Sunday, April 06, 2008

Innocent and Unemployed

Last week in one of my other classes we watched a video about people who had been convicted of crimes, had spent extended periods of time in jail, but were later proven innocent. We learned of several men who had even been sentenced to death or life in jail when in reality, after DNA testing was conducted, were actually innocent. How does this topic relate to employment law? Each of the men expressed their frustrations and struggles with finding employment after being released from jail for a crime they didn't commit.

As many of you know, employment applications ask whether or not you have ever been convicted of a crime. Obviously, these men had been convicted of a crime. Now, some applications allow for the applicant to explain their circumastance, but it seems to me that if one were to write "I was convicted, but I'm innocent" the validity of that statement may be questioned by the employer. As the men in the video revealed, employers are not very open to hiring someone who has been convicted even though proven innocent by federal government.

This poses several questions for me. One being, is the employment system set up to trust people and allow each person an opportunity to present their true self? It seems that with some applications not even allowing for an explanation space and others only providing enough for minimial explanation, individuals are not able to convey who they truly are enough to get invited to an interview where further explanation can be given. My second question then becomes, is the system set up to discriminate against people who have a criminal history? Honestly, I am not suggesting that employers welcome criminals with open arms, but in the case of those who were wrongfully charged, it doesn't seem fair to discriminate against them or make assumptions about their case or abilities.

I am aware that many states have Fair Employment Acts which are meant to protect against such discrimination, but is there anything at a federal level? And even if there was, should there be, or should it be left to each state to decide whether or not individuals with criminal history have equal opportunity? Thoughts?

2 Comments:

Blogger Abbey Stemler said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

9:42 PM  
Blogger Abbey Stemler said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

9:43 PM  

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