Review of Local and State Conviction Record Laws Critical in Hiring Decisions

Court determines that employer unlawfully rescinded a job offer based on the contents of an applicant's criminal record.

In Cree, Inc. v. LIRC, an employer rescinded a job offer after discovering the applicant, Derrick Palmer, maintained a record that contained convictions for "domestic incidents." These incidents included convictions involving Palmer's girlfriend for "strangulation/suffocation, fourth-degree sexual assault, battery, and criminal damage to property." Palmer had applied for an Applications Specialist position where hundreds of his co-workers would be women. As such, the employer revoked the original employment offer.

Wisconsin prohibits discrimination on the basis of a conviction record. Exceptions to this include scenarios in which the employee or applicant has "been convicted of any felony, misdemeanor or other offense the circumstances of which substantially relate to the circumstances of the particular job." Such circumstances include "performing his services in private homes or other isolated settings" or "meeting one-on-one with clients in private settings."

The court held that the employer had unlawfully discriminated against Palmer in rescinding the offer based on his prior conviction record. The court determined that although Palmer's criminal record reflected a tendency "to be physically abusive toward women in a live-in boyfriend/girlfriend relationship," it did not substantially correlate to the specific position for which he had applied.

Employers are encouraged to check and review state and local laws before making employment-related decisions based on conviction records.

Posted: January 11, 2021

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