L.A. Schools Deny Job-Seekers Second Chance

     LOS ANGELES (CN) — Los Angeles Unified School District illegally rejects job-seekers who have expunged misdemeanor records, two members of the civil rights group All Of Us or None say in a lawsuit against the district.
     All Of Us or None, founded in 2003, promotes the civil rights of people who have been convicted of a crime, including help in employment and legislative advocacy.
     It sued LAUSD, its Superintendent Michelle King and the top officials in its Personnel Commission and Human Resources Division, on Monday in Superior Court.
     Plaintiff Jane Roe has one conviction, for credit card fraud when she was 19, in 2006. It was reduced to a misdemeanor and then dismissed 2011. Since then she has earned a bachelor’s degree in behavioral sciences, a master’s degree in sociology and a teaching certificate and is in the first year of a doctoral program in education.
     Plaintiff John Doe was convicted of multiple misdemeanors.
     California Labor Code states that employers cannot use convictions that have been judicially dismissed or ordered sealed as a factor in determining whether to hire a job candidate, according to the complaint.
     Roe and Doe say they both were rejected for positions at LAUSD based on misdemeanor convictions that have since been expunged or otherwise dismissed.
     Roe taught at LAUSD as an urban resident teacher from June 2013 to June 2014, and applied toward the end of 2013 for the certified position of middle-school science teacher.
     The district placed her on a list of eligible candidates and Wright Middle School hired her as a science teacher in June 2014. She was fingerprinted for a criminal history background check the next month. Roe started her job at the middle school on Aug. 11, 2014, before the background check results had come in.
     Two weeks later, the district “informed Roe that she was ineligible to work for LAUSD based on her background check result,” she says in the complaint.
     The district never provided her with a copy of her background check, but she believes it disclosed her expunged misdemeanor conviction. She says she was not given a reason for her firing, nor notice that she has the right to appeal.
     John Doe was convicted of multiple misdemeanors between 1986 and 2004, including presenting a false ID to a peace officer, battery on a spouse, possession of a concealed weapon and driving under the influence.
     “As part of court-ordered programs, Doe successfully completed anger management classes in 2004, which helped him understand and control his anger and emotions. As a result, it has been more than a decade since his last conviction, and he has devoted his life to his parenting obligations, including care for his daughter during her treatment for leukemia,” he says in the complaint.
     Doe graduated from Los Angeles Trade Tech College and is skilled in maintenance work, but has had difficulty finding employment due to his criminal record. With help from A New Way of Life Reentry Project, he was able to have all of his convictions set aside and dismissed in 2013, Doe says.
     With his newly expunged record, he applied for a job with LAUSD as a maintenance worker, which would have been his first stable paycheck with regular hours. He was fingerprinted and the district obtained a copy of his rap sheet. He was not given a copy of the rap sheet but he believes it disclosed his expunged misdemeanor convictions.
     “LAUSD rejected Doe’s employment application based in whole or in part on information obtained from his DOJ rap sheet,” the complaint states.
     Doe appealed but has yet to hear back from the district.
     “At no time was Doe given an opportunity to present any evidence of mitigation, rehabilitation, relevance of the expunged convictions to the job position, or the nature of his original convictions,” he says.
     Both plaintiffs seek to clarify the scope of protection the state offers people who have expunged their records and are looking for employment.
     “Most importantly, plaintiffs seek to vindicate the rights of FICP [formerly incarcerated or convicted people], to restore their dignity, and to be free from undue prejudice of employers such as LAUSD,” the complaint states.
     They also want to be placed on top of the list of eligible candidates and allowed to proceed to the next stage of the hiring process, as they want to see copies of the rap sheets obtained by the district.
     They are represented by Joshua Kim with A New Way of Life Reentry Project, who did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Nor did the school district.

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