In this tight labor market, it is always an occasion to celebrate finding a candidate who makes a great fit. This week a hiring manager was excited about a candidate but learned during an interview that the candidate has had a Felony for theft. The candidate mentioned having an Ohio Certificate of Qualification for Employment that they could provide. Although we are not a bank and the role does not handle money, we need to assure our customers will not be put in any jeopardy and our organization will not be put at risk by making a careless hire. Alternately, we do not want to be discriminatory or lose an otherwise qualified individual that could make a great fit for the role. So what is a Certificate of Qualification and does it make any difference?
Ohio law provides for a certificate to be available that removes criminal-record-based barriers to employment, without erasing or hiding the criminal record itself. The “Certificate of Qualification for Employment” (CQE) will allow persons who have a previous felony or misdemeanor conviction to apply to the court to lift the collateral sanction that bars them from being considered for employment in a particular field. A CQE is only given if an individual has been through an extensive application and investigation process and deemed, by both the Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections (DRC) and the Court, to be rehabilitated. A Certificate of Qualification for Employment may be revoked if the offender is convicted of or pleads guilty to a felony offense committed subsequent to the issuance of the certificate.
A CQE can benefit an employer by removing mandatory rules that prohibit licensure or employment of individuals with certain criminal records. The Certificate may be used for general employment opportunities as well. If an employer knowingly hires a CQE holder, the Certificate offers the employer a legal protection from a potential negligent-hiring lawsuit. (However, if the employer fails to take action if dangerous or criminal behavior is exhibited after hiring and retains the employee after such behavior, the employer can then be held liable.)
To learn more about the certificate and to find the link where you can assure authenticity of a CQE, go to https://www.drc.ohio.gov/cqe . You can also contact The Ohio Justice and Policy Center or directly review Ohio Revised Code 2953.25.
There are many states and cities with laws making it illegal to exclude an otherwise qualified applicant who has had a misdemeanor or felony. At least 12 states have already passed legislation, “banning the box”, that prevents employers from inquiring about a criminal background at initial application. Federal EEO laws, including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, prohibit employers from discrimination by using criminal history information in their employment decisions because they can significantly disadvantage protected individuals such as African Americans and Hispanics. The EEOC also has some written guidance you may refer to:
- What You Should Know About the EEOC and Arrest and Conviction Records
- Enforcement Guidance on Consideration of Arrest and Conviction Records in Employment Decisions Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
This candidate’s Certificate of Qualification for Employment could prove to be a win-win. An applicant who has the qualifications you need and is looking for that long deserved break may prove to be one of your most grateful and loyal employees if given the opportunity. Remember whether hiring or declining, before making a potentially costly decision it is important to educate yourself on related federal, state and local laws and/or seek legal counsel.
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