An unjust employment ban is finally removed

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John O'Connor
John O'Connor

Let's agree we don't want our loved ones being cared for by dangerous convicts. And few of us would take issue with a state trying to make sure that doesn't happen.

But sometimes good intentions fuel laws that go too far.

That's clearly what happened in Pennsylvania. There, an Older Adults Protective Services Act instituted a lifetime employment ban in the senior living field for people convicted of certain crimes. The prohibition understandably applied to violent offenses. Where it went a bit overboard was by extending the prohibition to less severe offenses, such as theft or forgery.

Not to excuse the two last items, but they hardly merit such an extreme rebuke. The state's Supreme Court would appear to be in agreement. It recently ruled that the prohibition violates due process protections.

The judges opined that “it defies logic” to suggest that every person who has ever been convicted of one of the listed crimes “presents a danger” to residents in senior living settings.

And unlike most states with similar protections, Pennsylvania applied the standard to crimes committed at any time in the person's life. Moreover, the state had no appeals process. That meant there was no way for a person to pursue a waiver by showing that past conduct had nothing to do with present worthiness.

The court's ruling doesn't eliminate the need for job applicants to submit to a criminal records check. Nor is there anything in place that would stop state lawmakers from crafting more reasonable legislation.

The ruling marks a win for organizations that provide care and assistance to the state's oldest citizens. It should certainly make it a bit less difficult to hire competent staff. That's no small consideration, given the rampant staffing challenges this sector faces.

But it's an even sweeter victory for workers who might have done something reckless or stupid earlier in life. For it's one thing to pay for youthful indiscretions right after they happen. It's quite another to have to wear the modern-day equivalent of a Scarlet letter for the rest of one's working days. Thanks to this law's repeal, that no longer needs to be the case.

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