Location:
CRIME AND CRIMINALS; EMPLOYMENT;
Scope:
Connecticut laws/regulations; Background;

OLR Research Report


July 16, 2012

 

2012-R-0252

FELONY CONVICTIONS AND EMPLOYMENT

By: Christopher Reinhart, Chief Attorney

You asked about the consequences of a felony conviction on employment. This report updates OLR Report 2005-R-0311.

SUMMARY

With limited exceptions, the law prohibits the state from disqualifying a person from engaging in an occupation, profession, or business that requires a state credential (such as a license or permit) solely because of a prior criminal conviction. Similarly, a person cannot be denied state employment solely because of a prior conviction. The law allows a state agency or board to deny employment or a credential only if it finds a person unsuitable after considering certain factors. The limited exceptions to this rule apply to (1) law enforcement agencies, (2) certain mortgage licensees, and (3) long-term care facility service providers with direct access to patients who are convicted of certain crimes. The bar described above does not apply to these entities or people.

In addition, public and private employers cannot (1) use criminal histories to discriminate against a potential employee in violation of federal law or (2) deny employment to or discharge a person because of a conviction for which the person received a pardon. The Board of Pardons and Paroles can also issue a provisional pardon to a person to relieve him or her of certain barriers to employment or obtaining a license or permit. A provisional pardon, for example, could make someone eligible for a credential that might otherwise be denied due to a felony conviction.

STATE EMPLOYMENT AND STATE-ISSUED CREDENTIALS

Connecticut law declares the public policy of encouraging employers to hire qualified ex-offenders (CGS 46a-79). In furtherance of this policy, the law restricts the ability of state agencies and boards to deny employment or revoke or suspend licenses or permits based solely on a criminal conviction. A person is not “disqualified to practice, pursue or engage in any occupation, trade, vocation, profession or business for which a license, permit, certificate, or registration is required to be issued by the state or any of its agencies solely because of a prior conviction of a crime” (CGS 46a-80(a)).

Under the law, a person is not disqualified from state employment solely because of a prior conviction of a crime. The state can deny employment or a license, permit, certificate, or registration to a person with a prior felony conviction if he or she is found unsuitable after considering (1) the nature of the crime, (2) information relating to the degree of rehabilitation, and (3) the time elapsed since the conviction or release (CGS 46a-80).

These statutes (CGS 46a-79 et seq.) prevail over agencies' authority to deny licenses; however they do not apply to the:

1. licensure of a mortgage lender, correspondent lender, broker, loan originator, and loan processor or underwriter (CGS 36a-489) or

2. employment practices of law enforcement agencies, although an agency can adopt such a policy (CGS 46a-81).

Credentials and Felony Convictions

Subject to the policy described above, any state agency or board issuing a credential may consider a felony conviction when determining a person's suitability for the credential. Many statutes specifically list a felony conviction as a factor in denying, suspending, or revoking a credential. Table 1 displays the professions or jobs covered (they may also authorize actions based on specified misdemeanor convictions).

Table 1: Credentials That May Possibly be Denied, Suspended, or Revoked for any Felony Conviction

CGS

Profession or Job

CGS

Profession or Job

7-294d*

Police officers certified by the Police Officers Standards and Training Council

20-540

Public service gas technicians

19a-17 and other statutes

Healing arts, medicine and surgery, osteopathy, chiropractic, natureopathy, podiatry, physical therapists, nursing, nurse's aides, paramedics, acupuncturists

20-559e

Athlete agents

19a-17 and 20-12f

Physician assistants

20-656

Shorthand reporters

19a-17 and other statutes

Dentists

21-40

Pawnbrokers

19a-17 and other statutes

Optometrist and opticians

21-47d

Secondhand dealers

19a-17 and other statutes

Psychologists, marital and family therapists, clinical social workers, and professional counselors,

21-100

Purchasers of precious metals and stones

19a-17 and other statutes

Veterinarians

21a-70

Drug manufacturers or wholesalers

19a-17 and other statutes

Massage therapists

22a-66e

Pesticide application registrants (individuals or busineses)

19a-17 and other statutes

Dietician-nutritionists

29-145 and -147

Professional bondsmen

19a-17 and other statutes

Embalmers and funeral directors

29-152f

Bail enforcement agents

19a-17 and other statutes

Barbers, hairdressers, and cosmeticians

29-158

Private detectives and investigators

19a-17 and other statutes

Hypertrichologists

29-161q

Security officers

20-65m

Athletic trainers

29-161q

Security officer instructors

20-74cc and -74cc

Radiographers, radiologic technologists, and radiologist assistants

29-161z

Security officer firearms safety and use instructors

20-86h

Midwives

30-47

Sellers of alcohol

20-162cc

Perfusionists

36a-489(a) and -494*

Mortgage lenders, correspondent lenders, and brokers (these individuals can also lose their licenses based on the conviction of someone with control or supervision at the applicant's office)

20-192

Psychologists

36a-489(b) and -494*

Mortgage loan originators or loan processors or underwriters

20-195p

Social workers

36b-15

Registrants under the Uniform Securities Act (a broker-dealer or investment adviser can also lose a license because of a partner's, officer's, director's, similar person's, or controlling person's conviction)

20-281a

Certified public accountants, public accountants, and those with practice privileges

38a-465b

Life settlements providers and brokers (an individual can also lose a license because of a partner's, member's, director's, or officer's conviction)

20-294

Architects

38a-660

Surety bail bond agents

20-341gg

Major contractors

38a-702k and 38a-660(h)

Individuals and businesses selling insurance

20-363

Sanitarians

51-51i

Judges, family support magistrates, workers' compensation commissioners

20-481

Lead abatement consultants, contractors, and workers

51-91a

Attorneys

20-334

Electricians

● Plumbers

● Elevator contractors and craftsmen

● Contractors or journeymen performing heating, piping, and cooling; solar; fire protection sprinkler; irrigation; sheet metal; gas hearth; or automotive and flat glass work

PA 12-131

Fine art secured lenders

* These credential can be denied regardless of the law that prohibits the state from denying credentials solely based on a conviction.

In addition, the following businesses can lose their license to operate if an applicant, licensee, or a specified individual connected with the business is convicted of any felony: sales finance companies (CGS 36a-541 and -543), small loan lenders (CGS 36a-556 and -572), check cashing businesses (CGS 36a-581 and -587), money transmission businesses or payment instrument issuers (CGS 36a-600 and -608), debt adjusters (CGS 36a-656 and -657), debt negotiators (CGS 36a-671 and -671a), and consumer collection agencies (CGS 36a-801 and -804).

The registration of a business opportunity (selling or leasing products, supplies, or services to start a business) can be revoked if the seller or a partner, officer, director, a similar person, or anyone controlling or responsible for the seller's business is convicted of a felony (CGS 36b-68).

For insurance third party administrators (TPA), the TPA can lose its license if a person responsible for its affairs is convicted of a felony (CGS 38a-720m). A TPA directly or indirectly (1) underwrites; (2) collects charges or premiums; or (3) adjusts or settles claims on Connecticut residents with respect to life, annuity, or health coverage offered or provided by an insurer.

Other Credential Statutes

Other statutes allow an agency or board to deny a credential based on conviction of certain crimes or based on character or fitness. Education credentials provide an example.

The State Board of Education (SBE) can revoke a teacher or school administrator certificate or an authorization or permit (such as those held by athletic coaches, substitute teachers, and teachers teaching outside their endorsement area) of a person convicted of a crime of moral turpitude or of such a nature that the board feels that allowing the holder to keep the credential would impair the credential's standing (CGS 10-145b(j)(1)).

The SBE must revoke a certificate, permit, or authorization when the holder is convicted of certain crimes. This includes convictions for:

1. a capital felony;

2. arson murder;

3. any class A felony;

4. a class B felony, except first-degree larceny, computer crime, or vendor fraud;

5. risk of injury to a minor;

6. deprivation of a person's civil rights by a person wearing a mask or hood;

7. second-degree assault of an elderly, blind, disabled, or pregnant person or person with intellectual disability;

8. second-, third-, or fourth-degree sexual assault;

9. third-degree promoting prostitution;

10. enticing a minor;

11. substitution of children;

12. third-degree burglary with a firearm;

13. first-degree stalking;

14. incest;

15. obscenity as to minors;

16. importing child pornography;

17. criminal use of a firearm or electronic defense weapon;

18. possession of a weapon on school grounds;

19. manufacture or sale of illegal drugs; and

20. crimes involving child abuse or neglect (CGS 10-145b(j)(2)).

The SBE may deny a certificate, authorization, or permit application if the applicant has been convicted of a crime of moral turpitude or of such a nature that the board feels that granting the credential would impair its standing (CGS 10-145b(m)(3)). The SBE cannot issue or reissue a certificate for a person convicted of one of the crimes listed above until at least five years after the person finishes serving his or her sentence (including probation or parole) for the conviction (CGS 10-145i).

State Employees

The state Personnel Act permits state agencies to discharge classified employees for incompetence or “other reasons relating to the effective performance of [their] duties” (CGS 5-240(c)). Its regulations allow the state to dismiss employees who are convicted of a (1) felony, (2) misdemeanor committed while on duty, or (3) misdemeanor committed while off-duty that could affect their job performance (Conn. Agencies Regs. 5-240-1a). In most cases, it must give employees notice and a hearing prior to dismissal. And a union member may grieve and get an arbitrator's ruling on whether the conviction was just cause for discharge under the specific terms of the union contract.

FEDERAL LAW

Asking job applicants to indicate whether they have been convicted of a crime is permissible under federal law. Under the federal Equal Employment Opportunities Commission's (EEOC) interpretation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (42 USC. 2000e, et seq.), disqualifying people who have criminal records from jobs may be discriminatory because the practice disproportionately affects African American and Hispanic men. (Those two groups generally have higher criminal conviction rates than do Caucasian men.)

The EEOC states in its guidance documents that employers cannot simply bar felons from consideration, but must show that a conviction-based disqualification is justified by “business necessity.” Employers should examine the (1) nature and gravity of the offense or offenses, (2) length of time since the conviction or completion of sentence, and (3) nature of the job held or sought. Under this test, employers should consider the job-relatedness of a conviction, the circumstances of the offense, and the number of offenses (EEOC Guidance 915.002, April 25, 2012: http://www.eeoc.gov/laws/guidance/upload/arrest_conviction.pdf).

PARDONS

The law authorizes the Board of Pardons and Paroles to issue pardons to erase a conviction. State law prohibits employers, including the state and its political subdivisions, from taking certain actions against people who have their conviction records erased by an absolute pardon. An employer cannot require an employee or prospective employee to disclose such records or deny employment or discharge an employee solely because of records. An employment application form asking for criminal history information must contain a clear notice that the applicant need not disclose erased information and that he or she is considered never to have been arrested and can swear it under oath (CGS 31-51i).

CR:ro