Federal and State Policy Reforms

Especially since September 11th, more federal and state laws have imposed broad new mandates denying employment to large numbers of qualified workers who have a criminal record. While criminal background checks can be necessary to protect public safety and security, often these new laws go too far in prohibiting current workers and new applicants from working in growing industries with labor shortages, like health care and trucking.

For example, many occupational screening laws impose a lifetime barrier to employment for anyone with a felony criminal record, no matter the age or seriousness of the offense and without taking into account any evidence of rehabilitation. In addition, criminal background checks for employment routinely rely on records that are inaccurate or seriously out-of-date without providing basic protections for workers to verify and correct their records.

NELP is a leader in the effort to create model federal and state laws that protect public safety and security while also ensuring more fair and accurate criminal background checks by:

  • Testifying in Congress and in the states to place reasonable limits on the age and seriousness of disqualifying offenses and include special "waiver" procedures allowing workers to prove they have been rehabilitated.
  • Promoting reform of employment-based criminal background checks generated by the FBI to protect the millions of workers whose FBI records have not been updated to show that their arrests have been dismissed and to prevent the FBI from reporting petty juvenile and adult crimes(H.R. 5300)
  • Educating and assisting workers to take full advantage of key worker protections in federal and state occupational screening laws.

For more information on our work in this area, please contact Maurice Emsellem, emsellem@nelp.org.

Other key resources:

H.I.R.E. Network

The Sentencing Project

Council of State Governments Reentry Policy Council