DC Bill Aims to Get Ex-Cons Back to Work

Angela Preston

The District of Columbia Council is considering a bill that would help ex-offenders re-enter the work force while also granting some protections to the employers who hire them. On September 25, Chairman Phil Mendelson of the DC Committee on the Judiciary held a hearing on Bill 19-889, the Innocence Protection and Re-entry Facilitation Amendment Acts of 2012.The bill would create limited liability for employers who hire or retain ex-cons. It also amends Title 16 of the D.C. Official Code to include interpersonal violence as conviction eligible for record sealing; makes procedural changes associated with the sealing of a criminal record; permits movants to obtain certifications from the court that their records have been properly sealed under Title 16; and creates a certificate of good standing, issued by the Department of Corrections, for qualifying returning citizens.

I like that Section 2 of the bill prevents the introduction of evidence of a criminal past in a negligent hiring lawsuit where an employer has relied upon a certificate of rehabilitation, but the bill stops short of including language that provides actual immunity for employers who rely on the certification.  So in other words, the employers will still be subject law suits, and without actual immunity employers will probably not be able or willing to rely on the certificate. The cost to defend lawsuits and the potential increase in insurance costs will likely deter employers from participating in the program, so in the end, what’s the point?

I don’t like the fact that offenders can get a certificate of good standing immediately upon release from incarceration rather than requiring a minimum time to for good conduct that runs from the completion of an individual’s sentence or release from confinement.  Allowing a convicted criminal to earn time for “good standing” while still incarcerated rather than demonstrating it after re-entry seems unwise, at best.

Despite a few sections that would benefit from revision and further debate and discussion, it is refreshing to see a proposal that grants protections to employers, which is a vast improvement over some of the proposed legislation we have seen in Seattle and elsewhere.

Angela Preston
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Angela Preston

Vice President of Compliance & General Counsel at EmployeeScreenIQ
Angela Preston has more than 20 years as a licensed attorney and over 10 years in the background screening area. She serves on the Board of Directors of the National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS), is a member of the NAPBS Background Screening Credentialing Council (BSCC), and is actively involved in the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) and ASIS International. Angela is also a member of the Ohio State and Columbus Bar Associations. Angela has direct oversight and management of compliance programs, and will provide guidance in complex legal matters including state and federal legislation, EEO law, client education, adjudication, pre/adverse action process, NAPBS Accreditation and client and vendor contract management.
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  • Name Kimberly Kline

    Thanks for sharing this article Angela. I have to agree that this proposed bill is a step in the right direction. It seems ridiculous to expect employers to shoulder all the burden of the EEOC guidelines. I fully believe people deserve a second chance, but we cannot put that second chance above all other things.

    The fact that this bill addresses the employer’s concerns (namely litigation and safety) is good as far as it goes. However, it still needs to go farther to be equally fair to all.

    I definitely appreciate that this will be a long process, but I hope that it can continue to be “tweaked” until it is something we can all live with.

  • Definitely a step in the right direction and is heartening that some entity is attempting to cajole employers to hire those who have been convicted and served time.

    The entire process of re-entry (or lack thereof) needs to be re-imagined. Ex-con’s are in a class unto themselves and the way the system has not been able – or cared- to create post prison life opportunities has created a class of people who will remain in economic stagnation because of limited employment opportunities. This then creates a domino effect on their children, thus a further burden on the public. Education in prison can only go so far and in many places there is huge resistance to it (Indiana and college level courses for example) which is simply short sighted.