Fair Employment Opportunities Project

Update

Law Center advocated for an Employee of a Healthcare Network who had been Wrongfully Transferred under an Unconstitutional Law

In April 2019, the Law Center advocated for an employee of a large Philadelphia healthcare network who was wrongfully transferred out of a position she had successfully held for 10 years.

Her employer made the transfer under an outdated application of Pennsylvania’s Older Adult Protective Services Act (OAPSA), mistakenly believing that her decades-old criminal record categorically barred this employee from continuing to work with older adults. In a letter, the Law Center explained the current state of the law and urged the employer to reinstate the employee to her original position.

The Older Adult Protective Services Act was enacted in 1987 to protect Pennsylvania’s older adults from abuse, neglect, and exploitation. The statute was amended in 1996 and 1997 to include provisions governing employment in facilities where older adults receive care, including long-term care nursing facilities. One of those provisions, Section 503, categorically barred individuals with certain criminal records from ever working in a facility covered by OAPSA.

In 2015, however, the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court unanimously ruled that Section 503 was unconstitutional and stopped it from being enforced. The Court held that OAPSA’s lifetime employment ban was arbitrary and irrational, and that employment determinations under OAPSA should be based on an individualized assessment of each job applicant that considered the applicant’s rehabilitation and skills.

There are currently no bans on hiring people with criminal records in facilities covered by OAPSA

As a result of this court decision, there are currently no bans on hiring people with criminal records in facilities covered by OAPSA. Instead, the Pennsylvania Department of Aging recommends that these facilities “exercise hiring discretion on a case-by-case basis, considering factors such as “the nature of the crime; facts surrounding the conviction; time elapsed since the conviction; the evidence of the individual’s rehabilitation; the nature and requirements of the job and the performance of individualized risk assessments.”

Broad, holistic evaluation of individuals beyond their criminal record ensures that decades-old charges do not exclude qualified individuals from the workplace. Through its Fair Employment Opportunities project, the Law Center ensures that existing laws that protect job applicants and employees with criminal histories are enforced. The Law Center also educates both employers and employees on their rights and obligations.

Broad, holistic evaluation of individuals beyond their criminal record ensures that decades-old charges do not exclude qualified individuals from the workplace.

Pennsylvanians with criminal records face a wide range of challenges when seeking and holding employment. Our client almost lost a job she had held for a decade and was well-qualified for due to an outdated interpretation of the law. Law Center staff attorney Claudia De Palma sent a letter to the healthcare network, explaining the current interpretation of the law and urging them to update their policies. She also pointed out our client’s excellent performance record and the decades that had passed since her last involvement with the criminal justice system.

Following the submission of De Palma’s letter to the healthcare network, the employee was fully reinstated. The Law Center’s advocacy helped educate a major healthcare provider, leading to a better understanding of the law that will benefit current employees and future job applicants seeking a fair shot after contact with the criminal justice system.