Christal Fields thought she had finally shaken the decades-old conviction that had complicated much of her life. When she was banned from working in childcare two years ago, it was plain that wasn't the case.
Fields, now 52, says her constitutional rights were violated when the Department of Early Learning revoked her work license due to a 28 year-old attempted theft conviction. She's now suing for her right to appeal the decision in the state Supreme Court.
In doing so, Fields represents a number of applicants who are denied licenses each year. Data from the department shows that a third of rejected applicants failed the background test due to a prior theft conviction.
Fields was homeless and struggling with addiction at the time of her conviction. She's since turned her life around and had worked in childcare for three years before losing her license.
Frank Ordway, DEL assistant director, said removing employment barriers is important, but any changes would have to respect child safety over someone's right to work.
The National Employment Law Project, which does not represent Fields, said in court documents that these barriers disproportionately affect the poor and people of color.
The court has ruled in favor of resorative justice in the past, such as with the case of Tarra Simmons, a woman who was denied the state bar exam because of a history of crime.
Their justification: One's past does not dictate one's future. Whether that applies to the current case remains to be seen. The court is expected to release a decision in the coming months.