Under the Criminal History Record Information Act, those with criminal convictions, who have already fully paid their debt to society, cannot be discriminated against unreasonably through a company’s employment practices. The Act covers arrests and convictions unrelated to the position sought. You may recall that back in May, we described the process and importance of expungement, whereby certain criminal convictions can be erased from state records. According to a recent press release from the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia, financial compensation may be available for those wrongfully terminated because of an old criminal conviction or arrest unrelated to their position.
Marc Kitchens, a father of three, worked as a supervising data specialist for a company that provided medical provider databases. He worked his way up through the company, receiving strong recommendations along the way. When Veeva Systems, Inc. took over the company, management asked Mr. Kitchens to apply for a higher-ranking position and began the initial process of promoting him. However, a standard background check turned up a 5-year old drug conviction. Following company policy, instead of promoting Mr. Kitchens, Veeva Systems fired him.
Mr. Kitchens, of Cherry Hill, N.J., this week entered into a legal settlement agreement which included an undisclosed financial reward – compensation for the damage to his career and reputation caused by Veeva’s illegal employment practice. Additionally, Veeva agreed to institute hiring practices and policies that do not automatically disqualify applicants with criminal backgrounds.
The importance of laws protecting those previously convicted of crimes cannot be understated. The collateral consequences of a conviction affect every part of a person’s life for the duration of their lifetime. In Philadelphia, an estimated 20% of adults have a criminal record that impacts their ability to find and keep gainful employment. Minorities are disproportionately impacted by corporate policies that utilize background checks for hiring decisions. One of the primary purposes of the Criminal History Record Information Act is to protect individuals trying to re-enter society after having completed their sentences. It exists to protects individuals like Mr. Kitchens, and many others like him, who are working, contributing, and attempting to provide for their families in the face of an oppressive regime of collateral consequences stemming from their past mistakes.
While expungement remains the best first option for those eligible, this financial settlement agreement is evidence of a growing trend in Pennsylvania Courts. If you or someone you know has been fired from a position, or not hired in the first place, due to a past criminal arrest or conviction, contact a Fairlie & Lippy attorney today for a free consultation to learn your legal rights.