Many low-income people work, often at more than one job. Many workers do not receive the full, lawful benefit of that hard work. Legal Aid helps workers maintain the income they have earned from working, helps workers who have lost their job get unemployment compensation benefits, and helps people who are facing tax problems.

Work Matters We Handle

  • Wage theft including unpaid wages, minimum wage violations and overtime violations
  • Tax controversies, including Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) problems
  • Unemployment Compensation
  • Other employee rights

FAQs

I was recently fired and my employer has not paid me my last paycheck. What can I do to get my last paycheck? Close

Employers must pay workers all of the wages that the worker has earned. Generally, a last paycheck should be paid on the next regularly scheduled payday.

Next Steps

Other Resources

What is the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)? Close

Please see our Low Income Taxpayer Clinic page for information.

I lost my job and my unemployment compensation benefits have been denied. Can Legal Aid help me get my benefits? Close

Legal Aid may be able to help you get your unemployment benefits, but we will need more information from you.

Next Steps

Other Resources

Should my employer be paying me overtime when I work more than 40 hours in a work week? Close

In most cases, if you work over 40 hours in a work week then you should receive 1  ½ times your regular hourly rate of pay for all of the hours you worked over 40 for that week.

Next Steps

Other Resources

I am low-income and am involved in a civil case. Is there a way to reduce or eliminate fees? Close

When a person wants to file a civil case, the court requires that person to pay a filing fee to start the legal process.   Also, a person who is a party to a case and wants to ask the court to do something by filing a “motion” or a “counterclaim” must also pay a fee.   In order to fully participate in a legal proceeding, courts often require payment of many different costs and fees.

In many situations, you can file your documents in court without payment or with a lower payment if you also file a “poverty affidavit.”   A poverty affidavit is a written, sworn statement that you are low income and do not have enough money to pay the fees.   You will need to list your income, assets and dependents on the affidavit.   Once you file a poverty affidavit in a case, the clerk will either not charge you any money or will only charge a small fraction of the normal fee to file most other documents in the same case.

You can complete a poverty affidavit at The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland, even if you are not represented by an attorney from Legal Aid.   If you need a poverty affidavit, go to any Legal Aid office during normal business hours (note recent changes) and request the form from the receptionist.   Be sure you also have the form notarized, which Legal Aid can do as well.   You will need photo identification to have the poverty affidavit notarized.

After you complete a poverty affidavit, you must take it to the clerk of courts where your case is being heard.   The poverty affidavit will only apply to that specific case.   If you have another case at the same or a later time, you will need a second poverty affidavit.   Also, in Ohio, the poverty affidavit allows you to file documents in a case without payment or with lesser payment but does not eliminate all fees.   At the end of the case, you might still be responsible for some fees such as court costs.

This article was written by Legal Aid attorney Anne Sweeney and appeared in The Alert: Volume 29, Issue 1. Click here to read the full issue.

I feel my criminal record will limit my success in life. Has anyone else turned their life around after prison? Close

Damian Calvert:   From Inmate to Community Leader

When a person is convicted of a crime, he may spend days, months or years in prison, but the criminal record will affect him for much longer.   Formerly incarcerated individuals struggle to find jobs, housing, health care and other necessities. It’s much harder to avoid re-offending when these needs are not met. Despite the hurdles, success is possible. Damian Calvert is an inspiring example.

Damian Calvert spent 18 years in prison. As many young adults were graduating from high school, going to college or starting jobs – Calvert was facing a long road through the correction system to achieve a life free from crime. According to Calvert, “my journey of incarceration wasn’t just a physical journey it was an interior journey”¦. I had a lot of self-introspection, facing my own demons and dealing with my own issues – emotionally, spiritually and mentally.”

Despite the challenges Calvert faced during and after prison, he returned home and is creating positive change in his community. Much of Calvert’s success today is based on the groundwork he laid while still incarcerated.   Calvert founded the NAACP chapter at Grafton Correctional Institution (GCI) in 2005. As part of his work with the NAACP, Calvert conducted outreach to many people outside the prison walls. Given that he could not participate in typical networking, he invited key stakeholders into the prison. Many of those people are now Calvert’s friends and coworkers in the community.

Within two days of leaving GCI, Calvert found a job. A short time later he enrolled at Cleveland State University to pursue a Masters in Non-Profit Management. Just over two years after Calvert’s release, he has his own apartment and car, and he is the Lead Organizer for Stand Up Ohio (Cleveland Region). Calvert proudly speaks about his life story: “If I cannot accept and be comfortable with myself, how can I expect others to treat me with the respect and dignity I deserve?”

This article was written by Erika Anthony of Oriana House, Inc.  and appeared in The Alert: Volume 29, Issue 2. Click here to read the full issue.

I have a juvenile criminal record. Which offenses can be sealed? Close

Changes to Juvenile Law from Senate Bill 337

In 2012, Ohio passed Senate Bill 337. This law changed some of the rules affecting juveniles involved in the criminal justice system. First, more offenses are eligible to be sealed. All juvenile offenses except for Aggravated Murder, Murder, and Rape may be sealed under the new law. “Sealing a record” means that Juvenile Court will separate the record of all delinquency proceedings and place them in a file only the Court can see. After a court seals a record, a person can request the Court expunge it. Expungement permanently destroys the record.

Another change in the law is that juveniles now only have to wait six months after completing their sentence to request that their record be sealed. You can locate the forms to apply for sealing/expungement at the Juvenile Clerk of Courts on the 2nd Floor of the Juvenile Justice Center, 9300 Quincy Avenue, Cleveland, Ohio 44106. You do not have to pay a filing fee for a sealing/expungement application.

Juvenile records are not public records and therefore cannot be viewed by the general public. Additionally, the Bureau of Criminal Investigation (“BCI”) cannot release juvenile adjudications (convictions) as part of a criminal background check. This means that BCI cannot provide a person’s juvenile record to a potential employer. The only exceptions are for cases involving murder and sexually oriented offenses.

Lastly, under the new law, youth charged with delinquencies must stay in the juvenile detention center instead of being moved to the adult county jail. A youth can remain in juvenile detention until they are 21, even if the juvenile judge transfers their case to adult court. Only upon the request of the prosecutor or Juvenile Court can a youth be transferred to adult jail. If transferred to adult jail, a youth is entitled to a review hearing after 30 days and may be returned to the juvenile detention center.

This article was written by Brant DiChiera of the Cuyahoga County Public Defender – Juvenile Division and appeared in The Alert: Volume 29, Issue 2. Click here to read the full issue.

I was denied public housing because of my criminal record. Can I appeal the decision? Close

What to Do When a Landlord Denies Public Housing Based on a Criminal Record

When you apply for Section 8 or public housing, you may be asked whether you or a family member have ever been arrested or convicted of a crime.

If is the answer is yes, then the landlord may deny your application. But you may still qualify for the housing. If you want to challenge the denial, you need to ask for an informal appeal right away. The number of days you are given will be stated in the rejection letter. You count the number of days from the date in the letter.

You will need to write a short letter to ask for a meeting about the denial. Take your letter to the landlord’s office and ask the receptionist to date-stamp a copy of your request for a meeting.   Keep the stamped copy. In the letter, you should ask for:

  • a copy of your application;
  • the information used to deny your application; and
  • a copy of the Tenant Selection Plan (TSP).

The TSP will tell you how long the criminal conviction will count against you. Federal law requires the time to be reasonable. The time may count either from the date you were convicted or from when you completed your sentence. Different landlords will look at criminal convictions for different lengths of time.

At the meeting with the landlord, you need to show that you will be a good tenant. You could show that your conviction should not count against you because it is from a long time ago. Also, you could show that your behavior has improved since you were convicted. Bring letters from teachers, mentors, pastors or others that say how you have changed. Certificates showing you completed courses or programs can also be helpful. You may want to consult with an attorney before the meeting. To find out if you are eligible for Legal Aid, please contact intake at 216.687.1900 or attend a free Brief Advice Clinic.

This article was written by Legal Aid Supervising Attorney Maria Smith and appeared in The Alert: Volume 29, Issue 2. Click here to read the full issue.

I have a criminal record and am having trouble finding work. What can I do? Close

Certificate of Qualification for Employment: New Help with Jobs for People with a Criminal Record

A major problem for people with criminal convictions is finding or keeping jobs. Until recently, the only help available was to seal the criminal record. Ohio’s new law allows more people to seal a criminal record. (More information about sealing criminal records can be found at http://lasclev.org/category/faqs/work-faqs/).

Still, not everyone with a criminal conviction can seal that record. They often have a hard time finding a job. Now, people with convictions can apply for a Certificate of Qualification for Employment (CQE). A CQE potentially allows people with convictions to overcome barriers to getting jobs and certain job related licenses.

In general, a CQE changes the rules so people with certain convictions can be considered for jobs that they would otherwise not be allowed to do. The CQE gives a potential employer or licensing agency the option to consider the applicant for a job or license. The CQE does not guarantee employment or a license; it merely opens the door so that people with criminal records have the opportunity to apply.

CQEs are granted by local common pleas courts. The court must decide three things in order to award a person a CQE:

  • that the CQE will materially help the person in getting a job or license;
  • that the person has a great need for the help it would bring; and
  • that giving the CQE will not pose an unfair risk to the safety of the public.

Interested people can apply for a CQE online at the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction’s website, www.drccqe.com. A person with misdemeanor convictions must wait six months before applying. Persons with felonies must wait one year. The courts just recently started accepting applications for CQEs. We will learn more about how CQEs are treated by courts and employers over the next several months.

This article was written by Legal Aid Managing Attorney Stephanie Jackson and appeared in The Alert: Volume 29, Issue 2. Click here to read the full issue.

I have a criminal record and am applying for a job that requires a background check. What can I do? Close

Criminal Background Checks and Protection Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act

Most employers use criminal background checks when hiring a person for a job. An employer is allowed to use a criminal background check, but must follow certain rules. The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) tells employers what they can and cannot do when using a background check.

An employer must tell the job applicant in writing that it plans to do a background check. The employer must give this notice before it actually does the background check. Also, the employer must get the applicant’s permission, in writing, to do the background check.

If the employer decides not to hire the applicant, it must do two things. First, the employer must give the applicant a copy of the background check. Second, the employer must give the applicant the Federal Trade Commission’s “A Summary of Your Rights Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act.”

These two documents must be given to the applicant before denying employment. This gives the applicant time to correct any wrong information in the background check.

After the employer denies employment, it must give the applicant the contact information for the background check company. It must also give the applicant information about his or her right to dispute the information in the background check. The background check company can report convictions, no matter how old. Arrests, generally, cannot be reported if they are more than seven years old.

There are many common mistakes that background check companies report to employers. For example, the information may be wrong or the information may be about someone else with the same name or birth date. The background check company may also over-report information by stating: “There is a conviction with Mr. X.’s name. This may or may not be your Mr. X.”

If you are applying for a job and you learn the employer obtained an incorrect background check, you should dispute the inaccuracies. More information about your rights can be found at www.consumer.ftc.gov.

This article was written by Legal Aid Staff Attorney Julie Cortes and appeared in The Alert: Volume 29, Issue 2. Click here to read the full issue.

I have a criminal record and need to find work. Are there resources to help me? Close

New Ohio Law and Federal Programs Help Employers Hire People Returning from Prison

In Ohio there were many laws preventing people with criminal records from working in certain kinds of jobs. In 2012, however, Ohio passed a new law that helps people returning from prison get jobs. Also, there are two federal programs that encourage employers to hire people with criminal backgrounds.

Under the new law people who committed nonviolent offenses can now work as optical dispensers, salvage dealers, hearing aid dealers and fitters, and can obtain licenses in cosmetology and construction. The new law also created Certificates of Qualification for Employment, which can help people get jobs they could not have had before. (More information about CQEs can be found in the article “Certificate of Qualification for Employment: New Help with Jobs for People with a Criminal Record,” in this issue of The Alert.)

The CQE allows employers to hire people whose criminal record would have not allowed them to do the job before. Licensing boards can also grant a license to someone with a CQE who could not have obtained the license before. The CQE protects employers from any negligent hiring claim. There are some limits to using a CQE when applying for jobs in law enforcement, a pain clinic, and health care settings.

Employers can also benefit from programs that support hiring people with criminal backgrounds. First, the Workforce Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) can reduce an employer’s federal income tax liability by as much as $2,400 per qualified new worker. There is no limit on the number of new hires claimed and the credit applies to wages paid to full-time, part-time and temporary employees. The employer must complete a one-page form before offering the job and another form within 28 days of hiring an eligible employee.

For more information on how to apply for the WOTC, contact the Ohio Department of Jobs and Families services at 1.888.296.7541, Option 9.

The second program, called Federal Bonding, protects employers financially who hire a job applicant who has a criminal history. Federal bonding reimburses employers for loss of money or property in the event that an employee covered by the bond is dishonest, commits theft, forgery, larceny, embezzlement of property or money. The bond coverage ranges from about $5,000 up to $25,000. The bond insurance is free to the employer. Coverage begins the first day of the applicant’s employment and ends after six months.

For more information on how to access this coverage, contact Ohio’s State Bureau of Quality and Community Partnerships at 614.728.1534.

http://www.hirenetwork.org/content/work-opportunity-tax-credit

http://www.bonds4jobs.com/highlights.html

http://www.hirenetwork.org/content/federal-bonding-program

This article was written by Bishara Addison of Towards Employment and appeared in The Alert: Volume 29, Issue 2. Click here to read the full issue.

I just got out of prison. What resources are there to help me with community re-entry? Close

Reentry Resources

Cuyahoga County Office of Reentry

216.698.3437

http://reentry.cuyahogacounty.us/

Ashtabula County Local Reentry Partner

440.576.3570

http://www.reentrycoalition.ohio.gov/pages/coalitions/ashtabula/ashtabula.html

Geauga County Local Reentry Partner

440.357.5040

http://www.reentrycoalition.ohio.gov/pages/coalitions/geauga/geauga.html

Lake County Reentry Coalition

440.343.7136

http://www.reentrycoalition.ohio.gov/pages/coalitions/lake/lake.html

Lorain County Reentry Coalition

http://www.loraincountyreentry.com/

You can also access the Ohio Reentry Resource Center for information about programs and services available in each county at http://www.drc.ohio.gov/web/reentry_resource.htm.

This information appeared in The Alert: Volume 29, Issue 2. Click here to read the full issue.

What are the new work requirements for Food Stamps? Close

Beginning January 1, 2014, your County Department of Job and Family Services will start enforcing the new work requirements for food stamps for “able bodied adults without dependents.” These individuals will now be limited to receiving benefits for 3 months in any 36-month period unless work 80 hours per month or participate in the county’s work experience program. But individuals can keep getting Food Stamps without any limits and without any work requirement if they qualify for an exemption. Individuals are exempt if they are:

  • 17 or younger or older than 50
  • Receiving benefits in a household with someone 17 years old or younger
  • Receiving OWF or disability benefits
  • Applying for or receiving SSI or UC
  • Students enrolled at least half-time in school or training program
  • Pregnant
  • Responsible for the care of an incapacitated person they live with
  • Determined to be mentally or physically unfit for employment
  • Participating in a drug or alcohol treatment or rehabilitation program

If you believe you should be exempt from the new work requirement, provide proof of your exemption to your Food Stamp caseworker at your County Department of Job and Family Services immediately. Keep a copy of the proof you provide and write the date you give it to your worker. If you are denied an exemption or if your Food Stamp caseworker threatens to stop your Food Stamps, Legal Aid may be able to help you. Call Legal Aid intake at 1-888-817-3777.

What happens if Unemployment Compensation claimants do not complete the new OhioMeansJobs requirements by the deadlines? Close

If you do not meet one of the new OhioMeansJobs requirements by the deadline for that activity,  you will be sent a “Notice of Eligibility Issue.”  After receiving this Notice, you have five days to explain why your benefits should not be stopped.

You should provide evidence to your Processing Center by telephone or fax:

  • that you have either done the required activity, OR
  • that you have justifiable cause for failure to complete the activity, OR
  • that you are exempt or should have been waived from the requirement.

If you do not reply to the Notice within five days or if the Office of Unemployment does not agree with you, you will receive a Determination stating that your benefits will stop until that activity is completed.

If you disagree with a decision that stops your benefits, you should file an appeal immediately.  Instructions for how to appeal are included in the Notice or Determination.

If you receive a Notice or a Determination which states that your benefits will stop, you should check to be sure that you completed all the required activities.  If you did not complete a required activity, you should complete the activity immediately.  When you have completed the activities you should notify your Processing Center immediately by calling the telephone number on the notice or Determination. Calling the Processing Center to report your activities will end the problem so that  you can begin to receive benefits again.

Note: even if you “end” the issue, you could also appeal if you believe that you had justifiable cause for missing the deadline or if you believe that you were exempt or should have been waived.   If you win your appeal, you would be paid for the weeks after the deadline but before you completed the activity.

If you receive Unemployment Compensation, do you know about the new OhioMeansJobs requirement to keep receiving benefits? Close

If you apply for Unemployment Compensation benefits after April 11, 2014 you must complete new online work search activities in order to continue receiving benefits.

NOTE: Some exceptions exist for people who cannot use a computer or who do not speak English well. See below for more information on these groups.

UC Claimants must complete certain activities by certain deadlines or risk losing benefits.

FIRST, UC Claimants must set up an account with OhioMeansJobs. To set up an account, follow the steps below.UC Photo

  1. Go to https://ohiomeansjobs.com and click on the icon “Individuals – Get Started”.  Then, click on the icon for “unemployment compensation claimants” Clicking on that icon will redirect you to the OhioMeansJobs Unemployment Guide. NOTE: You must enter the OhioMeansJobs site through the Guide in order to be sure that your information is properly recorded and sent to the Office of Unemployment.
  2. From the Guide, scroll down to “Before Week 8” and click on “Sign in Now” to the right. You will be taken to a login page. Look for the box that says “UC Claimants: Are you logging in to OMJ for the first time? Sign in here.” Click on this link.
  3. A new box will appear asking for the user name and password that you received from the Office of Unemployment. Enter the information and click “Sign in.” NOTE: Your OMJ username and password will be DIFFERENT from the unemployment PIN number you use to file unemployment weekly claims on http://unemployment.ohio.gov.
  4. You only have to complete this set up process the first time you login. After your account is set up, you can login from the box that says, “Already have an account?” For help with this process, please see the desk guide available at: http://www.odjfs.state.oh.us/forms/findform.asp?formnum=20139

SECOND, by the 8th week of the unemployment benefits, UC Claimants must create and upload a resume to OhioMeansJobs. From the OhioMeansJobs Unemployment Guide, scroll to “Required by Week 8” and click on “Manage Resumes” to the right. For help with this process, see the desk guide at: http://www.odjfs.state.oh.us/forms/findform.asp?formnum=20197. Please be sure that when you upload your resume you click ‘public’ so that employers can see it.

THIRD, by the 20th week of the unemployment claim, UC Claimants must create a career profile. To create a career profile, from the OhioMeansJobs Unemployment Guide scroll to “Required by Week 20” and click on “Go to Career Profile” to the right. Creating your career profile requires answering 60 questions about activities you like or dislike. After doing this, you will receive a list of jobs that match your interests. For help with this process, see the desk guide at: http://www.odjfs.state.oh.us/forms/findform.asp?formnum=20196

Some groups of people do not have to sign up online for OhioMeansJobs, but instead must call an Ohio Means Jobs Center to sign up for individualized work search activities. Those groups are:

  1. Individuals with a limited ability to read, write, speak or understand English.
  2. Individuals with a physical or visual impairment that prevents them from using a computer.
  3. Individuals who are legally prohibited from using a computer.

If one of those descriptions applies to you, call 1-888-296-7541 to locate an OhioMeansJobs Center.

For a small group of people, work search activities are not required. You are not required to do work search activities if the Office of Unemployment finds that you:

  1. were laid off subject to recall within 45 days [the employer notifies unemployment],
  2. were laid off due to a plant closing for up to 26 weeks [the employer must apply for a waiver],
  3. are in an approved training course or unemployed while attending school, or
  4. are a union member in good standing who is hired through a hiring hall.
  5. have already completed the same or similar activities within the past 12 months

If one of those descriptions applies to you, then you should receive a questionnaire from Unemployment. You will need to provide information on the questionnaire to unemployment so that you do not have to complete the work search requirements. If the Office of Unemployment agrees to “waive” the requirements for you, then you will receive a New Claim Instruction Sheet and/or Notice of Work Search Instructions which will say that you are not required to register with OhioMeansJobs.

What are some self-help tools I can use in my legal case? Close

The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland recently created a self-help section on its website to begin providing tools to people who must go to court on their own without the help of an attorney.  The tools currently available can help people with the following:

Keep checking the Cleveland Legal Aid website for more self-help tools in the coming months.   If you have questions, attend one of Legal Aid’s free brief advice clinics.  You can find a list of upcoming clinic dates and locations here: http://lasclev.org/events/category/brief-advice-clinics/

This article appeared in The Alert: Volume 30, Issue 2. Click here to read a full PDF of this issue!

What should I know for dealing with administrative agencies? Close

Many different administrative agencies are responsible for important parts of our life, such as income, health insurance, and housing.  But dealing with the agencies that handle these benefits can be very difficult.  The following information will help when trying to solve a problem with an administrative agency.

Some common administrative agencies are the Social Security Administration, Veterans Administration, Internal Revenue Service, Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, public housing authorities, and the Office of Child Support Services.  Even though each agency has its own rules, there are some common policies.  All administrative agencies:

  • Must give written notice when benefits or services are denied, reduced or terminated and tell you the reason for that decision;
  • The notice must tell you how to “appeal” or challenge the decision if you disagree with it;
  • The notice must tell you how much time you have to request an appeal, and whether or not your benefits will continue while you appeal;
  • You have a right to appoint an authorized representative to deal with the administrative agency for you, and each agency usually has a form to fill out if you want to do so;
  • Administrative agencies all have complaint or grievance procedures you can use if you have a problem with the agency, and the procedure for each agency should be available online or at the office;
  • Most final decisions of administrative agencies can be appealed to court but only AFTER you follow the agency process first.

When dealing with an administrative agency, you can maximize your chances for success and minimize your frustration if you:

  • Keep copies of all papers that you give the agency;
  • Keep a phone log of all calls you place to the agency, and who you speak with when you call;
  • Keep a calendar where you write down important deadlines in your appeal;
  • Attend all appointments scheduled with the agency or call at least 24 hours in advance to cancel;
  • Respond to all requests from the agency for additional information, and keep a record of what you provide and when you provided it; and
  • Give the agency your current phone number and address any time your contact information changes.

While these tips may help you deal directly with administrative agencies, some times you might need help from a lawyer.  Call Legal Aid at 1-888-817-3777 to apply for help with denials, reductions, terminations and over-payments of many public benefits.

 

This article appeared in The Alert: Volume 30, Issue 3. Click here to read a full PDF of this issue!

I am a low-income entrepreneur – can I get legal help with taxes? Close

The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland Low Income Taxpayer Clinic is available to assist self-employed individuals with their federal income tax problems.

Free help and education (including presentations) are available through the Clinic to help low-income entrepreneurs with their IRS issues, including the possibility of referrals for free tax preparation assistance and business advice.

Please contact Anne Sweeney, Managing Attorney for Community Engagement, at Anne.Sweeney@lasclev.org with inquiries about this assistance.

What should I know about the new requirements for Unemployment Compensation? Close

 

Unemployment Compensation claimants must complete NEW work search activities on OhioMeansJobs.com by certain deadlines or risk losing benefits. These new requirements are for people who applied for unemployment after April 11, 2014.

FIRST, UC Claimants must set up an account with OhioMeansJobs. To set up an account, go to https://ohiomeansjobs.com . Then,  click on “Individuals -Get Started”. Then find:

OMJ-UC-icon

 

 

Clicking there will take you to the “OhioMeansJobs Unemployment Guide”. You must enter the OhioMeansJobs site through the Guide so that your information is sent to the Office of Unemployment.

SECOND, by the 8th week of the unemployment benefits, UC Claimants must upload a resume to OhioMeansJobs.com. When you upload your resume you need to click ‘public’ so that employers can see it.

 Third, by the 20th week of the unemployment benefits, UC Claimants must create a career profile. After you answer 60 questions, you will receive a list of jobs that match your interests.

ODJFS has created step by step guides for reach requirement. You can find these on the unemployment web site http://unemployment.ohio.gov , or call your Unemployment Processing Center for help. The telephone number is on your “New Claim Instruction Sheet.”

Some UC Claimants do NOT have to meet these requirements if the Office of Unemployment finds that you:

  1. Were laid off subject to recall within 45 days [the employer notifies unemployment],
  2. Were laid off due to a plant closing for up to 26 weeks [the employer must apply for a waiver],
  3. Are in an approved training course or unemployed while attending school, or
  4. Are a union member in good standing who is hired through a hiring hall, or
  5. Have already completed the same or similar activities within the past 12 months.

If one of those exceptions applies to your situation, then you must fill out a questionnaire for the Office of Unemployment and they will send you notice that you are not required to register with OhioMeansJobs.com.

Some other groups of UC Claimants must call an Ohio Means Jobs Center at 1-888-296-7541 to sign up for work search activities instead of registering online. Those groups are people:

  1. With a limited ability to read, write, speak or understand English.
  2. With a physical or visual impairment that prevents them from using a computer.
  3. Who are legally prohibited from using a computer.

If you do not meet one of the new OhioMeansJobs.com requirements by the deadline for that activity, you can be cut off from unemployment benefits until you complete the activity!

You should check to see if you have completed the required activities by the deadlines. If not, you should complete the activity immediately! When you have completed the activity you should call your Processing Center. If you have completed the activity after the original deadline, you should also call the Processing Center so that your benefits start again from the date you completed the activity.

If you miss a deadline, you should be sent a “Notice of Eligibility Issue”. This Notice will give you a deadline to explain why your benefits should not be stopped.

You should reply to the notice by phone or faxing your Processing Center with information:

  • That you have either done the required activity, OR
  • That you have justifiable cause for failure to complete the activity, OR
  • That you are exempt or should have been waived from the requirement.

If you do not reply to the Notice within the deadline or if the Office of Unemployment does not agree with you, you will receive a Determination decision stating that your benefits will stop until that activity is completed.

If you disagree with a decision that stops your benefits, you should file an appeal right away. Instructions for how to appeal are included in the decision.

 

This article was written by Legal Aid Senior Attorney Anita Myerson and appeared in The Alert: Volume 30, Issue 3 and has been updated in May 2015 since the requirements have changed.  Click here to read a full PDF of this issue! (Please note the physical copy viewed here has not been updated with these new requirements).

Can I get my criminal record sealed? Close

Many Ohioans struggle to find a job or housing after being convicted of a crime.   Ohio’s law makers saw the difficulties faced by people with criminal records and passed a law (SB 337) in 2012 that allows more people to have their criminal records sealed.

When you seal an adult criminal record in Ohio, the record is not erased. Instead, the criminal record is hidden from the public and most employers. Some employers, such as those that hire nurses, nursing assistants, or child care providers, will still be able to see the record after it is sealed. It will always be available to judges and police officers.

The following information describes generally who in Ohio is eligible to apply to have a criminal record sealed.   To find out if you are eligible to seal your criminal record based on your individual circumstances, click here for the self help sealing record page.  From this page, you can link to more detailed information about sealing a criminal record.  Note, this information does NOT apply to juvenile criminal records.  Click here for information about sealing juvenile records.

As of 2012 in Ohio, a person is eligible to apply to seal a criminal record if:

  1. You have no more than 2 unrelated criminal cases (2 misdemeanors, 1 misdemeanor and 1 felony, or 1 felony).  Note:   minor misdemeanors are sealable and do not count toward your total number of convictions.
  2. You have waited the required period of time before filing;
    • For misdemeanors, at least 1 year has passed from completion of your sentence;
    • For felonies, at least 3 years have passed from completion of your sentence;
    • “Completion of your sentence” means all terms of your sentence are satisfied, including time served, probation completed, and fines and restitution paid.
  3. You do not have current, pending criminal charges;
  4. The criminal record you want sealed is NOT for the following:
    • a first or second degree felony,
    • any ‘ offense of violence’, including domestic violence (except you can seal misdemeanor assault of an adult),
    •  a crime where a child was a victim (except nonsupport of dependents, i.e. failure to pay child support),
    • sex offenses,
    • driving under the influence (Note: traffic violations are not sealable, but they also do note generally are not counted as a criminal conviction unless it is one of the traffic or automobile offenses listed in the statute such as DUI and leaving the scen of an accident
    • any other specifically excluded offense that cannot be sealed under Ohio law.

The link above to the self help sealing record page, where you can enter your personal information, will help you determine whether or not your offense is or is not eligible to be sealed.

Sealing a criminal record in Ohio is a “privilege,” not a “right.”  This means a judge must review each person’s application to seal a record and decide first if the person is eligible, and then whether or not to grant the sealing.

You can read more about options for people with a criminal record at http://lasclev.org/category/faqs/work-faqs/

What is a CQE, and am I eligible? How do I apply? Close

A Certificate of Qualification for Employment, or a “CQE,” is given by the Court to a person with a criminal conviction to help remove barriers to finding a job. The CQE was created in 2012 and allows employers and licensing boards to hire or award professional licenses to people who were not legally allowed to do certain jobs under the old law.  Now, an applicant who has a CQE must be given individual consideration by an employer or licensing board.   Additionally, an employer who hires an applicant with a CQE is protected against claims of negligent hiring.

Am I eligible for a Certificate of Qualification for Employment (CQE)?

The Court of Common Pleas where a person currently lives can award a CQE.

  • A person seeking relief from a misdemeanor conviction can apply for a CQE 6 months after any incarceration, any supervision, and any other sanctions have ended.
  • A person seeking relief from a felony conviction can apply for a CQE 1 year after any incarceration, any supervision, and any other sanctions have ended.

How do I apply for a Certificate of Qualification for Employment (CQE)?

The process to apply for a CQE can be found here.  Scroll down to the box labeled “CQE Petition Process” for information on how to register an account and for directions on how to fill out and file your petition. You must register an account with the website before you can begin the application process. Registration saves your information and allows the system to send you notifications about your application.

Note to Cuyahoga County residents:  you must fill out an online application before filing a petition in Common Pleas Court.  

On your application for a CQE, you will need to list a “collateral sanction” that is preventing you from finding a job. A “collateral sanction” is a barrier you experience as a result of having a criminal record but was not part of your sentence.

You can find a list of collateral sanctions for specific offenses by using a website called CIVICC, http://civiccohio.org/.   From this webpage, you can enter the specific Ohio Revised Code section that you were convicted under and it will give you a list of the collateral sanctions associated with that offense.  You can find the Ohio Revised Code section on the court docket for your criminal case.  Many courts have online dockets where you can look up your case.

If a specific collateral sanction is not keeping you from working, but instead your criminal history generally is a barrier to finding a job, you may still be able to apply for a CQE.

After you fill out the application and the Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections (DRC) determines that it is complete, you will receive a notice in your email account and in the CQE “Inbox.”  This notice gives you instructions on how to print the petition and file it with the Common Pleas Clerk of Courts in the county where you live.

The DRC review may take several weeks to process. Do not go to the Clerk of Courts until you get the email instruction. The County Clerk or Court may require additional information or filing fees when you present your petition. You should ask the Clerk if you can file your petition with a poverty affidavit to reduce or eliminate the filing fee.  Click here for instructions and sample poverty affidavit forms.

Questions about filing?  Contact the Common Pleas Court where you live.

  • Ashtabula County Common Pleas Clerk of Courts: (440) 576-3637
  • Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Clerk of Courts: (216) 443-7952
  • Geauga County Common Pleas Clerk of Courts: (440) 285-2222
  • Lake County Common Pleas Clerk of Courts: (440) 350-2657
  • Lorain County Common Pleas Clerk of Courts: (440) 329-5536

Questions about the CQE?  Call the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction at 614-752-1235. When you call the number you will speak with a secretary who will forward your call to a person in your community.

What is a “pardon” and does it get rid of my criminal record? Close

A pardon is forgiveness by the governor for a crime committed. A person who is pardoned cannot be further punished for the forgiven offense and should not be penalized for having a record of the offense.  [State ex rel. Atty. Gen. V. Peters, 43 Ohio St. 629, 650 (1885)].  But, the Ohio Supreme Court also has said that just because the governor grants someone a pardon, the pardon does not automatically entitle the person to have their criminal record sealed. [State v. Boykin, 138 Ohio St.3d 97, 104, 2013-Ohio-4582,¶27].

The application to ask for a pardon is called an “application for clemency.”  These applications must be in writing and must be sent to the Adult Parole Authority.

The Ohio Parole Board, a part of the Adult Parole Authority, processes all clemency applications. Your application will be reviewed by the Parole Board. After reviewing your case, the Parole Board gives the Governor a recommendation. The Governor decides whether to grant the pardon.

The Governor grants pardons to people who show that they have been rehabilitated and have assumed the responsibilities of citizenship.  In 2005 and 2006, the Governor received 63 clemency requests and he granted 29 pardons.  In 2007, the governor granted 39 pardons out of 233 requests.

The forms and instructions required to file for a pardon can be found on the Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections website: http://www.drc.state.oh.us/web/ExecClemency.htm.

The Ohio Bar Association answers frequently asked questions about the application process on its website: https://www.ohiobar.org/forpublic/resources/lawyoucanuse/pages/lawyoucanuse-514.aspx.

My Ohio driver license is suspended. What are my options? Close

Low-income Ohio drivers face a growing number of problems caused by driver license suspensions. License suspensions can often make it difficult for drivers to get to work, which makes it even harder to pay back any fines, court costs, and reinstatement fees a driver might need to get their license back.

But if your license was suspended, you may have options for driving privileges or reinstatement depending on the type of suspension you received. For example, with a child support suspension, your license might be suspended until you contact CSEA (Child Support Enforcement Agency) and satisfy whatever requirements they give you. With an OVI conviction, your license will be suspended for a period set by the convicting court – though you may be able to ask for limited driving privileges.

You can find out the reason for your suspension by checking the notice you received, visiting http://bmv.ohio.gov/suspension_reinstatement.stm, or contacting the Ohio BMV. Depending on the type of suspension, you may be able to appeal your suspension in court or apply for limited driving privileges so that you can get to work or school or medical appointments.

Different kinds of suspensions last different lengths of time, almost all suspensions require payment of fines, court costs, or reinstatement fees. Fines are penalties imposed by the court as punishment for the offense that caused your suspension. Court costs are the administrative costs charged by the court for processing your case and providing a hearing. Reinstatement fees are charged by the BMV after completing the period of suspension. Fines and court costs are owed to the court and payable to the court clerk’s office. Reinstatement fees are owed to the BMV and must be paid to the BMV to get your license back.

If you cannot afford to pay these fines, costs and fees, some programs offer help. Courts may allow you to do community service in stead of paying fines and court costs. In Cuyahoga County, see Court Community Services, http://www.ccservice.org/ for more information. You must be referred to CCS by the court, the Clerk of Courts, or your probation officer. The BMV also offers a payment plan to help low-income drivers pay reinstatement fees. The minimum monthly payment is $50. You can find more information and an application for the BMV payment plan at http://bmv.ohio.gov/dl_reinstatement_gen_info.stm.

Legal Aid provides assistance with driver’s license suspensions in some cases. Call Legal Aid at 1-888-817-3777 to apply for help.

 

This article was written by Adam Kornya and appeared in The Alert: Volume 31, Issue 2. Click here to read a full PDF of this issue!

I need a job. Where can I go for help? Close

Need help getting a job? There are “OhioMeansJobs” centers in each county that can help you. The centers have computers and staff to help you know which jobs are in demand, whether you qualify for these jobs or whether you need job training. The staff can also help give you individual assistance with your job search and with identifying funding for job training.

Each center has a resource room where you can use a computer to look for a job and update your resume. There is always a staff person to help. They also offer computer classes. Finally, if you are getting unemployment compensation and need help with the required reemployment activities on OhioMeansJobs.com, you can ask the staff in the resource room for help.

In Cuyahoga and Lorain counties, the centers have orientations where you can learn about their programs. You usually need to bring a resume, a Social Security card, and another form of ID to the orientation. Afterwards, you can sign up for classes and workshops. The staff will also help you put your resume on the OhioMeansJobs website so employers can view it; and, you get one-on-one time with an employment specialist. At Lake, Geauga, and Ashtabula county centers, the same services are provided by staff in the resource room, first-come-first-served.

Also available are career workshops. The workshops and classes cover: resume writing, job search resources, completing job applications, and interview skills, including offering mock interviews with staff.

The centers offer some specific services for different groups of people, such as military veterans, individuals who receive Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and individuals who have criminal records. If you need services in language other than English, call ahead to request an interpreter.

The Ohio Means Jobs centers provide free help with all of the steps necessary to find a job. For more information, call the OhioMeansJobs centers listed below:

Cleveland
1020 Bolivar Rd,
Cleveland, OH 44115
216-664-4673
8AM-5PM
Parma
11699 Brookpark Rd,
Parma, OH 44130
216-898-1497
8AM-5PM

Elyria
42495 North Ridge
Rd, Elyria, OH 44035
440-324-5244
8AM-4:30PM

Painesville
177 Main St,
Painesville, OH 44077
440-350-4000
8AM-4:30PM

Ashtabula
2247 Lake Ave,
Ashtabula, OH 44004
440-994-1234
8AM-4:30PM

This article was written by Omar Khan and appeared in The Alert: Volume 31, Issue 2. Click here to read a full PDF of this issue!

Who does the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protect? Close

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a law that guarantees
everyone has the same opportunity to enjoy and participate in
American life. A person with a disability under the law is someone
who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits
one or more life activities. Life activities include learning, working,
self care, performing manual tasks, walking, hearing and many
more. How long a person’s impairment lasts is a factor used
to decide if a person is considered disabled under the ADA.
Impairments that last only for a short period of time are typically
not covered, although they may be covered if very severe. A
person may be protected under this law based on an existing
disability, a record of a disability, or because she is perceived by
others as having a disability.

The ADA protects people with disabilities in the work place. An
employer must provide a qualified applicant or employee with
the full range of employment opportunities. For example, the
employer must provide recruitment, hiring, promotion, training,
pay, and the same social activities to all employees including
those with disabilities. An employer is not permitted to ask about
an individual’s disability, severity, and treatment. An employer
may ask about an applicant’s ability to do specific job functions.
An employer may be required under the ADA to accommodate
an employee who has a disability by modifying equipment or
schedules. The ADA requires employers to post a notice that
explains the law and its requirements.

The ADA protects people with disabilities in public accommodations.
Examples of public accommodations include doctor’s offices,
theaters, hotels, restaurants and retail stores. Existing facilities
must ensure that individuals are not excluded so long as there
is not an undue hardship on the owner. This is accomplished by
modifying existing facilities, constructing additional facilities, or
relocating to an accessible building. All new construction of places
of public accommodations must be accessible. For example, public
buildings should provide access for wheelchairs.

Additionally, the ADA protects people with disabilities when they
use public transportation like buses or rapid transits. This law also
requires the establishment of telephone relay services for individuals
who use telecommunications devices for deaf persons (TDD’s).

For more information about the ADA, or to file a complaint if
you feel there is a violation of the ADA, you may contact the
Justice Department at www.ada.gov or 1-800-514-0301 (voice)
1-800-514-0383 (TTY).

This article was written by Davida Dodson and appeared in The Alert: Volume 32, Issue 1. Click here to read a full PDF of this issue!

What is FMLA and how can it help me? Close

Have you missed work in the past year due to your own medical condition or that of a family member? Even just a few days spread
over time? If you have, your job may be protected under the Family and Medical Leave Act – or FMLA.

What is FMLA?
FMLA allows you to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for
certain family and/or medical reasons – or up to 26 weeks to care
for a covered military service member – without the risk of losing
your job. FMLA also protects your existing health insurance during
your covered leave.

What Employers must follow FMLA?
All public agencies, public and private K-12 schools, and
companies or organizations with more than 50 employees.

Who is eligible for FMLA?
Employees who have worked for a covered employer at least
12 months, and worked at least 1,250 hours over the past
12 months. However, if you work at a location that employs less
than 50 employees, your employer may not be required to
provide FMLA protection.

When can FMLA be used?
• For the birth and care of your newborn child (both parents are covered!)
• When a child is placed with you for adoptionor foster care
• When you need to care for an immediate family member
with a serious health condition
• When you are unable to work because of your own serious
health condition

What is considered a serious health condition?
An illness, injury, impairment or physical or mental condition that
results in a hospital stay or requires continuing treatment by a
health care provider.

Does the leave have to be taken all at once?
No! In certain situations, you may take leave periodically, or even
work a reduced schedule for a period of time.

How do I request FMLA?
You must notify your employer of your need to take FMLA at least 30
days before the start of your leave – unless the leave is unexpected.
Your employer may request certification from a medical provider
prior to confirming your leave qualifies as FMLA leave.

What can I do if my employer denies my FMLA request?
If you feel your rights under FMLA have been violated, or if you
have questions regarding your FMLA rights, contact the Wage and
Hour Division of the Department of Labor at 1-866-487-9243.

For more information, please visit http://www.dol.gov/whd/fmla/employeeguide.pdf

This article was written by Wendy Horvath and appeared in The Alert: Volume 32, Issue 1. Click here to read a full PDF of this issue!

I am a U.S. Veteran – how can I get an ID card? Close

New, standardized identification cards are now available to Ohio veterans.

Veterans can take their discharge form – DD Form 214 – to their county recorder’s office, along with a current and valid ID, in order to receive the new ID cards.  The ID can be used to prove eligibility for services and benefits, and for voting.

Counties may charge up to $2 for the ID.

Does Lakewood offer protections to LGBT population? Close

On June 20th, the City Council of Lakewood passed an ordinance that extends the city’s non-discrimination laws to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender citizens. Ohio is one of 28 states which do not currently have statewide protections for the LGBT population. However, the passage of Ordinance 1-16 will make Lakewood one of 15 cities in the state to adopt such legislation.1

Prior to the passage of this law, there was no protection against discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation in Lakewood in the areas of housing and employment. However, with the enactment of this ordinance, no citizen of Lakewood can be fired, evicted from their home, or denied government services based on the person’s gender identity or sexual orientation. Employers can only fire, promote, or hire employees based
on job performance. The ordinance was spearheaded by City Councilman Dan O’Malley and supported by a great number of city council members.

The ordinance also created a three member human rights committee to hear complaints about violations of the new law. The committee will hear complaints of discrimination based on age, race, color, creed, religion, national origin, ancestry, disability, marital status, gender, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation or physical characteristics. The committee will have some enforcement powers, including the option of requiring
employers to rehire fired victims of discrimination, and instituting fines of up to $500 for damages.

Similar legislation in the City of Cleveland was debated and passed in July 2016. In 2009, Cleveland passed protections against discrimination for LGBT citizens in the areas of public services (such as bathrooms), but lawmakers amended the language to exclude private businesses from the requirements. Due to the passage of this new legislation, private business owners cannot legally deny public accommodations on the basis of perceived gender or gender identity. The new law, Ordinance 1446.13,2 allows people who are transgender to use the bathroom, locker room, and
dressing room of their choosing. Similar legislation in other Ohio communities such as Columbus and Bexley has already passed.3

1Lakewood Ordinance 1-16: https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/2891261-Lkwd-Human-
Rights-Ord-Draft-as-Adopted-06202016-1.html#document/p1
2Cleveland Ordinance 1446: https://assets.documentcloud.org/documents/1354865/restroomord.pdf
3See http://www.equalityohio.org/cleveland-city-council-to-vote-on-closing-discrimination-loopholes-inlocal-
ordinances/

By Olivia Milne

Can medical marijuana cause consequences at work? Close

Following passage of House Bill 523, Ohioans can start using medical marijuana legally in September 2016. Individuals with certain conditions or diseases may get a medical marijuana prescription from their doctor. If they choose to use medical marijuana, there could be unintended consequences for their job.

First, employers are not required to permit or accommodate their employees’ use of medical marijuana. For example, employers who
have a zero tolerance drug policy are not required to make any exception for employees who have a medical marijuana prescription.

Second, employees may use medical marijuana off duty but test positive in a workplace drug test weeks later. A positive drug
testing result may violate their employers’ drug policy and get them discharged or disciplined. In such cases, employees do not have a right to sue their employers for the adverse employment action taken against them.

Third, if employees’ use of medical marijuana violates a workplace drug policy, employers may discharge them “for cause”. A
“for cause” discharge will make the employees ineligible for unemployment compensation.

Fourth, employees who suffer a workplace injury may claim workers’ compensation. But if they test positive for drug use following the injury, their employers have a defense against their claim. Even if employees have a medical marijuana prescription, their employers still have the defense. If the defense succeeds, their claim for workers’ compensation will be denied.

Before using medical marijuana to manage symptoms of health conditions, find out what the possible effect may be for your job. Even a prescription may not ensure you more tolerance or protection in the workplace. If you are concerned about your legal rights, talk with an attorney before you begin taking medical marijuana.

By Tianyu Wang

I’m not eligible to seal a criminal record, but how can I get help with a CQE? Close

You can apply for a Certificate of Qualification for Employment (CQE) if you are not eligible to seal a criminal record.

Legal Aid is now assisting individuals with criminal records who are interested in applying for a Certificate of Qualification for Employment (CQE).

A CQE does not seal or expunge the record, but will allow those who have a felony or misdemeanor conviction to apply to the court to lift the collateral sanction that would automatically bar them from being considered for employment, certification or licensure in a particular field.

To apply for help from Legal Aid, call our intake line at 888-817-3777.

Is your criminal record causing problems with housing, employment, or other issues? Close

The problems associated with having a criminal record do not end with the penalties imposed by the court. Numerous collateral consequences – including the inability to secure affordable housing, obtain gainful employment, or seek higher education – often harm those with a criminal record. The Juvenile Reentry Assistance Project (JRAP) helps people with criminal records that live in or used to live in Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority (CMHA) public housing avoid these collateral consequences.
If you or someone in your household:

  • Has a criminal record that is causing problems with housing, employment, or other issues;
  • Lives in CMHA public housing, participates in the Housing Choice Voucher Program (HCVP), or used to live in CMHA public housing and can no longer live in CMHA public housing due to a criminal record;
  • And is under 25 years old

Then you may be eligible for assistance through JRAP.

One of the main ways that the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland helps clients who qualify for JRAP is by assisting them in filing an application to seal their criminal records. In general, a person may be eligible to seal an adult criminal conviction if they have no more than one felony conviction, two misdemeanor convictions, or one felony and one misdemeanor conviction. The law requires a person to wait three years after final disposition in the case of a felony and one year in the case of a misdemeanor before applying. A person may not have any criminal cases pending, and must have been rehabilitated to the satisfaction of the court. For more information about sealing criminal records, CLICK HERE.

Legal Aid may also be able to assist in the sealing of juvenile criminal convictions. For juvenile cases, a person must wait six months from the end of the court proceedings if under 18 years old, or at any time after turning 18 years old if no longer under an order from the juvenile court. In addition, Legal Aid may be able to assist in the sealing of adult and juvenile cases that were dismissed. For more information about sealing juvenile records, CLICK HERE. To apply for assistance through Legal Aid’s JRAP program in having your criminal record sealed or addressing other barriers you may be experiencing, please call 1-888-817-3777.

This article was written by Zachary Frye and appeared in The Alert: Volume 33, Issue 2. Click here to read a full PDF of this issue!

Are there extra fees related to getting my record sealed? Close

The Ohio legislature has passed a law which authorized the Attorney General to select a vendor to instruct background check companies to promptly remove sealed or expunged records from their database.

This service costs an extra $45 on top of the filing fee for applying to seal a criminal record.

The service is optional, and courts will review and make decisions on applications to seal a criminal record regardless of whether a person pays the additional fee.

When filing an application to seal a criminal record, the Clerk of Court should provide information about the service as well as an “opt out” form.

I need my driver’s license back – are there payment plans for those who owe fees? Close

The Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles offers payment plans to people who owe fees in order to reinstate their driver’s license right away. 

To be eligible for the payment plan, a person must owe at least $150, have met all the other reinstatement requirements, show current proof of insurance, not be under suspension or have pending suspensions, and not be on a court-ordered payment plan.

More information about the payment plan, and the application form, visit  this BMV website.

The completed application, $50, and proof of insurance should be submitted to any deputy registrar license agency or reinstatement center, or by mail to: Ohio BMV Attn: Revenue Management/Points P.O. Box 16521 Columbus, OH 43216.  Note there is an additional $10 service fee for paying at a Deputy Registrar license agency.

How can I enforce my rights if I have been discriminated against based on LGBTQ status? Close

In Ohio, 20 cities have laws protecting people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer (“LGBTQ”) from discrimination. See http://www.equalityohio.org/city-map/. In many instances, the local ordinances create a board or committee charged with hearing complaints under the law. Unfortunately, the process for filing a complaint and addressing discrimination is not always clear.

In February 2016, the ACLU of Ohio learned about discrimination two transgender women faced at a store in Cleveland. The women were protected under Cleveland’s anti-discrimination ordinance.[1] Elizabeth Bonham, a Staff Attorney at the ACLU of Ohio, filed a complaint with the Fair Housing Board, as provided in the ordinance.[2] The Fair Housing Board issued its findings in favor of the women on December 12, 2016.

People who experience discrimination based on LGBTQ status in Cleveland, whether in housing or in public accommodations, can enforce their rights through filing a complaint with the Fair Housing Board. For information about the process, call the Fair Housing Board at 216.664.4529. In other cities that have passed anti-discrimination or human rights ordinances protecting the LGBTQ community, individuals have to contact each city’s law department to learn the appropriate process for filing a complaint.

The ACLU of Ohio has provided trainings on, and continues to provide information on, LGBTQ anti-discrimination ordinances, including enforcement options. For more information visit http://www.acluohio.org/archives/blog-posts/lgbt-advocacy-in-real-time or call the ACLU of Ohio at 216.472.2200. For information on how to file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or with the Ohio Civil Rights Commission contact Equality Ohio at 216.224.0400 or visit
http://www.equalityohio.org/ehea/.

This article was written by Chloe Sudduth and appeared in The Alert: Volume 34, Issue 1. Click here to read a full PDF of this issue!

[1] See City of Cleveland, Code of Ordinances, Part Six, Title V – Discrimination, available at http://www.clevelandcitycouncil.org/legislation-laws/charter-codified-ordinances.

[2] ACLU case Doe vs. Family Dollar, Inc. and CityWide Protection (Administrative Complaint): http://www.acluohio.org/archives/cases/doe-v-family-dollar-inc-and-citywide-protection

Can a Certificate of Qualification for Employment help me? Close

A CQE or “Certificate of Qualification for Employment” can help someone with a criminal record by removing automatic or mandatory restrictions on the types of jobs or professional licenses they can have. Persons with a criminal record often experience these automatic or mandatory restrictions (also known as collateral sanctions/consequences) when they are denied a job or a professional license due to their criminal record. A CQE does not guarantee a job or license. A CQE does not seal or erase the criminal record, so employers can still see a person’s conviction history. A CQE requires employers and state licensing boards to consider each applicant’s record individually instead of denying an applicant based on a blanket restriction. A CQE also benefits employers who hire someone with a CQE by providing immunity from negligent-hiring lawsuits if the person with the CQE re-offends.

Applicants for a CQE must meet the following eligibility requirements:

  • If convicted of a misdemeanor, it must be more than 6 months since the individual has been released from all court supervision, including paying all fines and fees.
  • If convicted of a felony, it must be more than 1 year since the individual has been released from all court supervision, including paying all fines and fees.

There are no limits on the number or type of convictions a person can have in order to be eligible, but some limitations exist for people convicted of violent crimes. Also, CQEs are not available for federal or out-of-state convictions or collateral sanctions.

Recent changes to Ohio law have made the process of applying for a CQE slightly easier. Now applicants only need to provide a general statement about how the CQE will assist them. Also, out-of-state residents with an Ohio criminal record can apply for a CQE in any Ohio county where they have a conviction. Current Ohio residents should still apply in the county where they live, even if their conviction is in a different Ohio county.

Lastly, the new law directs the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections (ODRC) to make rules allowing CQE applications sooner than 6 months for misdemeanors and 1 year for felonies. ODRC must also keep track of CQEs granted and revoked, as well as employers where
people with CQEs have been hired.

In order to apply for a CQE a person can complete an application online at www.drccqe.com or call Legal Aid at 1.888.817.3777 to apply for help.

This article was written by Andrew Torres and appeared in The Alert: Volume 34, Issue 1. Click here to read a full PDF of this issue!

Brochures

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How to Get Your Criminal Record Sealed
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What You Need to Know About Unemployment Benefits
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Can’t Get Your Last Pay Check?
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Success Stories

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