A criminal record can be a real hindrance for individuals leaving jail or prison and trying to integrate back into their communities. Almost every job today does a criminal background check before hiring a potential employee. Some jobs even ask about and check for past arrests to disqualify applicants.
Past criminal histories make it very difficult for many people to get a job. There has been a push around the country for “ban the box” laws making it illegal for employers to use an applicant’s prior criminal history as an automatic disqualifier for a job.
I’m usually not a huge fan of Georgia Governor Nathan Deal, but credit where credit is due. Governor Deal signed an executive order on February 23rd, 2015 prohibiting agencies from using a prior criminal history as an automatic disqualifier for job applicants.
Ban the box has the ability to make a real impact on lots of lives. Not being able to get a job makes it almost certain an ex-prisoner will re-offend. Even though Governor Deal’s order only applies to state agencies, it will still help all Georgia’s ex-offenders in other ways. One result of criminal backgrounds being an automatic disqualifier for many jobs is shady and unethical employers take advantage of desperate job seekers. I recently worked on a case where the employer hired people from halfway houses specifically because they thought those people wouldn’t complain about unpaid overtime. Making it possible for ex-offenders to get state jobs means those unscrupulous employers have less desperate workers to steal from.
Georgia has joined fourteen states in prohibiting state agencies using criminal history as an instant disqualifier for state jobs. Hopefully it will help lower recidivism and strengthen communities.
Benjamin Kandy is an Atlanta employment lawyer. Nothing herein is intended to create an attorney client relationship.