THE BLOG
02/19/2013 04:03 pm ET | Updated Apr 21, 2013

Department of Labor: Criminals Are a Protected Class in America's Workforce

Equal opportunity has new meaning in America's workforce. To prevent discrimination, equal opportunity laws have been introduced in an attempt to protect specific classes of people no matter their age, sex, race, or religion. As of Jan. 29, a new category of federal anti-discrimination law has been put into effect.

The Department of Labor's (DOL) Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) introduced Directive 306 which addresses the nondiscrimination obligations of federal contractors with respect to the criminal history of applicants and employees. This means, criminals are now considered a protected class.

To justify this new directive, the Department of Labor sources nineteen government and peer-reviewed documents, including Department of Justice criminal statistics. One key document cited through the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission indicates that approximately one in three Americans have a criminal history.

Does the United States have a criminal epidemic on their hands?

Approximately 40,000 state laws were put into effect in the year 2012 alone. Remember, these were state laws and not federal laws. Federally however, how many laws have been introduced into the United States following 9/11? Think about transportation laws alone and the mind will churn with amazement.

Oftentimes we think of the word "criminal" through culturally induced perception. Our culture immediately makes individuals believe "criminals" are evil, ruthless, violent persons when in all fairness the majority of criminals aren't violent, ruthless, or evil.

Criminology, the study of nature, extent, causes, and control of criminal behavior, is often compounded with the study of control. How can a population be controlled? One of the ways is through the incorporation of law. Welcome to Social Control Theory.

Travis Hirschi, the originator of Social Control Theory, assumed that people will commit crimes unless some form of variable is introduced to control criminal behavior. The variables he mentions could also include today's laws. Maybe the United States doesn't have a criminal epidemic after all. Maybe we have a social control epidemic.

Hirschi failed in his theory however, considering he never took into account corruption among those who create and implement rules, regulations, and laws. More and more rules and laws are being put into effect inside the United States yet many citizens believe our elected officials creating these rules violate the very things they introduce into law.

"Laws are meant for the serfs, not the kings."

With the thousands of laws introduced every year inside the United States, one must wonder how every citizen hasn't become an individual with some type of criminal record. Really, some laws are truly stupid but that is beside the point.

With the new Department of Labor Directive 306 in full effect, the American workforce will face unprecedented issues. How will private business owners decipher applicants who pose physical threats to their workforce based off criminal pasts? How many new discrimination lawsuits will be filed by real criminals simply to get a quick buck? Can this new law actually hinder private business and eventually weaken the U.S. economy even further?

Almost every law introduced comes with serious controversy. DOL Directive 306 is no different.

It's critical to ask a series of questions before engaging healthy debate about the new protected class consisting of criminals. Why are one out of three citizens in the United States identified as having a criminal record? Does our government simply have too much control over our society making many citizens "criminals?" And, has our culturally induced perception made us believe a criminal is one thing when in reality a criminal in America may oftentimes be something else?

No matter the debates that will likely unfold with this new law protecting criminals, private business owners working closely with the federal government have a lot to consider. The law is now in full effect and criminals have been granted a green light of protection by Uncle Sam. Equal opportunity in America now includes protecting individuals who made poor choices.

Kerry Patton, a combat disabled veteran, is author of Contracted: America's Secret Warriors.