Job Seekers Hope To Erase Criminal Past

As the job market tightens, and more and more people are competing for fewer jobs, prospective employees are doing whatever it takes to remain competitive in vying for jobs. For many Americans, this includes trying to gloss over a previous criminal record.

The Wall Street Journal weighs in on this phenomenon, where unprecedented numbers of people are trying to clear their criminal histories. States are facing thousands of requests for expungments of records. For many individuals, a past brush with the law over something innocuous, or a record as the result of plea deals to avoid strict sentencing, have followed them throughout their lives even if they were never incarcerated.

The article tells the tale of Wally Carris, whose application for employment was denied after a past arrest record came up during a search, which he failed to acknowledge on the application. Twenty years prior, Mr. Carris was approached by two men threateningly. He pulled a silver hairbrush out of his pocket, claiming it was a knife to scare the men away. In the following police report, he was charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, to which he paid a fine and believed it was the end of it. However, that fateful night resulted in a past that has followed him since, leading to his petition to expunge his record.

The increasing use of background searches in employment matters, coupled with the trove of personal information found on the internet, has made applicants minor infractions come under the microscope of potential employers. This has vastly hindered many of these individuals to find suitable employment, and forced the drive to clear their names in public record.

Employers contend that the background searches are necessary, as workplace theft becomes an increasing problem. Many employment groups argue that the searches are a form of protecting employers from any unforeseen consequences, and to find the best possible fit for a position.

Given the state of the economy, what do you suggest? Should background checks should be ultimate cause for non-hiring? Or should employers take the time to inquire about an individuals past to better understand circumstance?