Barrier to Hiring: Woman with File Finds Hard-to-Find Jobs | News, Sports, Jobs


An August CNBC survey found there were 10 million jobs open in the country, more than a million more jobs than the unemployed.

In addition, the report continues, nearly a third of small business owners said they had open positions they had not been able to fill for three months.

Rachel Dotts finds it hard to believe it.

The 30-year-old South Side woman has spent months trying to find a job, only to receive one rejection after another. She feels she has the skills needed for most of the positions she has applied for.

However, she also has another thing: a criminal record.

Not all refusals cited this record. But with a plethora of open jobs and her skills matching many of them, she believes her past is what employers can’t get past.

“These are jobs in which I have experience”, she said. “Most of the jobs I apply for are cashiers. I have been a cashier for six years. These are places that offer bonuses and hiring incentives and all that big stuff. and I am honest; that’s what I’m told to do.

Her attempts to find work took her to local dollar stores, convenience stores, fast food outlets and supermarkets. A retailer, she said, specifically told her that she did not have the necessary experience for a cashier job, despite her many years in the position.

Dotts’ most recent conflict with the law has been minor. A misdemeanor retail theft charge in 2015, a misdemeanor attempt to provide drug-free urine in a drug test later that year, and a summary disorderly conduct offense in January 2020.

But then there is the big one.

In 2013, she pleaded guilty to a 2012 felony charge of making / delivering / possessing a controlled substance with intent to manufacture or deliver. She served 90 days in prison, then 90 more days in home confinement. She fulfilled her parole conditions last year.

She also struggles with drug use, but is enrolled in a local assisted drug treatment program where she receives suboxone.

Dotts has been out of work since March 2020, when her temporary job at a local plastics company was cut, a situation she says also makes it more difficult for her three foster children to return.

“I have been fighting to be clean for 13 years” she said. “Even during my days of use, I never had a hard time finding a job. Now I finally put my (act) together. I say to employers, “Listen, I need this job.” “

Dotts is not alone.

An analysis of the Prison Policy Initiative found that “Formerly incarcerated people are unemployed at a rate of over 27% – higher than the total unemployment rate in the United States during any historical period, including the Great Depression. “

In Pennsylvania, reports, “Almost 1 in 3 people – that’s three million – has a criminal record. “

And while many states have laws prohibiting employers from seeking criminal records during checks on candidates being considered for employment.

However, according to the website of Weisberg Cummings, PC, a Harrisburg employment law firm, “An employer must give the applicant the opportunity to explain what happened and to make the necessary inquiries to determine whether the explanation … is credible”. An employer, the law firm’s website continues, may justify a refusal of employment if the candidate’s crime was related to the position sought, or if the crime was “Particularly odious”.

However, if the decision not to hire a candidate is justified “Wholly or in part on the applicant’s criminal record, the employer must inform the applicant of this decision in writing and its basis on the applicant’s criminal record. “

According to Dotts, this doesn’t necessarily happen.

“You have no explanation” she said, adding that two local retailers had told her “We put it into a computer and it just tells us if you’re qualified or not. “

“They can’t give me anything else. They can’t explain anything.

If an applicant believes that a rejection was decided unfairly due to a criminal record, they can take action.

“Unfortunately, the law (CHRIA) itself does not have guidelines written in black letters that say, ‘If you do this, and it happened so long ago…’” Weisberg Cummings attorney Larry Weisberg said. “Ultimately, the courts flesh this out when there is no direct direction of the law. At this point, there isn’t a lot of case law.

“When we look at it, we kind of make our own judgment and say, ‘Hey, that seems to have happened 20 years ago and it has nothing to do with working in a warehouse. We think this is something that we or someone else could pursue.

However, some job refusals are just common sense.

“Sometimes they are clearer,” said Weisberg. “You have a history of child abuse and you want to work in a daycare, or a fake and you want to work in a bank – but there’s a lot of gray area.

“So employers have to use their judgment, and if we were to file a complaint for someone, we had to use our judgment because there aren’t a lot of cases going on with us. “

Some employers may try to avoid the pitfalls of case-by-case analysis by simply having a general policy of not hiring applicants with criminal records. But Weisberg warns that even that could be problematic.

“Comprehensive policies could potentially have an impact on something like Title VII, which protects against racial discrimination”, he said. “It doesn’t necessarily invoke CHRIA, it says you might disproportionately dismiss minorities because of this overarching policy, as opposed to individualized assessment.

“But someone would still need to ultimately prove that they were affected in a discriminatory manner.”

Weisberg believes most employers are serious about obeying the law. But many may not be aware of their responsibilities.

“There are employers who don’t know about these laws, and there are a lot of employers who will say to someone on the phone, ‘That was the reason’ and then won’t comply with the law because they might simply not be aware of it. . “

“Probably most of the bigger employers who are at the forefront of HR have strong lawyers and internal departments to handle this, and probably handle it a little better. But there are a lot of small and medium-sized employers out there who don’t know or care about the law, and so we’re seeing a pretty constant flow of these types of inquiries. Not all of them are legitimate cases, but there are many that do. “

As for Dotts, she remains disheartened by not being defeated.

“I went through a difficult stage in my life” she said. “I’m trying to stay clean right now and I’m trying to get my kids back. So I continue to apply. I continue to apply.

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