A Clean Slate: More States Enact Record-Erasing Laws in Effort to Widen Talent Pool

Since the passage of the first “clean slate law” in Pennsylvania in 2018, 11 other states have mimicked Pennsylvania’s move to allow greater access to jobs and housing to individuals convicted of particular crimes.

State clean slate laws allow for the automatic sealing of certain misdemeanor and felony convictions from an individual’s record after a period of time in which they remain crime-free. The process is much less cumbersome and complex than the traditional method of petitioning for expungement or sealing of criminal records. 

In addition to Pennsylvania, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, Utah, and Virginia also have clean slate laws. The criteria for clearing an individual’s record varies depending on the state. Sex offenses and violent felonies are not eligible to be sealed under the law. Currently, there is no federal clean slate law.

In theory, clean slate laws act in parallel to state and local “ban-the-box” laws, which prohibit employers from inquiring about criminal history on a job application. But, clean slate laws pack more power as employers have no access to check prior “erased” convictions, and applicants are under no duty to divulge their criminal record. If an applicant chooses to divulge their record in a clean slate state, employers should not consider any applicable convictions.  

It’s important for employers in clean slate states to understand the nuances and parameters of their state’s rule. It’s also important for employers who hire workers remotely in states with clean slate laws to understand and abide by such laws. Consult your legal counsel for further guidance on this issue.