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State Occupational Licensing Reforms for Workers with Criminal Records

Today, one out of every five Americans needs a license to work while 1 in 3 American adults has a criminal record. Since 2015, 30 states have reformed their occupational licensing laws to make it easier for ex-offenders to find work in state-licensed fields:

  1. Arizona (enacted reforms in 2018 and 2019)
  2. Arkansas
  3. California (enacted two reforms in 2018)
  4. Colorado
  5. Connecticut 
  6. Delaware
  7. Florida
  8. Georgia
  9. Idaho
  10. Illinois (enacted several reforms in 2016 and 2017)
  11. Indiana
  12. Iowa (enacted reforms in 2019 and 2020)
  13. Kansas
  14. Kentucky
  15. Louisiana 
  16. Massachusetts
  17. Maryland (enacted reforms in 2018 and 2019)
  18. Mississippi
  19. Nebraska
  20. New Hampshire
  21. New York 
  22. North Carolina
  23. Ohio
  24. Oklahoma (enacted reforms in 2015 and 2019)
  25. Tennessee (enacted reforms in 2016 and 2018)
  26. Texas (enacted several reforms in 2019)
  27. Utah
  28. West Virginia (enacted reforms in 2019 and 2020)
  29. Wisconsin
  30. Wyoming

Sixteen states allow ex-offenders to petition a licensing board at any time, including before enrolling in any required training, to determine if their record would be disqualifying:

  1. Arizona
  2. Arkansas
  3. Idaho
  4. Indiana
  5. Iowa
  6. Mississippi 
  7. Nebraska
  8. New Hampshire
  9. North Carolina
  10. Ohio
  11. Oklahoma
  12. Tennessee
  13. Texas
  14. Utah
  15. West Virginia 
  16. Wisconsin

Fourteen states generally prevent licensing boards from using vague standards like “good moral character” or “moral turpitude” to deny licenses for ex-offenders:

  1. Arkansas
  2. California
  3. Idaho
  4. Illinois
  5. Indiana
  6. Iowa
  7. Kansas
  8. Kentucky
  9. Minnesota
  10. Mississippi 
  11. New York
  12. North Carolina
  13. Washington
  14. West Virginia

Likewise, four states—Delaware, Oklahoma, Utah, and Wyoming—removed moral character requirements from many of their licenses but did not enact an overarching ban.

Sixteen states ban boards from considering arrests that did not result in a conviction:

  1. Arkansas
  2. California
  3. Colorado
  4. Connecticut
  5. Illinois
  6. Indiana
  7. Iowa
  8. Kansas
  9. New Mexico
  10. Michigan
  11. Minnesota
  12. New Hampshire
  13. New York
  14. Pennsylvania
  15. Texas
  16. Wisconsin

Seven states have instituted new reporting requirements:

  1. Arizona
  2. California
  3. Florida
  4. Illinois
  5. Maryland
  6. New Hampshire
  7. North Carolina

Eighteen states block licensing boards from denying ex-offenders a license to work, unless the board determines that the applicant’s criminal record is “directly related” to the license sought:

  1. Colorado
  2. Florida
  3. Georgia
  4. Illinois
  5. Indiana
  6. Kansas
  7. Kentucky
  8. Louisiana
  9. Minnesota
  10. Mississippi
  11. New Hampshire
  12. New Mexico
  13. North Carolina
  14. North Dakota
  15. Tennessee
  16. Texas
  17. Washington
  18. Wyoming

 

For more information on individual state laws, read IJ’s Barred from Working: A Nationwide Study of Occupational Licensing Barriers for Ex-Offenders.

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