Denying Ex-Convicts A Job is Unconstitutional, Court Rules

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Employers who deny jobs to ex-offenders based on just their past felonies are unjustified, Pennsylvania court says.

Pennsylvania Court Rules Refusing Employment

A Pennsylvanian court ruled against a law preventing as many as 200,000 ex-prisoners from getting employment.

The court, comprising of a seven-judge panel, passed a verdict that stated that state’s Older Adult Protective Services Act was unconstitutional — the bill was considered too broad in demarcating the types of crimes which rendered a person ineligible to get employment after he leaves prison.

Judge Mary Hannah, who was part of the panel members  voted against the law, and explained that the policy made no provisions for factors like the type of felony committed, the circumstances surrounding the incident, the time lapse or the requirements for the job.

"The employee's criminal history is the single and overriding factor that a potential employer may consider," she said.

The bill was reconsidered as part of a legal challenge posed by five ex-felons who were convicted for drug possession, theft, fraud and disorderly conduct 15 to 34 years ago; none of them had committed a felony since.

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The Pennsylvania Supreme Court had previously ruled the lifetime employment ban law to be against the constitutional rights of an individual; however they did not strike it down 14 years ago, which resulted in this new cycle of lawsuits.

A case in example is that of K.C., who at 21 years of age was released from prison in 1997 after doing his time; however 18 years later, he was still without a job and with a broken spirit. Throughout America, more than 92 percent of companies do a background check on their employees.

With those figures in mind, recently President Obama has announced an executive action “banning the box,” which is a step forward in ensuring that ex-offenders are judged by their qualifications, not their past crimes.

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