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Can You Refuse to Hire a Sex Offender?

By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. on September 19, 2011 6:44 AM

As an employer and business owner, you have a duty to maintain a safe workplace and protect your customers. To these ends, one day you may need to inquire about the legality of refusing to hire a sex offender, or, if you already did, terminating an offender's employment.

Unfortunately, there's no definite answer to this inquiry.

In most situations, there is a fine line between adhering to state laws limiting the use of convictions in employment decisions, and the responsibility not to engage in negligent hiring.

On these grounds, state laws addressing the use of convictions in employment tend to mirror legal rules governing negligent hiring.

Under these laws, to refuse to hire a sex offender (or any criminal), there generally must be a connection between the job and the criminal offense such that employment would create an unreasonable risk to your employees and customers.

An analysis under this rule would include gathering information about the type of sex crime and victim, your employees and your customers.

Would the offender employee be exposed to persons similar to his victim? Would the offender be left unsupervised with other employees or customers?

For example, you may have to consider hiring a male sex offender for a construction position when there are no female employees and all duties are completed in public.

You, however, are not required to hire a sex offender in a job that grants access to children and other vulnerable populations.

Ultimately, whether you may legally refuse to hire a sex offender is a fact-intensive inquiry that relies heavily on state laws. If you come across such a situation, it is wise to first consult with an attorney.

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