CHRIA • Wrongful Termination

Negron v. School Dist. of Philadelphia, PICS Case No. 13-2425 (E.D. Pa. Jan. 14, 2014) Yohn, J. (8 pages).

The court denied the school district’s motion to dismiss a special education teacher’s claim that he had been wrongfully terminated based on information in his criminal record.

In 2009, Negron signed a Temporary Professional Employee Notification securing a position as a non-tenured special education teacher with the Philadelphia School District. In 1999, Negron had been convicted of two unspecified charges for which he successfully completed an Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition Program. When Negron completed his application for the school district position, he indicated that he did not have any prior convictions.

The school district terminated Negron’s employment in January, 2011, based on misrepresentation of his criminal history in his application for employment. Negron asserted that the school district’s termination on this basis was false and pretextual.

Negron filed a complaint alleging a violation of the Pennsylvania Constitution and a violation of Pennsylvania’s Criminal History Record Information Act (“CHRIA”).

In an earlier motion to dismiss in this case, the school district had argued that CHRIA applied only to “hiring decisions.” Negron contended that the intent of the legislature and the “broad principle” of CHRIA was to prohibit employers from using an employee’s criminal record with respect to both hiring and firing decisions. The court in this case previously held that CHRIA applied only to hiring decisions and had granted the school district’s prior motion to dismiss, but allowed Negron leave to file an amended complaint, which he did. In his amended complaint, Negron submitted a “probationary employee theory,” alleging that he was hired subject to a pending background check. The school district then filed a motion to dismiss the amended complaint.

In its second motion to dismiss, the school district moved against both Negron’s constitutional and CHRIA claims. Because the constitutional claim in the amended complaint was identical to the one in the original complaint and the school district did not move against the constitutional claim in its earlier motion, it was barred from moving to dismiss it in the later motion, pursuant to Rule 12(g)(2).

Under CHRIA, an employer may use an applicant’s criminal record for the purpose of deciding whether to hire the applicant and only to the extent to which it relates to the applicant’s suitability for the position for which he has applied. Because Negron now alleged that he was hired subject to the results of a pending background check, the court held this could be construed as a hiring decision, bringing it within the scope of CHRIA. The court denied the school district’s motion to dismiss the CHRIA claim.