Monday, January 16, 2006

More Sex Offenders

This is an interesting topic to me, for the Con Law overtones, but a recent story in the Buffalo news has an administrative law flair to it as well:

Sex offenders sue Wal-Mart over firings
By MATT GRYTA News Staff Reporter1/15/2006
Three convicted sex
offenders who went to work for Wal-Mart - including one who played a Santa Claus at the Thruway Plaza store - have complained to a state agency that they were later unfairly fired because of their convictions.
Although the state Division of Human Rights is investigating the former workers' complaints, Wal-Mart has now asked a state Supreme Court justice to stop the probe. The three are Richard Ritchie, who worked as a stocker at the Thruway Plaza Wal-Mart; Phillip Root, who worked as a stocker at the Springville store; and
Richard Gibson, who worked as a maintenance associate at the Watertown store. All three disclosed their criminal histories before being hired.
Ritchie even worked two holiday season as a Santa Claus at the Thruway store.
"I played Santa Claus for them," he said, adding: "and I have the pictures."
The three filed complaints with the state agency alleging their dismissals
violated state Human Rights Law dealing with ex-convicts.
Wal-Mart has asked State Supreme Court Justice Frank A. Sedita Jr. to quash
the Human Rights Division probe, saying it is beyond the state agency's legal
jurisdiction. Wal-Mart contends the agency lacks jurisdiction to consider the three complaints because the Human Rights Law "does not prohibit discrimination against current employees on the basis of a record of a criminal conviction," according to court papers.
The Division of Human Rights, according to court documents, contends it has made "preliminary findings of jurisdiction and probable cause" to consider sanctions against Wal-Mart and adds that the company's attempt to stop the probe is premature...

I think this story hints at some of the hard decisions that need to be made now that sex offenses have been branded a semi-"status" crime with no presumption of rehabilitation for violators. Once we've decided, perhaps entirely correctly, that John Smith is liable to repeat his crimes and hurt others, what do we do when he's no longer able to get decent work due to the status? Is perpetual civil confinement the answer? Is this a disability that should be recognized, and therefore Social Security or SSI should be provided? In no way do I condone the crimes, but I continue to be worried that the labelling system will have unintended (and expensive) results if Equal Protection rights are found to have been violated.


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