Employers need to be aware that Effective July 1, 2014, the Tennessee legislature enacted legislation that deals with the restoration of citizenship for persons who were convicted of infamous or felony crimes and were deprived of rights of citizenship by judgement of a state or federal court. The new law establishes that individuals applying to have citizenship restored may also petition the court for a certificate of employability. As part of the legislation, however, employers are granted immunity from liability for hiring individuals with the certificate of employability in some circumstances.

Individuals with criminal records may petition the court for a certificate of employability. The court must review the petition, the person’s criminal history and  filings submitted by a district attorney, United States attorney, or victim of crimes perpetuated by the petitioner, and all other relevant evidence. At its discretion, the court may issue a certificate of employability. The new law fulfills a dual purpose of assisting individuals with a felony conviction to find employment and protecting employers from potential claims related to employing those individuals. As of July 1, 2014, the law created protection for employers who rely on the certificates from claims of negligent hiring or retention under certain circumstances.

The court may grant the petition for employability if the petitioner establishes that:

  • The petitioner has sustained the character of a person of honesty, respectability, and veracity, which is generally confirmed by his or her neighbors;
  • Granting the petition will materially assist the petitioner in finding employment or obtaining occupational licensing;
  • The petitioner has a substantial need for the certificate to live a law-abiding life; and
  • Granting the petition would not create an unreasonable risk to the safety of the public or any individual.

If the court grants the petition, the petitioner will receive a certificate of employability for use in obtaining employment. However, the certificate will be revoked if the certificate holder is convicted of, or pleads guilty to, a felony after obtaining the certificate.

It is important to note that the new law does not require employers to hire persons with a certificate of employability.  Nor does the law provide unlimited protection. An employer that hires a certificate holder may be liable in a lawsuit based on, or relating to, its retaining the individual if:

  • After hiring, the individual demonstrated danger or was convicted of a felony;
  • The individual is retained as an employee after such a demonstration or conviction;
  • The plaintiff proves by a preponderance of the evidence that someone employed by the employer with hiring and firing responsibility had actual knowledge that the employee was dangerous or was convicted; and
  • The employer, after having actual knowledge of the danger or conviction, willfully retained the individual as an employee.

Other states, such as Ohio and, more recently, Connecticut, have enacted similar laws. Given the recent federal and state trends limiting the use of criminal background information in the hiring process, other states are expected to follow suit.


About Time & Pay:

Time & Pay is a professional payroll service provider located in Johnson City, TN. We service businesses of all sizes and types throughout the United States. Founded in 1992, Time & Pay provides businesses with complete payroll services , guaranteed payroll tax compliance, automated time and attendance systems and services, pay-as-you-go worker’s comphuman resource management systems and services, and more. We provide our customers with the cost effective tools you need to better manage your payroll, your employees and your business. Time & Pay’s services guarantee you will save money, time and aggravation and we back them up with the customer service you expect and deserve. Contact Us today to learn why business owners throughout the country are saying:

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