Most jobs in thee United States are considered “employment at will,” which means the employer can fire a worker for no reason and the employee can quit for no reason. Except, employers are not allowed to discriminate or retaliate against workers. Laws also protects workers wages and safety. Employers are not allow to ban applicants automatically based on a past criminal record.
- Workers Compensation
- Unemployment Compensation
- Employment Discrimination
- Criminal records
How to Get Your Criminal Record Sealed
In Ohio, adult convictions generally cannot be “expunged” or completely erased from your record. Instead of expungement, Ohio uses a court process called “sealing a criminal record.” If your record is sealed, you do not have to disclose your conviction, arrest, or any charge against you when you apply for most jobs. Under Ohio law, once the record is sealed, it is as if the offense never occurred.
Even sealed records will be available to some employers for some jobs. For example, your convictions, even if sealed, may disqualify you from a job working with children, older persons, developmentally disabled persons, or from a job that has a substantial connection with your offense. You must report sealed records when enlisting in the military. The Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation (BCI) keeps a record of all sealed criminal records.
More information is available in this brochure published by Legal Aid: Sealing an Ohio Criminal Record
A Spanish version of this brochure will be available soon.
What You Need to Know About Unemployment Benefits
Are you recently unemployed? You can receive unemployment compensation benefits if you are unemployed (1) due to lack of work (laid off), (2) you were discharged without just cause, or (3) you quit with just cause. This brochure outlines how to apply for unemployment benefits, what a Determination is, and how you can appeal an unfavorable Determination. Also included is information on what happens after a Redetermination is issued and steps you must take to continue receiving unemployment benefits after you apply. For more information and to apply for benefits online, you can visit https://unemployment.ohio.gov.
More information is available in this brochure published by Legal Aid: What You Need to Know About Unemployment Benefits
This brochure is also available in Spanish at: Lo que usted debe Conocer Acerca del Beneficio de Desempleo
Can’t Get Your Last Pay Check?
Lost your job and your former employer will not give you your last paycheck? Here are some steps you can take. This brochure explains what you should do if you cannot get your last paycheck. (1) Remember to give back all company property, (2) wait until your regular payday has passed, and (3) make a request for your paycheck in writing if your payday has passed. If that doesn’t work, you may file a complaint with the Ohio Wage and Hour Bureau, call Legal Aid, or go to Small Claims Court. Contact information is included.
More information is available in this brochure published by Legal Aid: Can’t Get Your Last Pay Check?
Can I get my criminal record sealed?
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 66) that allows more people to have their criminal records sealed. SB 66 aims to reduce recidivism and prison time for low-level, non-violent, non-sex offenders, who make up the fastest growing portion of the state’s prison population due to the drug epidemic.
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.
In Ohio as of 10/2018, to be eligible to seal a criminal record, you must meet one of two sets of criteria. If you meet the requirements listed under either Criteria A or Criteria B below, you may qualify to seal your criminal record.
Criteria A: First, you may be eligible if you have:
- No more than five 4th or 5th degree felony
- Unlimited number of misdemeanors, AND
- No 1st, 2nd, or 3rd degree felony convictions, AND
- No felony sex offense convictions, AND
- No violent crime convictions (felony or misdemeanor).
If you meet this criteria, you may be able to seal all of your convictions, including felonies and misdemeanors. If you do not qualify under Criteria A, you may still be eligible to seal your records if you satisfy the following:
Criteria B: You may be eligible if you have NO MORE THAN:
- Two misdemeanor convictions; OR
- One misdemeanor and one felony conviction
ALL convictions are considered, regardless of how long ago they happened or where they occurred (including
other state and federal courts).
Even if you are eligible to seal your records, some convictions can never be sealed, including traffic and OVI/DUI offenses, serious crimes of violence, most crimes involving children, most sex crimes, and 1st or 2nd degree felonies. Also, the prosecutor may object to the request to seal criminal records. It is up to the court to decide whether to allow a record to be sealed. You can usually seal records of “minor misdemeanor” convictions, dismissed cases, “no bills” and “not guilty” verdicts even if you fail both tests listed above.
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/
Can a Certificate of Qualification for Employment help me?
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!
Can medical marijuana cause consequences at work?
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
Why should I seal my juvenile records?
Ohio law makes sealing juvenile records easier than sealing adult criminal records. Nonetheless, a person with a juvenile record may deny employment, benefits or enrollment based on the record.
Juvenile records do not automatically seal. A juvenile may request their record be sealed as soon as six months after completing their sentence, or immediately when they turn 18, as long as they are no longer under an order from juvenile court, such as probation. A “sealed record” only can be seen by the Court. Once a record has been sealed, a juvenile may petition the court to expunge it, which means to permanently destroy it.
The Court does not automatically grant a request to seal a juvenile record. The burden of proving a record should be sealed can be hard for a young person to meet, especially without the support of a mentor or representation by an attorney. “For youth without a support network, it’s totally upon them to demonstrate they are sufficiently rehabilitated,” says Attorney Ponce de Leon. If a prosecutor objects that a juvenile petitioner must demonstrate maturity, responsibility, and productive plans for the future to successfully seal it.
The process of applying to have a juvenile record sealed can be empowering for young adults, by teaching them about the justice system, explained Legal Aid Society Attorney Danielle Gadomski Littleton. Most people mistakenly believe that a juvenile adjudication is a conviction. But when an employer asks if you have a criminal conviction, if your only offense is a juvenile record, you can honestly answer “no.”
Another important lesson is that court costs can be waived. Before the Court can seal a juvenile record, a petitioner must pay any outstanding court costs and fees. Attorney Gadomski Littleton advised that petitioners can always ask the Court to waive these fees after petitioning to seal their records but it’s up to the court whether to grant that request.
More information about sealing juvenile records can be found at this link. To apply for help from Legal Aid with sealing a juvenile record, call 1-888-817-3777.
By Rachel Kalayjian
What is FMLA and how can it help me?
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!
What is a CQE, and am I eligible? How do I apply?
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 should I know about the new requirements for Unemployment Compensation?
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:
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:
- Were laid off subject to recall within 45 days [the employer notifies unemployment],
- Were laid off due to a plant closing for up to 26 weeks [the employer must apply for a waiver],
- Are in an approved training course or unemployed while attending school, or
- Are a union member in good standing who is hired through a hiring hall, or
- 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:
- With a limited ability to read, write, speak or understand English.
- With a physical or visual impairment that prevents them from using a computer.
- 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).
What should I know for dealing with administrative agencies?
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!
What is an H-2A worker?
I have a criminal record and need to find work. Are there resources to help me?
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.
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.