Across the country, municipalities and states are enacting legislation called “ban the box” which generally prohibits employers from asking job candidates about their criminal histories on applications. The legislation also makes it unlawful for a covered employer to take any adverse action against an individual on the basis of an arrest or criminal accusation that did not result in a conviction. The states of California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Minnesota, and New Mexico have enacted some form of the legislation along with more than 26 cities and counties in Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Wisconsin and Washington. (A complete list of municipalities that have “banned the box” is posted at
However, except for Hawaii and Massachusetts, the legislation has been limited to public employers, or public employers and vendors and contractors serving public entities. The city of Philadelphia, which is the most recent addition to this growing list, is the first municipality to pass a law that covers private employers with 10 or more employees. Below are some jurisdictional highlights of the enacted legislation:
- Hawaii and Massachusetts private and public employers cannot consider felony convictions that are more than 10 years old. And in Massachusetts, employers are not permitted to consider misdemeanor convictions that are more than five years old.
- Hawaii and the cities of Chicago, Hartford, and Cincinnati allow an employer to ask about an applicant’s criminal record only after a conditional offer of employment has been extended.
- Chicago, San Francisco, and Boston require a public employer denying employment on the basis of a conviction to justify its decision based on EEOC’s guidelines which include the nature and gravity of the crime, the time that has passed since the conviction, and the relativity of the crime to the position.
Proponents of “ban the box” are confident that the legislation will be a significant factor in lowering recidivism rates, as it will allow applicants to demonstrate their skills and qualifications prior to disclosing criminal histories. And many experts say that such laws will expand beyond the borders of the United States in the very near future.
The cottage industry of data-collection agencies that provide inexpensive background information is flourishing even in this tough economy. Many prospective employers with tight budgets believe they can save money by relying on the “national” records that are spewed out within minutes of entering a credit card number. So just what do you get for $19.99? Not much. Or a lot…a lot of worthless data, that is. Unverified name-match only records come up by the hundreds if the name is fairly common. And it is nearly impossible to determine case details or duplicate filings, as the cryptic printouts often require specialized knowledge that is specific to each state, municipality or records venue.
Many subjects who are flagged as criminals in these databases have never been convicted of a crime. In fact, according to the U.S. Bureau of Justice statistics for felony defendants in large urban counties, one-third of felony arrests never lead to a conviction. And there is no standardized process for reporting arrests and dispositions or updating the records at the various court levels. Some reported offenses are not actually violations of the criminal code in the particular state, but may still show up in these databases.
There are few regulations governing the use of background information beyond the provisions of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) does not mandate that data aggregators provide guidance on how to properly interpret their records. The only possible value of these so-called national databases is to serve as an indicator that a record may exist, and use the search results to supplement a full investigation. Since the FCRA requires that all “reasonable procedures to assure maximum possible accuracy of the information are followed” and that “the information is complete and up-to-date,” searches for employment purposes must be conducted either manually or through direct access in the particular court where the record is filed.
Employment experts at a July 2011 Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) hearing urged the Commission to consider the comprehensive recommendations put forth by the National Employment Law Project (NELP) in its report on the effect of criminal background checks in employment decisions. Among its recommendations, the NELP suggested that the EEOC revise its now 20-year-old guide on conviction records in view of the “intervening proliferation of instant computerized background information…” The EEOC should also address the “use of arrest records and third-party databases that are considered a part of the hiring process.”
The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) announced today that it obtained an emergency court order to halt a Ponzi scheme that promised investors high returns on water-filtering natural stone pavers but bilked them of approximately $26 million over a four-year period.
Filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, the SEC alleges in its complaint that between 2006 and 2010, convicted felon Eric Aronson and others defrauded about 140 individual investors in PermaPave Companies, a group of firms based on Long Island, NY, and controlled by Aronson. According to the complaint, the investors were told that PermaPave had a tremendous backlog of orders for pavers imported from Australia, which could be sold in the U.S. at a substantial mark-up, yielding monthly returns of 7.8% to 33%. But in reality, the complaint states, there was little demand for the product, and the cost of the pavers far exceeded the revenue from sales.
In their Ponzi scheme, Aronson and two other PermaPave executives, Vincent Buonauro Jr. and Robert Kondratick, used the new funds to make payments to earlier investors and then siphoned off much of the rest for themselves, buying luxury cars, gambling trips, and jewelry, according to the complaint. Aronson also allegedly used the investors’ money to make court-ordered restitution payments to victims of a previous scheme to which he pleaded guilty in 2000.
The complaint further states that when investors began demanding their money, Aronson accused them of committing a felony by lending the PermaPave Companies money at the interest rates he promised them, which he suddenly claimed were usurious. Aronson and his attorney, Fredric Aaron, then allegedly made false statements to persuade investors to convert their securities into ones that deferred payments for several years.
The SEC also charges that the defendants used some of the money raised through the Ponzi scheme to purchase a publicly traded company, Interlink-US-Network, Ltd. Several months later, the SEC said that Interlink issued a Form 8-K, signed by Kondratick, which falsely claimed that LED Capital Corp. had agreed to invest $6 million in Interlink. According to the complaint, LED Capital Corp. did not have $6 million and had no dealings with Interlink.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York, which conducted a parallel investigation, filed criminal charges against Aronson, Buonauro, and Kondratick.