Last week, Ken Adams was kind enough to provide us with a great guest post on using the clause “moral turpitude” in employment contracts.  If you haven’t read it yet, take a minute to do so.

I agree with Ken that the phrase “moral turpitude” has some issues and should be used sparingly in employment contracts.

But what is good in theory may not work as well in practice.

Take a company that has used such a phrase in their contracts for years.  It now wants to abandon that phrase for all contracts going forward; all very well and good but how will that change affect interpretations of existing contracts?  And if it has dozens of contracts, how does it keep track of the changes?

Moreover, while the clause may be vague, the company may not have had any disputes about the scope of the clause before. Why rock the boat?

Or take an executive who is the recipient of a company’s version of a contract that has the clause in there. Is the executive going to go to battle over a phrase that will likely never come into play?

Thus as a result, companies and executives do not have a significant incentive to remove that clause from the contract. A search of publicly-available executive contracts shows plenty of examples of that phrase still being used repeatedly.

What is an employer to do? Employment agreements need not be static creatures.  Indeed, the best contracts are the result of years of revising to improve upon language when issues develop.   And when your existing contracts are up for renewal, use it as a time to clean up language that could use some additional clarity.  The use of “moral turpitude” is not so risky as to merit wholesale revisions but if you are starting from scratch, use it as an opportunity to find language that is simpler and easier to interpret.

There is no simple path to contract drafting. But by paying attention to the words that you use, there’s nothing that prevents you from simplifying your contracts.

 

At a Sentencing Commssion hearing last week, former state lawmaker Ernie Newton — who was convicted in 2006 on corruption charges — urged commission members to address hiring discrimination against ex-felons, reports CT News Junkie.  There is no indication yet that they will do so, but his comments raised some eyebrows in the press.

Newton’s comments aren’t the first time, though, that the issue of hiring discrimination against felons has surfaced as a legislative proposal.  Back in 2010, the legislature overrode Governor Rell’s veto of a bill that restricts the use of background checks for state job applicants. 

Despite that, private employers are still free to make hiring decisions based on a criminal conviction. 

The topic is not going away any time soon.  In April, the EEOC released new guidance that suggested that employers use arrest and criminal records in their decision-making process with care.  The agency suggested that under some circumstances, there may a violation of Title VII if used improperly. 

With the state budget again dominating discussions, it is unclear yet whether the General Assembly has any desire to take up legislation on this topic any time soon.  The “long’ year begins on January 9, 2013 and runs to June 5, 2013.