The Denver Business Journal is reporting that Colorado governor Bill Ritter has just signed into law House Bill 1023, a measure that “prohibits an employee’s criminal history from being part of a lawsuit against a business unless that criminal history has direct applicability to the legal action”. See article. In other words, if a company is sued by for behavior by an employee that had a previous criminal record, the record can only be introduced into evidence if it is directly related to the actions that led to the lawsuit.
The law was enacted to encourage businesses to hire those with criminal records. However, I have concerns about the language. “If the criminal history has direct applicability to legal action” seems to be pretty vague. It would seem that this law might give employers a false sense of security. Direct applicability leaves much to interpretation.
Now, the positives. The law does nothing to inhibit the ability of an employer to conduct an employment background check on job candidates and to use that information to make a hiring decision. The bill also prohibits civil litigation if the employee’s criminal record has been sealed, if they’ve received a pardon or if an arrest record did not result in a criminal conviction. I believe that this is a very positive development for both businesses and job seekers with criminal records.