As Michael Vick Returns to NFL, Employment Lawyers Push Criminal Records Checks
August 14, 2009
Will the Philadelphia Eagles do a background check on their new quarterback, Michael Vick? What is the NFL’s policy on allowing ex-convicts to play in their league? Well we know the penalty is pretty severe for Brown’s receiver Donte’ Stallworth as we was just suspended for the 2009 season for killing a pedestrian and only serving 24 days in jail. The NFL has an image problem, I don’t think Vick’s situation is helping much. We have written before about professional football players, including a humorous take on Chad “OchoCinco” Johnson. Law.com has an interesting take on the Vick situation:
Michael Vick’s reinstatement into the National Football League is creating a lot of buzz in the employment law arena, where companies seek advice about using criminal records to make somewhat lower-profile job decisions. Employment lawyers say the case serves as a timely reminder to employers to review how they can obtain employee criminal records and how they can use them in hiring and firing decisions.
The Vick case — in which the NFL on July 27 conditionally reinstated the quarterback after he served 18 months in prison on dogfighting charges — is unusual in that his criminal record was widely reported in the media.
“They didn’t have to run to the courthouse to know what happened with Michael Vick, in which case the NFL was free and clear to take appropriate disciplinary action based on that information,” said management-side attorney H. Andrew Matzkin of Boston-based Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo. But that’s not how it typically works.
Employers must take care to obtain information about criminal records “in a lawful way and use it in a lawful way,” said Matzkin, who noted he is seeing an uptick in calls from clients asking how they too can use background checks. “If we’ve got somebody who is doing stuff we don’t like outside of work, can we ask them about it? Can we find a way to see what they’re doing? And if we don’t like it, can we let them go?” said Matzkin, listing some of his clients’ questions.
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