Nov 30 2022
Changes are coming to the way Connecticut employers can investigate and use the criminal background information of current and prospective employees. A new Connecticut statute known as the “Clean Slate” law becomes effective January 1, 2023 and broadens the protections against invasive inquiries into aspects of a person’s criminal history. The act is aimed at preserving the confidentiality of certain records and prohibiting employers from discriminating against employees and job applicants based on their criminal record.
Specifically, the new law broadens the notice that hiring employers must give to prospective employees about inquiries into their criminal background. Presently, Connecticut law (with some exceptions) prohibits employers from asking on an initial employment application about a prospective employee’s prior arrests, criminal charges, or convictions. Employers may inquire about this history later in the hiring process; but only with a standard notice indicating that the employee may refuse to provide certain types of information. The new law requires an expanded version of this notice to prospective employees, who must be notified in clear and conspicuous language:
(1) That the applicant is not required to disclose the existence of any erased criminal history record information, (2) that erased criminal history record information are records pertaining to a finding of delinquency or that a child was a member of a family with service needs, an adjudication as a youthful offender, a criminal charge that has been dismissed or nolled, a criminal charge for which the person has been found not guilty or a conviction for which the person received an absolute pardon or criminal records that are erased pursuant to statute or by other operation of law, and (3) that any person with erased criminal history record information shall be deemed to have never been arrested within the meaning of the general statutes with respect to the proceedings so erased and may so swear under oath.
The new law also expands the prior statutory definition of this “erased criminal history record information.” It has long been the case that employers conducting background checks of applicants were unable to obtain a criminal history that was erased or where youthful status was granted. Under the new law, however, employers cannot inquire into any erased records, cases where youthful offender status was granted, and continuances of criminal cases that are more than thirteen months old. Employees are also protected by this section if they have a criminal conviction that resulted in a provisional pardon or certificate of rehabilitation.
In addition to restricting access to these erased records, employers may not use them in making hiring or employment decisions. The new law prohibits employers from denying employment to an applicant, or discriminating against a current employee, based solely on this erased criminal history. It makes it illegal for employers to discriminate against an employee in their compensation or in terms, conditions or privileges of employment on the basis of that person’s erased criminal history record information. Job advertisements are also affected. Under the new statue, it is considered a discriminatory practice “to advertise employment opportunities in such a manner as to restrict such employment so as to discriminate against persons on the basis of their erased criminal history record information.”
Employers who violate the Clean Slate law may face strict consequences. The law allows employees to file complaints with the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) or the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities (CHRO). Employees can also apply directly the Connecticut Superior Court for various remedies, including possible injunctive relief.