Fair Employment Opportunities Project
Pennsylvania law provides protection against biased practices for job-seekers with criminal histories. The Criminal History Record Information Act (CHRIA) provides that employers may only consider an applicant’s criminal history to the extent that it directly relates to the applicant’s suitability for a particular position. Arrests that do not lead to convictions may not be considered at all. To date, this law has gone virtually unused as a tool for addressing discrimination and little case law exists to increase enforcement of the law.
The Fair Employment Opportunities Project uniquely responds to this employment crisis in three complementary ways:
- Corporate Champions: partner with local companies to develop and implement best practices for hiring and showcase corporate partners who have elected appropriate and legal hiring practices
- Litigation: collaborate with non-profits and pro bono attorneys to represent victims under current state laws and increase relevant case law favorable to individuals with criminal backgrounds who are seeking employment
- Public Education: execute a public education campaign to debunk myths and increase public knowledge of the issue
Background Checks at SEPTA
We filed a federal class action lawsuit against SEPTA, one of the region’s largest employers, on behalf of job applicants who were rejected on the basis of unrelated criminal history without being given the chance to respond to their background checks. The case, Long v. SEPTA, is ongoing. In 2018, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a dismissal by the district court and held that the federal right to review and respond to background check reports can be enforced by people whose rights are violated. Read more about the case here.
During the COVID-19 crisis, we worked with organizations across the country to demand that Congress and the Small Business administration remove restrictions on small business aid for owners with criminal histories.