by John R. Merinar, Jr.
The West Virginia Second Chance for Employment Act, which is aimed at encouraging employers to open the doors of opportunity to certain nonviolent criminal offenders, will become law on July 7.
The new law will allow individuals with certain criminal convictions the opportunity to petition the courts to change their records to show a reduction of their offenses from felonies to misdemeanors. The legislation also includes certain protections for employers that hire applicants with criminal convictions.
Under the new law, 10 years after completing any sentence related to the crime, a person convicted of certain nonviolent felonies in a West Virginia circuit court may petition the courts for an order reducing the status of the offense from a felony to a misdemeanor. Many types of offenses are excluded from the Act, including sexual offenses or crimes involving the use or exhibition of a deadly weapon or other dangerous instrument.
The new law bars lawsuits against employers, general contractors, premises owners, and other third parties based solely on the fact that they employed a nonviolent, nonsexual offender or a person who has had his conviction reduced under the Act. The law will limit plaintiffs’ ability to introduce evidence of the fact that the employee or independent contractor was convicted of a nonviolent, nonsexual offense or had a conviction reduced under the Act. Some circumstances aren’t covered by the new law, so employers will need to be aware of the law’s limits.
For more information on the West Virginia Second Chance for Employment Act, see the June issue of West Virginia Employment Law Letter.