Catalyst

How I See It: Where Criminal Justice and the Workforce Intersect

Vincent readily admits he was immature in his early 20s, a time when he was partying and convicted of driving under the influence, making false statements to police and retail theft.

 

What disheartened him, though, was those convictions preventing him from having a level playing field in the job market over a decade later. He had attended college and worked for communications companies in the meantime.

 

Background checks forced Vincent to relive the mistakes he made in his younger years again and again when he had matured, educated himself and become a family man.

 

The Clean Slate Act signed into law last year enables Vincent and thousands of other Pennsylvanians to pursue employment without being haunted by indiscretions from their past.

 

The law seals nonviolent, misdemeanor criminal records after 10 years if the person does not have subsequent arrests.

 

When people have fulfilled their debt to society and turned their lives around, they deserve an opportunity to seek a job and housing without having that conviction being a deterrent to would-be employers and landlords.

 

The bipartisan Clean Slate initiative automatically seals records of second-and third-degree misdemeanor criminal convictions and can seal first-degree ones with a review by the court. The sealing of records occurs after 10 years without a subsequent arrest, prosecution or conviction. This legislation does not apply to violent offenses, including sexual offenses. It balances the opportunity for low-level, nonviolent ex-offenders to move forward, while considering the voice of crime victims and the safety and strength of our communities.

 

The Clean Slate Act, which I championed with Rep. Jordan Harris, D-Philadelphia, helps strengthen Pennsylvania’s talent pool of jobseekers and gives people that have made a mistake a second chance.

 

To expand on the Clean Slate Act, Rep. Harris and I have introduced a bill, House Bill 1477, this session to address occupational licensure. More than 30 occupational fields require a government license, certificate or registration in Pennsylvania through the Department of State.

Licensing is required by a wide variety of occupations, including insurance brokers, psychologists, elevator inspectors and professionals who remove asbestos from buildings.

 

This bill would require that boards do not deny a license solely based on the fact that an applicant has a record, a “morals clause” as such. House Bill 1477 would still allow boards to withhold a license for convictions directly related to the practice of the occupation.

 

Our goal is to modernize the Criminal History Record Information Act, and in doing so, make workforce requirements more fair for people who already fulfilled their commitments imposed by the courts.

 

Another cause important to me is the struggle of pregnant women in the workplace. I have introduced House Bill 1417 to require employers to provide reasonable workplace accommodations for pregnant employees. We cannot discriminate against pregnant women and potentially create health effects for their unborn children.

 

Accommodations can be as simple as providing a stool to ensure a pregnant woman isn’t on her feet all day.

 

House Bill 1417 would fill in the gaps in federal and local laws that protect pregnant workers. It would make it unlawful for an employer to refuse a worker’s request for a reasonable accommodation unless doing so would represent an undue hardship to the business.  If passed, this legislation would demonstrate Pennsylvania’s commitment to women’s health, while not imposing significant burdens on the state’s employers.

 

One of my other initiatives, House Bill 422, would address the needs of certified inspectors and plans examiners. The state is experiencing shortages in that field as our talent pools retire. House Bill 422 would create an official trainee program to develop qualified, certified people to fill vacancies after they receive on-the-job training and experience.

 

Trainees would receive a classification as advocated for by the Pennsylvania Association of Building Code Officials. A certified worker would agree to assume “responsible supervision” for a trainee, who could then work in the field under that sponsor’s oversight.

 

The trainee status would last for two years for residential certifications and three years for commercial certifications.

 

We in the legislature need to ensure Pennsylvania has an environment that helps our valued employers find the dependable, hard-working employees they need to fill roles. We need to get the right people in the right positions to grow our economy and position Pennsylvania as a standard-bearer for having a healthy business climate.

 

Rep. Sheryl Delozier, R-Cumberland, represents the 88th House District.  

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