OLR Bill Analysis

sHB 5237

AN ACT CONCERNING FAIR CHANCE EMPLOYMENT.

SUMMARY:

This bill provides employment protections for certain employees and job applicants with criminal conviction records. It generally prohibits employers (including their agents, representatives, and designees) from denying employment to a job applicant, or discharging or discriminating against a current employee, solely because he or she was convicted of a (1) misdemeanor, if it has been at least five years since he or she was released from the correction commissioner's custody or (2) felony, if it has been at least 10 years since he or she was released from the commissioner's custody. (It is unclear, but it appears that these protections would not extend to those who were convicted but never imprisoned.) The prohibitions do not apply to positions for which state law specifically disqualifies someone because of a prior criminal conviction.

The bill also generally prohibits employers from requiring an employee or prospective employee to complete a job application with questions about their criminal history until the employer makes a “conditional offer of employment.” Under the bill, this is an employment offer that requires an applicant to successfully complete the employer's application process, which can include drug testing, criminal history records checks, or verifying the validity of any necessary licenses. The bill allows exceptions on applications for numerous positions specified in the bill. It also allows employers to require the disclosure of any arrest, criminal charge, or conviction, including those that have been erased, if it is required under any applicable state or federal law.

Under the bill, applicants and employees can file complaints about violations of the bill's job application provisions with the labor commissioner.

EFFECTIVE DATE: October 1, 2016

JOB PROTECTIONS & EXCEPTIONS

Current law prohibits employers from denying employment to a job applicant, or discharging or discriminating against a current employee, solely because he or she (1) has criminal records that were erased under certain circumstances or (2) a prior conviction for which he or she received a pardon or certificate of rehabilitation under certain circumstances. The bill extends this prohibition to include applicants and employees convicted of a (1) misdemeanor, if it has been at least five years since he or she was released from the correction commissioner's custody or (2) felony, if it has been at least 10 years since he or she was released from the commissioner's custody. It also allows exceptions to all of these prohibitions, including those in current law, if state law specifically disqualifies someone because of a prior criminal conviction.

EXCEPTIONS FOR APPLICATIONS

The bill allows employers to include questions about an applicant's criminal history on applications for the following positions:

1. correction officer;

2. the Division of Criminal Justice's judicial or state marshals, juvenile or adult probation officers, juvenile detention officers, and investigators;

3. state or municipal police;

4. police forces for the (a) constituent units of the state higher education system or the independent higher education institutions in the state, (b) Bradley International Airport police, and (c) Capitol police; and

5. employees of certain registered broker-dealers, investment advisers, insured depository institutions, or licensed insurance producers that the law allows to see an employee's criminal history record.

ENFORCEMENT

The bill allows employees and applicants to file a complaint with the labor commissioner alleging that an employer required them to prematurely complete a job application with questions about their criminal history. Upon receiving the complaint, the commissioner must investigate and may hold a hearing. After the hearing, he must send each party a written copy of his decision and award reasonable attorney's fees to a prevailing employee or applicant. Any party aggrieved by the commissioner's decision may appeal to Superior Court.

By law, violators of either of the bill's provisions would also be subject to a $300 per violation civil penalty imposed by the Department of Labor (CGS 31-69a).

COMMITTEE ACTION

Labor and Public Employees Committee

Joint Favorable Substitute

Yea

13

Nay

0

(03/10/2016)