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Nevada Legal Services and Equal Justice Works team up to remove legal barriers to employment

Special to NNBW
info@nnbw.biz
A criminal record can be a major barrier to employment. To remedy this situation, Nevada Legal Services, Inc., and Equal Justice Works have partnered to provide Northern Nevadans facing barriers to employment with free legal services.It is estimated that 65 million Americans now have a criminal record. Many of the 11 million unemployed Americans will not even be considered for scarce jobs due to minor offenses, such as shoplifting candy, underage drinking, and possessing small amounts of marijuana. The impact of even a minor criminal record on economic opportunity can be significant. The presence of a criminal record, even just an arrest record, has been shown to reduce earnings as much as 26%, whereas a conviction record can reduce earnings as much as 40%. Individuals who report the existence of a criminal record on a job application are 50% less likely to be called for an interview or offered a job.

Additionally, more and more employers — 92% according to a 2010 Society of Human Resource Management survey — check criminal backgrounds, as the information is now readily accessible in national databases. Compounding the problem, criminal background databases may contain incorrect information about an applicant, and credit background checks may inaccurately report criminal history. Yet, unemployed people who need a lawyer’s services to remove these legal barriers to employment often cannot afford a lawyer.

Recognizing the unmet legal needs of job seekers with criminal records, the Employment Opportunity Legal Corps (EOLC) initiative was created to put lawyers and law students into legal aid agencies around the

country to help clients remove legal barriers to employment. Here in Northern Nevada, Equal Justice Works has partnered with Nevada Legal Services, Inc. since 2014 to provide free legal services to individuals facing legal barriers. Recently, a new Work Opportunity Legal Corps Fellow, Rita Greggio, has taken over responsibility for the project in the Reno office.

In Nevada, sealing a criminal record allows job seekers to treat the sealed arrest or conviction as though it never happened. The Work Opportunity Legal Corps Fellow can petition the courts to seal criminal records on behalf of individuals with arrests or convictions. She also can help job seekers to correct inaccuracies in their credit and background checks that may be preventing them from getting a job. All of these legal services are provided completely free of charge and can have a significant, positive impact on an individual’s career. While there are never guarantees with regard to legal results, research by one legal aid agency has found that expunging or sealing criminal records and removing other legal barriers to employment increased a person’s earnings by 20% and that 73% of people who received help secured a job within four months.

To find out if someone qualifies for these feel legal services in Northern Nevada, contact Rita Greggio at Nevada Legal Services, Inc., by calling (775) 284-3491, or visiting their website at http://www.nevalawhelp.org. Nevada Legal Services has offices throughout Northern Nevada, including Reno, Carson City, Yerington, and Elko.