.
How exactly is this a win for employers? Parker explained it will help those “who might overlook otherwise qualified individuals.”
The Star reported some “ban the box” measures, as this type of legislation is called, are already in effect in Pennsylvania.
The article cited Democratic Gov, Tom Wolf’s elimination of “questions about past criminal convictions from most state employment applications” in 2017.
In addition, the city of Philadelphia banned employers from asking about a job applicant’s “past criminal offenses” in 2016, according to the Star. This leniency may help explain its reputation as one of the most corrupt cities in the U.S.
In a 2017 essay about “ban the box” measures, Heritage Foundation senior legal fellows John Malcolm and John-Michael Seibler acknowledged that an ex-convicts’ ability to find a meaningful job is perhaps the most critical “factor in reducing recidivism.”
That said, they wrote that public ban-the-box policies might actually hurt job prospects for “young, low-skilled, minority male job seekers” more than they help.
Employers, they maintain, prevented from conducting proper background checks, will resort to racial profiling as they seek to protect themselves and their businesses.
“Specifically,” wrote Malcolm and Seibler, “private employers, if prohibited from inquiring into an applicant’s criminal background, may resort instead to assumptions or stereotypes based on observable characteristics such as race or gender in order to infer the likelihood that the applicant has a criminal history, thereby increasing racial or gender disparities beyond what they would have been had the employer been able to do a background check in the first instance.”
Above all, they argued, these initiatives should be voluntary.
“Some jurisdictions have gone so far as to make it a crime for an employer to ask about an individual’s criminal history,” Malcolm and Seibler explained. “Such overcriminalization takes ban the box fervor too far.
“Further complicating the landscape, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has published Enforcement Guidance on the use of criminal records in employment decisions and has sued private employers, alleging unlawful discrimination for not following its guidance. This is both unsound and possibly unlawful.”
“Ban the box” laws make it extremely difficult for employers to fill sensitive positions in a secure way.
Considering Pennsylvania’s legislature is controlled by Republicans, the success of Parker’s bill is questionable.
But there’s no question what its ramifications would be for employers — taking a risk while flying blind.
Imagine, for instance, that you are the owner of a store that sells high-end, easily concealable items such as jewelry or electronics. You are considering a 20-something applicant and you have no idea he has a 50-page long juvenile criminal history that includes theft.
Or you run a nursery school and you’re looking to hire a teacher’s aide. The point is that an employer has a right to know a potential employee’s criminal history.
A question for the bleeding hearts: At what point are the rights of law-abiding citizens taken into account? Oh … that’s right.
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.