Governor signs bill removing barriers to work
July 7, 2020
Building on his criminal justice reforms and fulfilling a recommendation to modernize job licensing, Governor Tom Wolf has signed Senate Bill 637, which removes outdated licensing barriers so skilled workers with criminal records can get a second chance and start good careers.
The governor proposed reforms to job licensing requirements and licensing boards to remove barriers to employment so skilled workers can enter the jobs of their choice. In 2017, the governor signed an executive order requiring a review of job licensing with a comparison to other states and a task force appointed by the governor issued a report in 2018 outlining many proposals to cut red tape and modernize job licensing.
The reforms included removing outdated criminal record restrictions. One in five Pennsylvanians needs an occupational license from a board or commission to do their job, representing more than one million workers.
“Pennsylvania must be a place where hardworking people can put their skills to work,” said Gov. Wolf. “Arbitrarily denying someone a job license because of outdated rules against criminal records is wrong.”
The bill makes the following improvements for the 29 occupational licensing boards:
• Boards and commissions can no longer use a person’s criminal history to deny someone a license unless their criminal history is directly related to the occupation in which they are seeking licensure.
• Directs boards to individually consider applications based on the offense, the amount of time since the conviction and the applicant’s personal progress and training, among other factors, before withholding licensure.
• Requires boards to create a public list of criminal offenses that may prevent licensure.
• Allows individuals to get a preliminary decision if their conviction is likely to disqualify them from licensure so they do not waste time and money on training. Individuals can still apply and present evidence to support their licensure.
• Creates temporary licenses in barbering and cosmetology for reentrants trained in a correctional facility who otherwise would be denied a license because of their criminal record. Licensees can work one to two years and demonstrate competency.
Boards cannot issue a license to someone convicted of a sexual offense to practice as a health care practitioner. Boards may not consider juvenile convictions or convictions that have been expunged under the Clean Slate law in determining eligibility. The Department of State and the licensing boards will develop a guide to help people with criminal convictions to apply for a license.