Delaware lawmakers look to limit criminal background checks

criminal background and credit history checks in the early stages of the application process. House Bill No. 167, introduced last week, would amend Delaware’s employment code to prevent any employer from inquiring into an applicant’s criminal and credit records until it has tendered a conditional offer of employment, and would exclude consideration of felony convictions more than 10-years-old and misdemeanor convictions more than five-years-old. Public employers would then be required to consider a number of factors before rescinding that offer, including evidence of rehabilitation, likelihood of relapse and any relationship between the position being sought and the crime that was committed. “It is in the interest of the entire community that persons re-entering society after incarceration become productive members of society,” the bill said. “Persons who have paid their debts to society deserve a fair chance at employment and this act is intended to give the individual with a criminal record an opportunity to be judged on his or her own merit during the submission of the application and at least until the completion of one interview.” Excluded from the bill’s provisions would be police departments, the Department of Corrections and any other positions where background checks are mandated by state statutes. State contractors would be required to comply with the law only insofar as it does not conflict with existing state or federal requirements. If passed, the bill would make Delaware the 10th state to restrict consideration of criminal records at the application stage, joining California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota and New Mexico, according to the National Employment Law Project. In the preamble to the bill, the authors noted that the incarceration rate in the U.S. has tripled since 1980 and is nearly eight times its historic average. The authors cited research purportedly demonstrating that individuals with prior criminal histories “pose no greater risk of future criminality than do people with no criminal history.” In an April report, the NELP estimated that 65 million Americans, or one in four adults, has a criminal record that would show up on a routine background check. The proposed Delaware legislation is currently before the state Economic Development, Banking, Insurance and Commerce Committee. It was introduced by Democratic Reps. James Johnson, Helene Keeley, Paul Baumbach and Stephanie Bolden, alongside Democratic Sens. Bryan Townsend, Margaret Rose Henry and Karen Peterson.]]>

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