Rell vetoes bill restricting criminal background checks in hiring for state jobs

Gov. M. Jodi Rell has vetoed a bill that would have barred state hiring managers from asking applicants their criminal background or researching their background until the last step of the hiring process.

Current law allows the question, “have you ever been convicted of a felony” to appear on the application for both private and state jobs; this bill would have only affected the state employment process. Employers are not allowed to discriminate based on an applicant’s checking “yes,” but advocates say it’s hard to determine if that rule is being broken.

In Rell’s veto message, she says current law is sufficient.

“Applicants are already protected by statutory provisions which prohibit the denial of employment solely based on a conviction,” Rell said, adding there is no evidence managers are inappropriately using the information in their hiring decisions.

The state’s workforce is composed of 55,000 employees across more than two dozens agencies, and Rell said, having “a one size fits all [hiring] approach to all state positions is unworkable.”

The bill was passed unanimously by the General Assembly last month. Derek Slap, spokesman for the Senate Democrats, said there is a  “solid chance” of it being brought up for an override in a veto session Jun. 21.

A Better Way Foundation estimates there are 200,000 Connecticut felons, and says the bill would have opened state jobs to those residents.

“The point of this legislation was to remove the question so everyone had a fair chance to get these jobs,” said LaResse Harvey, policy director for Better Way.

For certain state positions, including for law enforcement agencies and the Department of Children and Family, questions about criminal history would still have been allowed on the application.