Friday, May 1, 2015
Criminal Record? Is Life-Time Ban from Care Industry Employment Necessary to Protect Older, Vulnerable Persons?
In 2003, in Nixon v. Commonwealth, Pennsylvania's Supreme Court struck down a provision of the state's Older Adult Protective Services Act that imposed an absolute bar on designated care "facilities," including nursing homes, personal care homes, and home health agencies, prohibiting them from hiring "new" employees who had been convicted of certain crimes. The Court concluded that the prohibition, which affected only "new" employees, or those working at a covered facility for less than one year, did not bear a real and substantial relationship to the Commonwealth's interest in protecting the elderly, disabled, and infirm from victimization, and therefore unconstitutionally infringe[d] on the Employees' right to pursue an occupation."
Twelve years later, the Pennsylvania legislature, despite consideration of many proposals to "fix" the "Nixon case problem," still had not amended the statute. (This is the second time in a week that Pennsylvania's speed -- or lack thereof -- in enacting important reforms has attracted media attention.) As explained by NPR in a feature story by Carrie Johnson, a new lawsuit again challenges Pennsylvania's employment ban:
In 1981, when he was just 18, [Tyrone] Peake was arrested with a friend for trying to steal a car to take a girl home after a long weekend. "No, we never got the car," Peake said. "We broke the ignition column and then the cops came."
Peake couldn't even drive back then. He says he was just along for the ride. He never went to prison. Instead, he got probation. But that single charge years ago still haunts him, sometimes even after he's gotten work....
"I've been fired from three jobs," Peake said, "because [of] having a criminal record. And my record is like 32 years old, and I haven't been in trouble since then." A lot's happened since the 1980s for Peake. He went back to school, and he's been working part time as a counselor for men addicted to drugs and alcohol. But the law prevents him from being hired full time to work in a nursing home or long-term-care facility because of that single criminal conviction.
Peake's history of attempting to get on the right side of the law presents a dramatic contrast between the law's laudable purpose of protection of vulnerable adults and its sometimes harsh effect. For more, see NPR's Can't Get A Job Because Of A Criminal Record? A Lawsuit Is Trying To Change That.