Are People With Criminal Records Better Workers?

A recent study revealed that former offenders are less likely to leave employment, either voluntarily or involuntarily.

Researchers from Northwestern University examined the track records of customer service and other semi-skilled white collar workers with criminal backgrounds, and found that those employees have a 13% lower voluntary turnover rate, which translates to roughly $1,000 in savings every year. Furthermore, based on empirical evidence, most ex-offenders are less likely to be terminated for misconduct. In fact, researchers discovered that a criminal record had more of a positive effect on turnover than education level or almost any other factor.

Study authors suggested that the numbers may support changes to Illinois’ restrictive negligent hiring laws.

Wrongful Hiring Civil Liability

Although Illinois does have a “ban the box” law that forbids employers from inquiring about criminal records during screening interviews, the protection effectively ends at that point. Some states, including North Carolina, Massachusetts, and Ohio, have at least partially barred negligent hiring cases if the sole evidence of negligence is a worker’s criminal past, so at least theoretically, employers in these states are more prone to hire former offenders. But in Illinois, the elements of a negligent hiring case are largely unchanged, despite the new direction in employment law.

  • Knowledge: The employer must have actual or constructive knowledge (known or should have known) about a worker’s particular unfitness for a certain position. Not all criminal convictions automatically imply a particular unfitness, but most of them at least create a presumption of negligence.
  • Timing: The employer must know about the unfitness at the time of retention or hiring.
  • Cause: This unfitness must proximately cause the victim’s damages.

The Illinois Human Rights Act might provide a little more protection for employees because this legislation forbids tort litigation related to a cognizable civil right.

Certificates of Rehabilitation

In a previous post, we looked at expungement and sealing of records. Eligible defendants can have their criminal and arrest records completely erased, and in most cases, it is illegal for anyone to even bring up the fact that a record once existed.

Although rehabilitation certificates do not erase or seal criminal records, they do remove many of the disabilities associated with criminal convictions, and the eligibility is much broader. In fact, anyone who has fewer than two felony convictions on their record and did not commit a prohibited offense (most sex crimes offenses, aggravated battery, aggravated DUI, and a few other violent felonies) can receive:

  • CRD: There is no waiting period for a Certificate of Relief from Disabilities. CRDs create a “presumption of rehabilitation” in 27 professions, such as real estate sales, animal welfare, cosmetology, roofing, and more. The state can still deny a license if there is a direct connection between the previous offense and the license sought, so people with domestic battery convictions probably cannot become licensed family counsellors.
  • CGC: Persons can receive Certificates of Good Conduct as soon as one or three years after conviction. A CGC basically means that the person has been completely rehabilitated, and although it has no legal effect in and of itself, employers who hire people with GCGs are generally not liable in future negligent hiring-related actions.

Either the sentencing court or the Illinois Prisoner Review Board can issue certificates of rehabilitation.

Count on Experienced Attorneys

To remove some or all of the disabilities associated with a criminal past, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney in Schaumburg from Glasgow & Olsson. Convenient payment plans are available.

(image courtesy of Oli Dale)

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