Information contained in this publication is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or opinion, nor is it a substitute for the professional judgment of an attorney.
Earlier this month, Governor Ned Lamont announced the long-awaited implementation of the state’s so-called “Clean Slate Act” – sort of. According to a recent press release, January 1, 2023 will see the full or partial erasure in some 44,000 cases involving convictions for cannabis possession. Individuals with eligible convictions for other crimes, including most misdemeanors and certain lesser felonies, will have to wait until the second half of 2023 as a result of implementation delays.
The Clean Slate Law & How it Works
Enacted in 2021, Clean Slate seeks to remove barriers to employment for eligible individuals convicted of certain low-level crimes, who have completed their sentence and have had no further involvement with the criminal justice system since their release, by setting forth a process for erasure of conviction records for most misdemeanor convictions and some felony convictions after a specified period.
Clean Slate provides for the automatic erasure of certain criminal records, including for offenses that have been de-criminalized (such as adult-use cannabis possession was in 2021), thereby eliminating the costly, time-consuming and cumbersome process of requesting expungement through the state’s Board of Pardons and Parole for low-level offenses. The law also streamlines the process for expungement of other crimes through application to the Superior Court for convictions prior to January 1, 2000.
The law also added some new protections to those whose records have been erased. While Connecticut employers were already barred in many scenarios from making certain employment decisions based on an employee’s or applicant’s criminal history or erased criminal records, the Act makes it a discriminatory practice for an employer “to discriminate against [a] person in compensation or in terms, conditions or privileges of employment on the basis of that person’s erased criminal history record information.”
Impact on Employers
Once implemented, applicants or employees whose records have been erased will be able to truthfully tell employers that they have no history of arrest or criminal conviction (at least with respect to the erased offense). Prior to Clean Slate, existing law prohibited employers from taking certain actions based on an employee’s or applicants’ criminal history or erased criminal records or even asking about prior arrests or convictions on an employment application, except in certain circumstances where required by law (like education employees) or related to security or fiduciary requirements of the job. In those cases where inquiry is permissible, the law requires a notice, in clear and conspicuous language, defining erased records and advising that the applicant is not required to disclose arrests or convictions that have been erased.
Clean Slate further prohibits employers from advertising employment opportunities in a way that restricts employment of individuals whose criminal records have been erased.
By classifying violations of Clean Slate as discriminatory acts, employers are at risk of aggrieved individuals filing an employment discrimination complaint with the Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities or seeking declaratory or injunctive relief from the court. Employers should ensure their applications are compliant and that personnel involved in the hiring process are familiar with these requirements.
We await further updates on the rollout and implementation of the Clean Slate law in the new year.