New hope for convicted criminals seeking jobs

Reported by: Erik Avanier
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Updated: 6/24 6:44 pm
CHATTANOOGA, Tennessee(WDEF) - A new law in Tennessee and a new policy in Georgia are paving the way for jobs applicants with a criminal past to gain employment.

Next Tuesday, the Tennessee Negligent and Retention law takes effect. It allows employers to hire an ex-offender who has received a "certificate of employability" after paying his or her dues to society. In return, employers would be protected from liability suits if the ex-offender with a violent past assaults a fellow co-worker.

Brad Hake is the owner of Express Employment Professionals; an employment company that helps employers find suitable employees. Hake said many companies are afraid to hire workers with a violent past.

"When it comes to violent crimes, companies are very hesitant because they're very liable and they have to protect the safety of their current employees," Hake said.

The new law guarantees that safety but only to a certain point. If an ex-offender with a certificate of employability remains employed after showing new signs of danger or violence, the company is liable if the ex-offender assaults or kills a co-worker. Also, if an ex-offender is convicted of a felony outside the job and remains employed, the company becomes liable if that person assaults or kills a fellow employee.

Hake said the law could potentially strengthen the local workforce.

"Right now, employers do need these employees because there is a shortage of qualified skilled labor in Chattanooga and Tennessee as a whole. We're missing as great workforce by people who need a second chance."

Another employment hurdle affecting many job applicants is disclosure of a criminal past.

The state of Georgia is on the verge enacting a policy called "Ban the Box. It would allow people to apply for state jobs without revealing their criminal past on a job application. However, the applicant would be required to disclose criminal convictions during an actual interview.

"I think that given an opportunity for a person who does have a conviction to come in and represent themselves well, look well, speak well and then be able to explain the situation where they may be able to pass otherwise if they did check the box, maybe they didn't get the interview," Hake said.

Ban the Box is an attempt to get applicants with a checkered past beyond the application process. Many companies that have online applications use software that automatically drops an applicant if the applicant admits to having a criminal conviction.

Ban the Box only only applies to applicants who are looking for jobs that are not related to public safety.


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