One in four Americans has a criminal record that will show up on a routine background check, says NPR. Those black marks can slam the door to employment in fast-growing sectors of the economy even if the convictions are for minor offenses and decades old. A new lawsuit in Pennsylvania is trying to change that, challenging the Older Adults Protective Services Act, which prevents those with a felony record from being hired full time to work in a nursing home or long-term-care facility. “It is an absolute bar that lasts for life and covers any position in any covered facility,” said lawyer Tad Levan. “There is no provision in the law for either an affected individual or for an employer who wants to hire an affected individual to prove this person is capable and fit for the job,” Levan said.
He acknowledged that elder abuse is a real problem in nursing homes and the community needs to protect against that. He maintains that the Pennsylvania law is arbitrary and overly broad. The law bars employment for as many as 200,000 people in Pennsylvania. “We find that most of our clients are not people coming just out of prison or just off of a criminal record,” said Janet Ginzberg of Community Legal Services of Philadelphia. “[When our] clients come to us, often they are five, 10, 20 years away from their conviction, and they’re still having trouble finding a job.” Ginzberg enlisted experts who say the value of criminal records in predicting future crime almost vanishes four to seven years after a single conviction. But those old convictions can show up on background checks for 20 or 30 years.