PHILADELPHIA (CBS/AP) — Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf signed a new law Wednesday that will remove the outdated barriers to employment for skilled workers with criminal records. Officials say under the new law, a person’s criminal record can no longer bar them from receiving an occupational license unless their criminal history is directly related to the practice of that profession.
Even so, boards and commissions cannot consider juvenile or expunged convictions, and they must consider the amount of time since the conviction and the applicant’s personal rehabilitation, training and references, among other things before denying a license.
Moments ago, I signed bipartisan legislation to prevent @PAStateDept boards and commissions from denying someone a professional license due to an unrelated crime.
I'm proud this law will help more Pennsylvanians pursue the American dream without being held back by their past. pic.twitter.com/689cnA3dQK
— Governor Tom Wolf (@GovernorTomWolf) July 1, 2020
“The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a lot of economic challenges that have put a lot of Pennsylvanians out of work. While many of these Pennsylvanians are going to be rehired in their current job or their current industry, there are a whole lot of others who are going to be looking for new jobs, new careers,” Wolf said. “By ensuring every piece of our workforce development chain is modern and efficient and relevant, we can get Pennsylvanians back to work more quickly.”
One in five Pennsylvania workers, or 1 million people, need an occupational license from a board or commission to do their job, according to Wolf’s administration.
Each board and commission must draw up a list of crimes that may prevent licensure and allow a potential applicant to check their eligibility before they take classes or borrow money for schooling.
The bill also commissions the creation of temporary licenses in barbering and cosmetology for people trained in a prison, but otherwise would be denied a license because of their criminal record. That allows them to work for one to two years and demonstrate their competency, Wolf’s administration said.
More than 100 professions — like nurses, barbers and real estate agents — require licenses in the commonwealth.
(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)