While employees receive certain protections from the federal and state government, employers are also obligated to provide a safe working environment for all employees. In some cases, employers also may be liable should something happen between an employee and client. Therefore, employees and employers are in a difficult position when an employee is a registered sex offender.
The state laws that require law enforcement to identify sex offenders to the public are commonly referred to as Megan’s Law. Pennsylvania has a Megan’s Law website as well to reveal the sex offenders within the state.
Can Employers Discriminate against Sex Offenders in PA?
When an employer or group of employees discovers that someone in their workforce is a sex offender, tensions rise. Employees may demand that the employer does something while others might gossip about the information. The employer is in a difficult position because they are required by law to protect their employee rights, but an employee with a record of being a sex offender could be a liability. Basically, an employer must consider the greater good and may make the tough decision of terminating an employee with a record.
Providing a Safe Workplace
The law obligates employers to offer a safe working environment to employees; however, the law also requires that employers refrain from not hiring an employee solely due to their criminal record. In Pennsylvania, employers can consider convictions in hiring decisions. Meanwhile, employers also need to be cautious about negligent hiring, which is when an employer should have known that a hired employee was unfit for hiring.
Start with Hiring
Depending on the industry, employers need to be smart about recognizing what job applicants should not be employed with them if they are a sex offender. An easy example is childcare. Therefore, employers should train managers to know how to interview applicants as well as conduct background checks.
Report of an Employee who is a Sex Offender
When an employer discovers that an employee is a sex offender, they must decide whether or not this could pose a threat to the other employees or clients. The law does not outright offer special protections to sex offenders. However, it’s possible that a sex offender of a legally protected class might argue for their employee rights under the law. Consult a lawyer to find out your options under the law.
What to Expect from Your Employer When an Employee is Identified as a Sex Offender
An employer’s main goal in handling the information of an employee who is a sex offender is to choose the appropriate response and to protect the company from lawsuit. Therefore, an employer will need to assess the situation, consult a lawyer, and implement appropriate action.
An employer must assess the available information on the employee, including the employee’s duties in the workplace. The employer should also be working with a lawyer. Another point to consider is how much time an employee who’s a sex offender spends with others.
Short Term Response
Upon preliminary information, the employer should take short term action to lessen risk for the workplace and clients. Once this has occurred, the employer can take more time to investigate the situation. The important thing is to reduce the risk of liability brought on by that employee.
With the aid of legal counsel, the employer should investigate the employee’s background and job responsibilities in relation to the criminal record. The lawyer will help the employer know what legal obligations or limitations exist in choosing a long-term action.
Determining Appropriate Action
Some industries and companies will have blatantly obvious steps to take with an employee who is a sex offender. Other companies won’t have a clear path. In most cases, employers should be cautious in what they decide since a future liability case for retaining an employee who is a known sex offender could be an issue.
An employer is tasked with the responsibility of providing employees a safe and healthy work environment. Although an employer terminated due to a past of sexual offenses may choose to file a complaint against the company, that may be a lesser evil for the employer than dealing with a liability case later.