Advocates Applaud Bed, Bath & Beyond Fines for Denying Jobs to Those with Criminal Records

Apr 25, 2014

People getting out of Syracuse's Justice Center are supposed to be protected to at last be able to apply for jobs, but common practice often automatically excludes them.
People getting out of Syracuse's Justice Center are supposed to be protected to at last be able to apply for jobs, but common practice often automatically excludes them.
Credit Chris Bolt/WAER News

  Local advocates that try and help people get jobs after they’ve been convicted of crimes say the “Bed, Bath and Beyond” settlement this week could help.  New York’s Attorney General fined the national retailer for automatically excluding any job applicants with a criminal history, violating state labor laws.

Center for Community Alternatives lawyer Alan Rosenthal says it’s heartbreaking to sit across from someone wanting to improve their life, get a job, only to find doors shut because of a criminal record.  He’s the co-director of Justice Strategies at CCA and runs a re-entry program for people getting out of jail.  Background checks are understandable, but Rosenthal says they’ve created another problem problem.

“There’s an awful lot of people who face discrimination based upon a criminal conviction, even though it’s in the best interests of society for them to be able to put their lives back together, to be employed, to have proper housing, to provide and be role models for their children.  We’ve inadvertently created many roadblocks.”

He applauds the Bed, Bath and Beyond action, where the state fined the retailer and will prohibit outright denials of applicants with a record.…but Rosenthal says that kind of discrimination is widespread.  He explains New York law specifically prohibits it.  Employers must at least consider applicants with criminal history based on set factors.

“Based on a connection between what was the crime that they were convicted of, what is the job I’m hiring them for, how remote, how long ago did it occur?  Did it occur at the time when the person was 16 and they’re now 46?”

CCA HAS 'TOOLS FOR EMPLOYERS' TO HELP THAT INCLUDE:

  • Hiring People with Conviction histories
  • Tips for Gauging Rehabilitation
  • Employer Testimonials that have Hired People With Criminal Records
  • Work Opportunity Tax Credit

Rosenthal hopes the fines against national retailer Bed, Bath & Beyond might also raise eyebrows.

“And hopefully gets the attention of other employers that you simply cannot have blanket policies that deny the possibility of employment because of a prior criminal history record.”

This case and the issue are not isolated…there’s a movement to get all states to ban the box – on job applications that force people to check if they have a criminal record.