It is common knowledge that having a criminal record – no matter how minor – can close a lot of doors of opportunity. A criminal conviction can make it far more difficult to get a job, go to school or find a safe place to live.
In limited cases, it might make sense to discriminate against a job candidate based on a prior conviction if that conviction was directly related to the type of work being offered (someone convicted of fraud may not be allowed to work in the finance industry, for instance). But much of the time, a criminal record for small offenses like drug possession or petty theft can disqualify a job candidate even if it would have no effect on a person’s ability to do the job. Thankfully, some states and some companies are trying to change this practice.
Many states have passed so-called “ban the box” legislation, which prevents employers from asking about criminal records early in the application process. And some companies are choosing to overlook minor criminal convictions when they have no relationship to the work being offered.
Last month, ride-sharing company Uber Technologies announced that it is adopting such a policy in Connecticut. Starting in 2017, applicants will not be barred from driving for Uber due to nonviolent misdemeanor convictions on their records within the past seven years. The company will continue to reject applicants, however, if their misdemeanor convictions are related to “violence, sex crimes or serious motor vehicle violations,” according to news sources. One or more felony convictions within the past seven years will also disqualify a candidate.
The executive director of the Connecticut ACLU praised the move. He said: “It’s good for everybody and it’s good for public safety too. When people with a criminal record are able to get employment, it stabilizes their lives … and they’re less likely to offend again.”
Hopefully, more states and more companies will be changing laws and policies to be more inclusive of those with criminal records. In the meantime, if you have been charged with a crime, you should know that discrimination based on criminal history is still pervasive. As such, you may wish to speak to your attorney about pursuing options that could minimize charges or avoid the need for prosecution.