ARLINGTON, Va.—Ifrah Yassin wants to provide for her daughter by working at an adult group home for people with intellectual disabilities, which is run by her family. But, for years, the Minnesota Department of Human Services has banned Ifrah from ever working in certain fields, because of a crime she never committed. Today, the Institute for Justice (IJ) sent a letter to the Minnesota Department of Human Services, on Ifrah’s behalf, urging the agency to stop banning her from working.
Many states throughout the country have laws that ban people who were convicted of certain crimes from working in certain fields. However, Minnesota takes it a step further by banning anyone from working in the health care field if the Department of Human Services determines “a preponderance of the evidence indicates the individual has committed an act or acts that meet the definition of any of the crimes.” It doesn’t matter if the person was convicted—or even charged. Making matters worse, the Department doesn’t even tell the person what “evidence” it is using to reach its conclusion.
“It’s bad enough when the government blocks people who have committed a crime and served their time from working in certain fields, but it’s even more ridiculous when it does so to people who were never even charged with a crime,” said IJ Attorney Mike Greenberg, the author of the letter. “These types of policies make it harder for people to find honest work and do absolutely nothing to preserve public safety.”
Ifrah’s lifetime ban from working in the health care field stems from a 2013 incident. She and her friends were briefly arrested on suspicion of robbery after getting into a late-night argument with a woman who chased them off with a knife. Police never found the purse that the woman claimed Ifrah and her friends stole, none of them were charged with any crimes, and they were promptly released when police realized the complainant gave a false name.
None of those facts stopped the department from determining that Ifrah “committed an act that meets the definition of Aggravated Robbery,” and demanding that her employer fire her, even though the department acknowledged she “w[as] not convicted.”
“I came to America from Somalia in search of a better life,” said Ifrah. “I never thought that I’d end up being punished for the rest of my life for something I didn’t do. It seems so un-American to me.”
IJ is the nation’s premier defender of the right to earn an honest living. In 2020, IJ won a case on behalf of two Philadelphia-area women who were prevented from working in cosmetology because of old, unrelated crimes. IJ is currently challenging a Virginia law that is preventing an aspiring substance abuse counselor from working in that field because of a decades-old drug offense, and challenging the Federal Communications Commission over a policy that threatens to strip Knoxville, Tennessee’s only Black-owned radio station of its license over its owner’s unrelated tax offense from 2009, for which he’s already served his time. In 2022, IJ also represented Ifrah and another woman as they sought justice after a corrupt Minnesota police officer wove a web of lies to frame them for crimes they never committed.