It’s common knowledge that Pennsylvania’s Sex Offender Registry is available online for any member of the general public to browse or search at will. But if the Registry is already public, do convicted offenders still have to tell their neighbors and employers about their criminal records? In this article, our sex crime lawyers will explain the employment and community disclosure requirements for sex offenders living in Pennsylvania.
Different types of sex offenders are subject to different types of community notification requirements. Therefore, in order to understand the disclosure requirements which apply under Megan’s Law, you also have to understand the differences between designated categories of sex offenders.
Only two categories of offenders are subject to "active community notification," in which law enforcement - not the actual offender - is responsible for posting notification flyers around the area where the offender lives. These categories are:
However, not all sex offenders are receive sexually violent designations. So which offenders do fall into these categories?
As defined by the Pennsylvania State Police, Sexually Violent Predators are offenders who "have a [court-determined] mental abnormality or personality disorder that makes the person likely to engage in predatory sexually violent offenses." All Sexually Violent Predators are Tier III offenders who must register for life, whereas other kinds of offenders are released from their registration requirements after a period of 15 years (Tier I) to 25 years (Tier II).
Sexually Violent Delinquent Children are juveniles who:
Note that unless they are categorized as Sexually Violent Delinquent Children, juveniles are not required to register. In fact, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court recently struck down registration requirements for juveniles as unconstitutional.
Community notification isn’t the only disclosure issue convicted sex offenders encounter. Most convicted offenders also worry about whether they will have to tell their current or potential employers.
In Philadelphia, employers are prohibited from asking about criminal convictions on job applications. This prohibition is called the Fair Criminal Record Screening Standards Ordinance, nicknamed the "Ban the Box" Ordinance. All employers with at least 10 employees are subject to the ordinance, with an exception for criminal justice agencies like police departments.
Outside of Philadelphia, employers are generally permitted to ask about criminal records on job applications. While applicants must answer truthfully, there are also several state and federal laws which protect against discriminatory hiring practices.
For example, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which is aggressively enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), prohibits rejecting a job applicant on the basis of a prior conviction unless that conviction would impact the applicant’s ability to perform the job safely and adequately. When making this determination, employers should consider factors like how long ago the offense occurred, the severity of the offense, and how the offense relates (or doesn’t relate) to the functions of the job.
Additionally, racial discrimination sometimes plays an incidental role with regard to Title VII. If racial minorities are disproportionately rejected on the basis of having criminal backgrounds, the employer could become liable for Title VII violations unless he or she can prove there is no racial component to the hiring decisions.
On the state level, Pennsylvania residents have additional protection under a law called the Criminal History Record Information Act, or CHRIA, located at 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 9101 et. seq. In accordance with 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 9125(b), "Felony and misdemeanor convictions may be considered by the employer only to the extent to which they relate to the applicant’s suitability for employment in the position for which he has applied."
In other words, as long as the applicant would be competent to perform the job requirements and would not create a safety risk, he or she must be given fair and neutral job consideration. Furthermore, the employer is required to explain him- or herself in situations where he or she does decide to reject the applicant on the basis of the applicant’s criminal record, as provided by 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. §9125(c).
If you were arrested for computer crimes or sex crimes in Philadelphia or elsewhere in Pennsylvania, the experienced criminal defense lawyers of Krasner & Long can help. To arrange for a free and completely confidential legal consultation, call our law offices right away at (215) 882-9752.