Pennsylvania Decision Reinforces the Importance of New York’s Criminal Conviction Protection

by Harrison Paige

In Martin v. SIMOS, the District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania ruled that Pennsylvania’s Criminal History Records Information Act (“CHRIA”) only protects employee applicants from criminal conviction discrimination, not those who are already employed. SIMOS, an insourcing solution job center, terminated Robert Martin, who was hired through SIMOS to unload trucks for Lowe’s, because of his criminal history. Martin brought suit against SIMOS, claiming that SIMOS had violated the CHRIA.

When applying, Martin disclosed his criminal history and was told he was “good to go,” starting work at Lowe’s shortly thereafter. Not long after his hire, Martin was suspended because a female employee alleged that he had harassed her. Although the allegations turned out to be false and Martin returned to work, a human resources representative told him only one day after he returned that he would be terminated because of his criminal history. About a week after that conversation, SIMOS terminated Martin’s employment.

Martin sued, alleging that SIMOS had violated the CHRIA by firing him. The court pointed out, however, that the language of the Pennsylvania statute is narrow and refers exclusively to an “applicant” rather than an “employee.” Therefore, the court held that “a distinction exists” between the hiring and firing stages of employment under CHRIA. Plaintiff argued that this interpretation of the statute does not make logical sense because, under such a theory, there would be nothing stopping an employer from hiring an applicant with a criminal record and then terminating them the next day, thus evading the CHRIA altogether. The court held that “Plaintiff’s logic might be compelling, [but] it is not the law.”

Fortunately, New York Correction Law Article 23-A does not make such a distinction. New York law clearly states that neither applicants for employment nor employees “shall be denied or acted upon adversely by reason of the individual’s having been previously convicted of one or more criminal offenses.” Thus, unlike Pennsylvania, New York protects individuals from criminal conviction discrimination both at hiring and during employment.

If you live in New York and believe you have been denied employment or terminated from your employment because of your criminal conviction history, contact The Harman Firm, LLP for a free assessment of your claims.