Labor and Public Employees Committee

JOINT FAVORABLE REPORT

Bill No.:

HB-5237

Title:

AN ACT CONCERNING FAIR CHANCE EMPLOYMENT.

Vote Date:

3/10/2016

Vote Action:

Joint Favorable Substitute

PH Date:

3/3/2016

File No.:

SPONSORS OF BILL:

Labor and Public Employees Committee

Rep. Bruce V. Morris, 140th Dist.

Sen. Gary A. Winfield, 10th Dist.

Rep. Kelly J.S. Luxenberg, 12th Dist.

Rep. Robyn A. Porter, 94th Dist.

Rep. Brandon L. McGee, 5th Dist.

Rep. Charlie L. Stallworth, 126th Dist.

REASONS FOR BILL:

To end the practice of disclosing criminal convictions on job applications and to ensure that the criminal history of an applicant would be disclosed after an offer of employment has been made.

*** Substitute Language (LCO# 3049): (1) Allows employers to deny employment if it is required by state law. (2) Prohibits an employer from denying employment to a prospective employee solely on the basis of a conviction if five years for a misdemeanor or ten years for a felony have elapsed from the date of release from custody of the Commissioner of Correction, or; (4) Prohibits an employer from discharging or caused to discharge an employee solely on the basis of a conviction or a misdemeanor if five years have elapsed from the employee's date of release; (5) or a conviction for a felony if ten years have elapsed from the employee's date of release from custody of the Correction Commissioner.

RESPONSE FROM ADMINISTRATION/AGENCY:

State of Connecticut Department of Correction: Supports the intent and overall purpose of the bill. The Department of Corrections (DOC) has created programs to help support re-entry for ex-offenders and recognizes obtaining employment is one of the most difficult challenges. The DOC however, has some concerns with sections of the bill such as Subsection (i)(1) that would prohibit the department from asking prospective employees or employees about their criminal history until an offer of conditional employment is made. Some of the DOC positions are non-correctional officers positions, especially correctional officer positions which require time sensitive action since they must be filled in time to attend the DOC academy which is only in session at limited times a year. Subsection (d) is also a concern since it will prevent all employers from refusing to hire an applicant based on a prior arrest or conviction for a misdemeanor if more than two years have passed from the date of arrest. If criminal backgrounds checks are moved to after conditional offers of employment, it will increase the amount of resources and staff time. This would be very costly to the

Department of Correction.

State of Connecticut Judicial Branch, External Affairs Division: The Judicial Branch respectfully asks for a technical change to the bill in line 144, after “Police” and before “(D),” insert the words “or Supreme Court Police”. This change will make the legislation consistent with existing statutes and policy.

Subira Gordon, Legislative Analyst, Connecticut African-American Affairs Commission: a criminal record should exist for the police to be aware of your criminal history not as a barrier to employment. The bill removes the criminal record question from applications and limits the amount of time that employers can use that record as a disqualifier for employment, which both are instrumental in helping individuals get access to employment.

Werner Oyanadel, Executive Director, Connecticut Latino & Puerto Rican Affairs Commission (LPRAC): HB 5237 is paramount to LPRAC since 25 percent of the incarcerated population in Connecticut is of Latino descent, but account for only 13 percent of the state's adult population. In addition, Connecticut has the 3rd highest unemployment rate in the U.S. for Latinos at 11.8 percent. Some of the reasons for this are due to a disproportionate number of Latinos being sent to prison and the difficulty ex-offenders have in finding work after they are released.

Miriam Delphin-Rittmon, Commissioner, Connecticut Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (DMHAS): Our data shows that many of the men and women across the state that receive DMHAS services have been or are currently involved in the criminal justice system. Many people are not able to get “a foot in the door” of a prospective employer due to the criminal history question on job applications. Providing the opportunity to have an interview would allow candidates to be evaluated on their current merits, not past mistakes.

Cheryl Sharp, Deputy Director, Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities (CHRO): In addition to our support of the bill, our agency suggests that the bill be amended to designate CHRO as the agency in charge with enforcing the provisions. CHRO already has a mechanism for the investigating and litigating complaints of discrimination based on race, color, disability, and this also includes discrimination based a previous criminal conviction (Conn. Gen. Stat 46a-80). This bill seeks to broaden the legal theories under which an individual can file a complaint.

Alok Bhatt, Legislative Analyst, Asian Pacific American Affairs Commission (APAAC): Without a chance to reintegrate into the community, the risk of recidivism greatly increases. To sustain its social and economic well-being, the State of Connecticut must take steps to ensure that formerly incarcerated individuals have an opportunity to find employment.

Jillian Gilchrest, Senior Policy Analyst, Permanent Commission on the Status of Women: In March of 2014, a collaborative project (the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, Forward Together, and Research Action Design) conducted with 20 community-based organizations across the country concluded that unjust criminal justice policies have severely impacted women, low-income families and communities of color. Studies show that employment is the single most important influence on decreasing recidivism, and that two years after release nearly twice as many employed peopled with records had avoided another brush with the law than their unemployed counterparts. Recidivism rates for women in Connecticut, however, have remained steady. Women in the state find themselves impacted by unfair employment practices when a household member has been formerly incarcerated.

Luke A. Bronin, Mayor, City of Hartford: Past mistake should not have any impact on someone seeking employment in a field that has nothing in common with that past offense. Several states such as Massachusetts, New York and Rhode Island have already adopted this common sense approach to employment decisions.

Toni N. Harp, Mayor, City of New Haven: If enacted the bill would align private sector employers with those in the public sector and several national companies that already prohibit questions about an applicant's criminal background from initial employment applications. The City of New Haven has already enacted a “ban the box” ordinance to keep the question off city job applications.

Darryl J. Brackeen, Jr., Alderman, 26th Ward, City of New Haven: The proposed bill will give –ex-offenders a fair chance or better yet, a fresh start. The creation of Project Fresh Start has championed the movement concerning banning the box on all city job applications. Thus, giving citizens the tools they need to receive viable employment.

NATURE AND SOURCES OF SUPPORT:

David McGuire, Legislative and Policy Director, American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut: Many employers automatically screen out applicants who check the box indicating they have a criminal record on initial applications, making it extremely challenging for individuals with criminal records to successfully reintegrate into society. Evidence shows that employers are more likely to offer someone with a criminal record a fair chance at a job if they have the chance to review that applicant's qualifications before asking about criminal history.

Arvia Walker, Community Outreach and Engagement Coordinator, Planned Parenthood of Southern New England: According to the Center for American Progress, half of the children living in the U.S. have a parent or guardian that has some sort of criminal record. Children in families that are impacted by the criminal justice system face significant obstacles in education and economic achievement. Even with a minor record, family income drops by 15% due the parents' inability to obtain employment.

Cheri Quickmire, Executive Director, Common Cause in Connecticut: Supports this bill as it is one step to easing the challenges of obtaining employment. It is no guarantee of work but it will help jobseekers with felony convictions -- the 1 in 3 adults with a record.

Dan Varly, Program Coordinator, Easter Seals Goodwill: Supports this bill as he faced real discrimination based off of his criminal record.

Deborah Ullman, Chief Executive Officer, YWCA Hartford Region: Many of the women and families we serve are not realizing their full potential because a parent's job application is being rejected because of a criminal record. As an organization committed to the elimination of racism, we support enactment of this act that will address systemic racism and provides everyone with the opportunity to provide for their families.

Erica Dean, Policy Analyst, Connecticut Association for Human Services: “Ban the Box” promotes racial equality. Statistics show that those with criminal records are half as likely to receive job interviews and reduced to 33% likelihood for black applicants with criminal records.

Joelle Fishman, Coordinator, New Haven Peoples Center: Young persons who get arrested for a minor crime, and statistically this is unfairly and disproportionately African American and Latino youth, has no future in front of him or her. That young person is tagged forever with little chance of getting a job.

Justine Couvares, Chief Program Officer, Chrysalis Center Inc.: Recidivism increases greatly without a job in the first 90 days of release. It is extremely difficult for many individuals to secure a job due to having to “check the box” for a felony conviction.

Lindsay Farrell, Connecticut Director, Working Families Organization: Supports this bill as removing barriers to employment for people who've served their debt to society is smart policy, helps those build a life free of crime, saves dollars and give our state more security.

Lori J. Pelletier, President, Connecticut AFL-CIO: With the exception of security clearance requirements, or in certain specific employment cases, having a non-violent conviction should not disqualify an individual seeking employment.

Michele Mudrick, Legislative Advocate, Connecticut United Church of Christ: Research shows that when an employer has an opportunity to review an applicant's qualifications, the employers would be more willing to hire that person. Removing the box for applicants and having it disclosed later in the hiring process allows for people to have access to employment that would otherwise be denied to them.

Michelle Natividad Rodriguez, Senior Staff Attorney, National Employment Law Project: New job opportunities for workers with prior records could translate into economic benefits for all. A 2011 study found that securing employment for just 100 formerly incarcerated people would increase their combined lifetime earnings by $55 million and increase their tax contributions by $1.9 million, all while saving more than $2 million annually by keeping them out of the criminal justice system. Clearing the path to employment for people with prior records can not only boost the local economy, but it also significantly increase public safety.

Patrick Sullivan, Co-Director of Advocacy & Awareness, Yale Undergraduate Prison Project: Passing this bill does not mean compromising safety in any way. Background checks would still exist, but that question would not inform initial job offers. Passage of this bill, however, does means stopping unequal, often racially discriminatory questions on employment forms.

Sharon L. Castelli, Chief Operating Officer, Chrysalis Center Inc.: Chrysalis Center is an organization that believes in a “hand up not a hand out” approach. A “second chance” that our participants get with employers has been highly successful. One of the biggest factors for reintegration into post prison life is finding a job, which is prohibited due to having to check off the box. Banning the box until an offer of employment has been made would make it easier for felons to reintegrate into the community.

Yasmin Barak Eriksson, Co-Chair, Criminal Justice Legislative Committee, Yale College Democrats: There are a lot of misconceptions about formerly incarcerated members of society, which lead to the unconscious bias ingrained at a systemic level. People are not only wrongly convicted and often given harsher sentences than deserved due to the plea bargain system, but poverty, lack of access to quality education, mental health and disenfranchisement play important roles in committing crimes.

Residents of Connecticut who support or would be positively impacted by the implementation of this bill:

Glen McCleod Janet Auster Anderson Curtis Chandra Bozelko Wilson Ramos

Sean Moore Robert Politz Sandy Lomonico Raymond Wallace M. Tanaz

Kali Guise Jessica Zantuit Joanie Masot Emon Datta

NATURE AND SOURCES OF OPPOSITION:

Connecticut Alarm & Systems Integrators Association (CASIA): Opposes this bill as drafted and suggest the language be amended to include an exemption for the industry of electronic security and life safety. In this particular industry, not only is the passing of a pre-employment criminal and often credit background considered common practice, it is often required by law in many other states.

Dennis Patouhas, Assisted Living Associates LLC.: Section (i) has a number of carve outs. The language only exempts for positions in law enforcement and financial services fields. However, nurses, teachers, day care workers home care providers and any other profession that deals with the frail and vulnerable are not excluded. Preventing the background checks would enable the hiring of persons convicted of elderly abuse and expose the home care industry to unneeded liability.

Eric W. Gjede, Assistant Counsel, Connecticut Business and Industry Association: The proposed look back period of 5 years for felonies and 2 years for misdemeanors is relatively short, the financial penalty for a violation of section (k) proposed in the bill is extremely high, and the bill does not include language that supersedes the few Connecticut municipalities that already have ban the box laws. Uniformity in these laws is important for businesses, particularly those with multiple locations.

Home Care Association of America: The bill as written would prohibit homemaker-companion agencies from denying employment solely on the basis of a misdemeanor that occurred more than two years or a felony conviction occurring more than five years earlier. Homemaker-companion agencies should be excluded from the bill's application before the bill is approved. State law currently requires homemaker-companion agencies to inquire of applicants whether they have been convicted of a crime involving violence or dishonesty.

Jonathan Hunt, Director of Communications & David Denvir, General Counsel, Connecticut Companions & Homemakers, Inc.: Opposes this bill as he believes that as it allows for exemptions to other professions, such as law enforcement, the same exemption should be applied to individuals in a home-care setting where direct oversight is much less, opportunity for abuse and/or fraud is much higher, and the screening process for employment candidacy should be much more thorough.

Kenneth Gurin, owner of Comfort Keepers: Home Care franchisees would be in violation of their franchise agreements if this law would pass, and will be in conflict with laws that require background checks.

Mag Morelli, President, Leading Age Connecticut: We have concerns on how the statutory changes proposed in this bill and specifically those contained in lines 31-35, will impact the mandated Applicant Background Check Management System (ABCMS) established by the Department of Public Health and authorized pursuant to Section 19a-491c. The ABCMS is currently established for nursing homes and home health care agencies and will be expanded to other health care providers named in the statute.

Maria S. D'Amelia, Director of Human Resources, Hartford Distributors, Inc: Opposes this bill due to the tragedy suffered by the mass shooting that occurred by an employee at the company. Limiting the time period that any employer may utilize criminal records would severely restrict employers' ability to make judicious hiring decisions. This is patently irresponsible and could result in “unsafe” hiring across the state.

National Federation of Independent Business: Legislation to shield relevant criminal histories also increases the potential for litigation by adding more risks and variables into the hiring process, potentially putting business, employees and customers at risk. In addition, this bill seemingly allows for a new a cause of administrative and/or civil action against employers along with an excessive administrative penalty, but without considering any legal recourse for employers who may be put in a tenuous legal position as a result of limited information during the hiring process.

Ramon O. Looby, Director, Public Policy and Government Relations, Consumer Data Industry Association (CDIA): The bill would limit the flexibility of businesses to screen applicants and deny the ability of businesses to make informed hiring decisions based on publicly available information such as criminal history.

Reported by: Joshua F. Quintana

Date: 3/24/16