Labor and Public Employees Committee

JOINT FAVORABLE REPORT

Bill No.:

HB-5207

Title:

AN ACT CONCERNING CRIMINAL BACKGROUND CHECKS FOR PROSPECTIVE STATE EMPLOYEES.

Vote Date:

3/9/2010

Vote Action:

Joint Favorable Substitute Change of Reference to Government Administration and Elections

PH Date:

2/25/2010

File No.:

SPONSORS OF BILL:

Rep. Tim O'Brien

REASONS FOR BILL:

To require state employers to make employment offers to individuals before conducting a criminal background check.

SUBSTITUTE LANGUAGE:

Prohibits background checks for prospective state employees, unless current law requires it.

RESPONSE FROM ADMINISTRATION/AGENCY:

Chief State's Attorney Kevin T. Kane: OPPOSED

Attorney Kane and the Division of Criminal Justice is opposed to the bill because it would limit the ability a state agency to request or conduct background checks until an offer of employment is made. This is especially important for positions of public trust. The committee should create legislation so that it would not affect a state agency from conducting background investigations, including credit checks and consumer reports for on those nominated for positions of public trust.

Linda J. Yelmini, Office of Policy and Management: OPPOSED

The Office of Policy and Management opposes the bill because it would require an offer of employment be made without regard to criminal background information. This bill would be disastrous for State agencies. The types of offers of employment that could be made include Department of Children and Families could offer employment to a convicted child molester, Department of Correction could offer employment to a convicted drug dealer and the Department of Public Safety could offer employment to any sort of convicted felon.

NATURE AND SOURCES OF SUPPORT:

Alexis N. Highsmith, GHLA:

Mrs. Highsmith is in support because removing unnecessary obstacles to employment should be high priority during economic times like this. The GHLA believes in “ban the box” approach which would create a level playing field for ex-offenders. By removing questions pertaining to an applicant's criminal history, a prospective employer can be evaluated on merits and criminal history can be left for a later phase in the hiring process.

Nadine Nevins, CLS:

Connecticut Legal Services' are in support because the bill is an important first step towards rectifying discrimination ex-offenders face in obtaining employment. They believe an individual should be given the opportunity to prove themselves on a job before they are subject to a background check. Ex-offender having trouble finding employment, who are unable to support their families, are creating an underclass of people in Connecticut's big cities.

Ellen Small, CABHN:

CABHN supports the bill for three main reasons. The bill gives individuals with criminal backgrounds a chance to be evaluated for a position based on their skills and qualifications, rather than the mistake of their past. The bill increases the opportunity for an individual with a criminal history to obtain gainful, stable employment giving them purpose and consistent income. The bill will reduce the stigma associated with having a criminal history.

David Schultz:

Mr. Schultz supports the bill because he believes the bill will assure ex-offenders do not end up back in prison. He believes the bill will help curb the high rates of discrimination that ex-offenders face when applying for employment.

Jennifer Garrison:

Garrison is in support because she sees clients at her work (Chrysalis Center's Employment Support Network), who are very capable people trying to support themselves and their families, not being able to obtain employment because of there criminal history. She is in favor of “ban the box” which screens out ex-offenders before they ever get an opportunity for employment.

rJo Winch, City Council, Hartford:

Councilwomen Winch supports the bill because she believes it is unfair to people serve a length of time in our justice system and then serve a life sentence in society because of an individual's criminal history.

Jacqueline Caron, Connecticut Pardon Team, Inc.:

Caron supports the bill because ex-offenders often have to overcome tremendous hurdles while searching for employment. Employers performing a routine search find the negative information and put that applicant at the bottom of the list.

Barbara Fair:

Ms. Fair supports the bill because currently it is a systematic mode of discriminating against a certain segment of our society and an excuse not to hire an individual with a criminal record. There are too many people that return to prison because upon release they can not find employment.

Rev. Anne H. Higgins:

Higgins support the bill because she believes a released prisoner should have a fair chance to build a new life without crime. There are currently too many barriers for ex-offenders to over come when searching for employment.

Emily Sheehan, RISE:

Sheehan and RISE support the bill because requesting applicants to disclose history of a felony conviction during the first stage of applying to a job fosters discrimination. They also believe in banning the box for job applicants.

Audrey Richards:

Richards supports the bill because her son is directly affected having a criminal record. He was denied employment numerous times and was always told they cannot hire him due to his felony record.

James D. Butler III:

Mr. Butler supports the bill because he has been denied employment due to his criminal record. When applying for a job, employers are interested until they find out his felony background.

Marc Mauer, The Sentencing Project:

The Sentencing Project supports the bill because employment opportunities are typically limited for individuals with criminal records and are perhaps one of the most troublesome collateral consequences of a conviction. The bill would also prohibit public employers from inquiring about a job applicant's criminal history until after the prospective employee has been deemed qualified for the position and a conditional offer of employment has been extended. The legislation provides individuals who have criminal records with more opportunities for employment based on there qualifications and skills, rather than their criminal record. The bill can help ex-offenders turn their lives around through personal growth. Barriers to employment can only hinder those efforts.

NATURE AND SOURCES OF OPPOSITION:

Robert J. Brothers, Jr., CHRO:

CHRO cannot fully support the bill because there can be significant costs associated with recruitment and screening of applicants for State agencies where criminal background checks are necessary. Waiting until an offer is made only to find out that the applicant is disqualified because of a criminal record is cruel to the person this bill seeks to protect.

Reported by: Marco Merati

Date: 3/10/10