This piece comes to us courtesy of Stateline. Stateline is a nonpartisan, nonprofit news service of the Pew Charitable Trusts that provides daily reporting and analysis on trends in state policy.
When Dwyane Jordan got busted four years ago on felony drug-peddling charges, he was thankful to get probation and addiction treatment rather than prison time.
What he didn’t bargain for was the haunting effect that being branded a felon would have on his ability to lawfully earn a living—a burden he shares with roughly 70 million U.S. adults who have criminal records. “It reminds me of ‘The Scarlet Letter,’” said Jordan, 43, of Washington, D.C.
Jordan’s criminal past comes up nearly every time he applies for a job, because most employment applications ask him to check a box if he has been convicted of a felony. He has been tempted to lie about his conviction, because he believes marking the box has prompted multiple employers to reject him in the past year. But if the employer runs a background check and learns the truth, he’d be disqualified anyway.
A criminal record is such a stumbling block to employment that many states, cities and counties are passing laws to remove the question from applications for government jobs. Increasingly, some are forcing private employers to ban the question, too.
So far this year, Delaware and Nebraska have passed legislation to “ban the box” from application forms for most state, city and county jobs. In the past five years, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Minnesota and Rhode Island and the District of Columbia have banned the box for most state jobs. Hawaii was the first state to ban the box in 1998.
Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal, a Republican, plans to ban the box from applications for most state jobs by executive order as soon as next month, according to spokeswoman Sasha Dlugolenski. Legislation is pending in New Jersey. And more than 60 cities and counties – from Indianapolis to Kansas City, Missouri, to Alameda County, California -- have adopted similar laws for government employment. Rochester, New York, did so this week.
For businesses, an employee handbook can serve as protection against an unhappy or angry employee if they want to sue. In most cases, an employee handbook can be shown as evidence that certain policies exist. Things that should be outlined include, harassment issues, contracted employee length, compensation and benefits. Depending upon the circumstances, the factors that are outlined in an employee handbook may be presented in court. It can also set the rules of the game and clarify the expectations of the employer and the employee in major areas such as breaks and benefits. An employee handbook should be carefully worded by an expert in order to avoid inadvertent legal liability.
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