Ohio Supreme Court Rules School Employees with Criminal Pasts Revealed in Background Checks can Be Fired

The Ohio Supreme Court has upheld the constitutionality of a state law that requires the dismissal of school employees with serious criminal convictions in their pasts, according to a story from The Plain Dealer on Cleveland.com.

The Ohio Supreme court said in issuing a 5-2 decision that the law can continue to be applied to employees or applicants whose criminal history is revealed through background checks.

Eight months after the law took effect prohibiting districts from employing people with felony convictions after November 14, 2007, a background check on an unnamed Cincinnati school district employee (named “John Doe” in the ensuing lawsuit) turned up a drug-trafficking conviction from 1976. Doe was fired, as the law mandated, even though the conviction occurred 21 years before he was initially hired by the school district, the Plain Dealer reports.

The new law had extended the background check requirement to non-teaching school employees like secretaries, janitors and mechanics whereas only teachers had to pass background checks previously. 

The fired man, Doe, brought a suit challenging the law, arguing that the law was unconstitutionally retroactive since it was based on his conduct before he was employed by the district, but the law prohibited districts from employing people with felony convictions after November 14, 2007, and the “disqualifying background check” happened after that date. A summary of the court’s decision can be viewed at: http://www.supremecourt.ohio.gov/PIO/summaries/2010/1026/092104.asp.

The Ohio Department of Education has since issued more specific rules outlining how the law should be enforced, including considering crimes that happened more than 10 years in the past showing rehabilitation and leaving the decision up to the district.

The Plain Dealer also reports that twenty-three employees of the Cleveland school district lost their jobs because of the law, according to a spokeswoman.

For more information about pre-employment background checks, please visit Employment Screening Resources (ESR) at http://www.ESRcheck.com.

Employment Screening Resources (ESR) literally wrote the book on background checks with ‘The Safe Hiring Manual’ by ESR founder and President Lester Rosen. ESR is recognized as Background Screening Credentialing Council (BSCC) Accredited by the National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS®) for proving compliance with the Background Screening Agency Accreditation Program (BSAAP). For more information about Employment Screening Resources, visit http://www.ESRcheck.com.