Recent Developments

Issues that affect ministers and churches
Previous Criminal Acts
What is their relevance in employment decisions?
New York
State:
Key point: A prospective worker's previous criminal act may have occurred so long ago that it no longer is relevant in evaluating whether or not to use the worker.

In a significant ruling, a New York appeals court ruled that a landlord was not liable for the sexual molestation of a minor by a caretaker that the landlord had hired. In 1955, a man pleaded guilty to manslaughter and served a 5-year prison sentence. In 1964 he was hired as a caretaker by the owner of an apartment building. In 1967 a woman moved into the apartment building and soon became friends with the caretaker. In 1974 the woman gave birth to a girl. The caretaker served as the girl's godfather, and as the child grew he became a frequent presence in her life. The child's mother often left her daughter unattended with the caretaker. In 1987 it was discovered that the caretaker had been sexually molesting the girl for at least the last 5 years. The mother and daughter sued the landlord, claiming that he had been negligent in hiring a caretaker with a criminal record. A trial court rejected the landlord's motion to dismiss the case, and the landlord appealed. A state appeals court concluded that the case should be dismissed. It began its opinion by observing that a state law makes it the policy of New York to "encourage the licensure and employment of persons previously convicted of one or more criminal offenses." Specifically, the state law prohibits employers from discriminating against persons on the basis of a prior criminal conviction unless there is a direct relationship between the prior criminal conviction and the employment sought, or employment of the individual would involve an "unreasonable risk" to the property or safety of others. The court concluded:

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Posted: November 1, 1994
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