Certificate Removes Barriers for Job Seekers with Criminal Records
Q: I have had trouble getting a job because I have a criminal record. What can I do?
A: If a law or regulation blocked you from getting the job, a Certificate of Qualification for Employment (CQE) may be effective in removing the legal barrier. The CQE is an order issued by a common pleas court that allows you to apply for employment or a professional license even if your conviction may have disqualified you in the past. If the court grants you a CQE, the employer or professional licensing board must consider you on a case-by-case basis. Also, once you have a CQE, any employer that may hire you will be immune from “negligent hiring” lawsuits. Fear of these lawsuits is often cited as the number one reason that employers do background checks.
Q: When may I apply?
A: You may apply one year after you have completed your felony sentence or six months after your misdemeanor sentence ends.
Q: Is there a limit on the number of convictions I can have to apply for a CQE?
Q: Are there situations in which I can’t use a CQE to help me get a job or a license?
A: Yes. You may not use a CQE to lift a requirement to register as a sex offender, and you may not use it to reinstate a driver’s license that has been suspended, cancelled or revoked. If you are a health care professional whose license has been denied or suspended, there are certain circumstances in which a CQE will not allow you to reinstate your license. Also, a CQE will not remove any restrictions on employment as a law enforcement officer. The CQE does not apply to federal or out-of-state convictions.
Q: How do I apply for a CQE?
A: You must apply online at www.drccqe.com/Login2.aspx?APPTHEME=OHCQE. In order to apply, you must have a valid e-mail address. You will create an account with a user name and password. You will complete all of the questions on the application and submit it electronically to the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (ODRC). The Ohio Justice & Policy Center also has a detailed workbook to explain the process, available at http://bit.ly/OJPC-CQEworkbook.
Q: What happens after I submit my online application?
A: Once you complete the online application, an ODRC representative will review it for completeness. If complete, you will receive an e-mail from ODRC informing you that you may file your CQE application. You must file your application with the common pleas court in the county where you live.
Q: Is there a cost to file the CQE?
A: Yes. Check with the clerk’s office of your common pleas court to find out if there is a filing fee and, if so, how much it costs to file the CQE.
Q: What happens after I file my CQE application with the court?
A: The court will review it and conduct an investigation. It will contact the court(s) where you were convicted, as well as the prosecuting attorney(s) involved in your case(s) and the victim(s). After this investigation, the court will determine if it should grant the CQE application. Generally, the court will grant your application if it finds that the CQE materially will assist you with employment or an occupational license, that you need it to live a law-abiding life, and that you do not pose an unreasonable risk to any individual or the public.
Q: Do I have to attend a hearing to get my CQE?
A: Most courts do not conduct CQE hearings, except on rare occasions. You will receive written notice from the court of its decision. If the court grants your CQE, you will receive an e-mail from ODRC notifying you that you can print the CQE.
Q: How long does the CQE last?
A: The CQE remains valid unless you are convicted of another crime.
Q: Why would an employer want to hire someone with a CQE?
A: The law provides some protections to employers from certain legal claims (such as negligent hiring claims) if they choose to hire someone with a CQE.
Q: Where can I get more information about the CQE?
A: You can learn more information at www.drc.ohio.gov/web/cqe.htm. You can also read the actual law that created CQEs. Ohio Revised Code Section 2953.25 is available online at http://codes.ohio.gov/orc/2953.25 .
This “Law You Can Use” consumer legal information column was provided by the Ohio State Bar Association. It was prepared by Prof. Joann Sahl of the University of Akron School of Law. Articles appearing in this column are intended to provide broad, general information about the law. Before applying this information to a specific legal problem, readers are urged to seek the advice of a licensed attorney.