WMATA: Felons push for second chance at jobs with Metro

(WJLA) - If you want to handle money for Metro, expect a credit check.

If you want to be a driver in any job dealing with the public, expect not only a check of your driving record, but your overall record as well.

Metro General Manager Richard Sarles says he looks at individual cases, but overall supports strict hiring standards – noting that school children and other vulnerable riders take Metro transit.

“We are most concerned about portions of the population who are the most vulnerable -- like the folks who use our Access Ride, the folks who are in wheelchairs and have various disabilities -- because they are alone with the driver," he explains.

But some say that Metro’s standards are simply too high, and that minor misdemeanors shouldn’t prevent someone from become a Metro cleaner or plumber.

"I do truly truly believe that once you've committed the crime and once you've been convicted and you do the time, you do deserve to get your life together and move on," says Jackie Jeter with Amalgamated Transit Unio Local 689.

At Wednesday’s hearing, many who want a second chance at a job sat silently in support as D.C. Councilwoman Muriel Bowser – who chairs the economic development – heard witnesses on her bill to revise the standards.

“We're not going to support anything that would hurt riders, that's for sure," Bowser says. "But I think we all benefit when more people in our region are working."

Bowser says she supports keeping tough sanctions, banning sex or violent crime offenders from ever working for Metro. But she does believe that all D.C. taxpayers would benefit from job opportunities that could help those with minor offenses move off public assistance and become a contributing taxpayer.

Advocates of loosening the restrictions note that the federal government has long tried to encourage hiring. The Work Opportunity Tax Credit gives employers a tax credit for hiring felons within one year of being released from prison.