A criminal conviction can have wide-ranging effects on a person’s ability to get a job, among other things. And for home health care workers, criminal records can have an adverse and arguably unjustifiable long-term impact when it comes to holding down a position.
Such might be the case for one home health care aide in New York, who recently had a 13-year-old fraud conviction expunged by U.S. District Court Judge John Gleeson for the Eastern District of New York, who cited that “there is a growing recognition that the adverse employment consequences of old convictions are excessive and counter-productive,” according to a court memorandum filed last month.
In 2001, the defendant, identified as Jane Doe in court filings, was found guilty of an automobile insurance fraud scheme that occurred in 1997. According to court documents, she had faked an injury from a staged car accident and then subsequently falsely claimed to have received medical services related to her fabricated “injury.”
For her role in the scheme, Doe was sentenced in March 2002 to five years of probation, 10 months of home detention and a restitution order of $46,701.
Since then, and in the years following the end of her probation in March 2007, Doe’s criminal record had continuously surfaced at each home health care job she applied for, each time leading to her eventual termination once employers saw the results of her background check.
“She doesn’t lie to her employers, who do not ask if she has a criminal record at the hiring stage,” Gleeson stated. “However, after she gets jobs, record checks are performed by her employers or others acting on her behalf. Once they learn of Doe’s conviction, she gets fired. This has happened to her half a dozen times.”
While Gleeson admitted that employers are entitled to know about the past convictions of job applicants, he indicated that if employers had the time and the resources to conduct a thorough investigation of the applicant or employee, then they might conclude that the conviction is no longer a meaningful consideration in determining suitability for employment.
Gleeson also acknowledged that had Doe’s original offense arisen from her work as a home health aide, the outcome of the expungement hearing might have been different.
The conviction for the unrelated, non-violent offense, however, had drastically hindered Doe’s ability to hold a job, and in turn, increased her dependence on public assistance—all while she had remained in the good graces of the law with no other criminal conduct.
Doe is just one of the 65 million Americans who have a criminal record and suffer the adverse consequences that result from it, Gleeson noted, while highlighting the need to take a “fresh look” at policies that shut people out from the social, economic and educational opportunities they need in order to re-enter society successfully.
“There is no justification for continuing to impose this disability on her,” Gleeson stated. “I sentenced her to five years of probation supervision, not to a lifetime of unemployment.”
Written by Jason Oliva