Michigan Law Protects Employers Hiring Ex-Offenders with Certificate of Employability

State Laws

Written By ESR News Blog Editor Thomas Ahearn

Effective January 1, 2015, new Michigan laws – Public Acts 359, 360, and 361 – offer protection for employers in the state that hire ex-offenders by issuing a “certificate of employability” to certain prisoners before their release. Under the new Michigan law, these certificates may be used as evidence to show duty of care by employers when hiring or retaining ex-offenders. A summary of these Public Acts – Michigan House Bills 5216, 5217, and 5218 that have become law – is available here.

According to the summary, Michigan House Bill 5216 amends the Corrections Code to:

  • Require the Department of Corrections (DOC) to give a prisoner, upon release, certain documents regarding his or her record and behavior.
  • Require the DOC to give a prisoner a certificate of employability within 30 days before he or she was paroled, if the prisoner met certain requirements.
  • Specify that a certificate of employability would be valid for four years, but provide for its revocation under certain circumstances.
  • Require the DOC to give an individual an opportunity to file a grievance related to the revocation of a certificate of employment, through the Department’s grievance system.
  • Require the DOC to confirm a request as to whether a certificate of employability had been issued to a person and was valid at the time of the inquiry.
  • Establish a misdemeanor penalty of up to 93 days’ imprisonment and/or a maximum fine of $500 for falsely stating or otherwise representing that a person had a valid certificate of employability.
  • Provide that the DOC would not be civilly liable for damages based on its decision to issue or deny a certificate of employability to any prisoner or for revoking or failing to revoke a certificate.

In addition to other documents the DOC must give a prisoner upon release, the DOC has to issue a certificate of employability to a prisoner who:

  • Successfully completed a career and technical education course;
  • Had no major misconducts during the two years immediately preceding release;
  • Had not more than three minor misconducts during the two years immediately preceding release, and
  • Received a silver level or better on the National Work Readiness Certificate, or a similar score as determined by the DOC on an alternative job skills assessment test administered by the Department.

A certificate of employability can be issued only within 30 days before the prisoner is released on parole from a correctional facility and is valid for four years after the date of issue unless revoked by the DOC. The DOC has to revoke a certificate of employability if the prisoner commits any criminal offense during the 30-day period before release, and can revoke a certificate of employability if the prisoner had any institutional misconduct during that period. The DOC has to revoke the a certificate of employability of a person who committed a felony after receiving it and was then placed under the DOC’s jurisdiction for committing that felony.

Michigan House Bill 5217 amends the Revised Judicature Act to:

  • Allow a certificate of employability issued by the DOC to be introduced as evidence of a person’s due care in hiring or other activities regarding the holder of the certificate.
  • Specify that a certificate of employability would establish that an employer did not act negligently in hiring a person if a claim against the employer required proof that the employer was negligent by disregarding a prior criminal conviction.

The bill does not relieve an employer from a duty or requirement established in another law concerning a background check or verification that an individual was qualified for a position, and does not relieve the employer of liability arising from failure to comply with any such law. The bill also does not create any affirmative duty or otherwise alter an employer’s obligation to or regarding an employee with a certificate of employability issued under the Corrections Code.

Michigan House Bill 5218 amends Public Act 381 of 1974, which pertains to the issuance of occupational licenses to former offenders, to require a licensing board or agency to consider a person’s certificate of employability issued by the DOC if a judgment of guilt were used as evidence in the determination of the person’s good moral character.