Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes ofwebsite accessibilityLawyer explains why Vera House legally can't say it won't hire a sex offender again | WSTM
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Lawyer explains why Vera House legally can't say it won't hire a sex offender again

The Vera House building located on the 700 block of James Street in Syracuse (Photo: CNYCentral)
The Vera House building located on the 700 block of James Street in Syracuse (Photo: CNYCentral)
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Vera House has announced it will review its hiring practices following criticism surrounding the agency knowingly hiring Marcus Jackson, a level two sex offender.

RELATED | Vera House: 'We apologize' for hiring sex offender, background check failed

Vera House, a non-profit that provides services and support for survivors of sexual or domestic violence, hired Marcus Jackson in 2020 as a victim advocate, a position that put him in close contact with abuse victims.

Vera House previously vowed not to hire a sex offender on its staff again, a policy change the non-profit has since had to walk back due to legal reasons.

In a statement released by Co-Executive Directors Randy Bregman and Angela Douglas and the Vera House Board of Directors on Thursday, Vera House said:

As we came to understand the impact on victims and survivors of having hired a sex offender, we initially decided that we would commit to never hire someone with a sex offense conviction again. Then we heard from HR professionals and attorneys that a blanket ban on hiring someone with a sex offense conviction was not legal, which resulted in our current policy that individuals with sex offenses will not work in positions that have direct contact with the people we serve. We consider all applicants, but all applicants for consideration are not hired. Individuals are hired based on our case-by-case review of each applicant.

RELATED | Vera House clarifies policy, says they would hire sex offenders for certain jobs

"Usually you can't come out and say 'we're never going to hire a sex offender,' however, in this situation, they may be able to get through it because I believe everyone working there probably has close contact with children in the facility. Again they're just treading in murky waters right now, which could pose some long term issues for them," said Ryan McCall, an associate attorney at Tully Rinckey.

The New York State Office of Victim Services is investigating a complaint that Marcus Jackson had contact with a minor during his time at Vera House, despite his sex offender status stemming from a conviction in Florida with underage victims.

RELATED | Whistleblower says former Vera House employee, sex offender had access to minors

"With this situation, we're not really sure what this person's restrictions were as to what distance they needed to keep from any sort of child care facility. Something of that nature which I have seen been put in place," McCall said.

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Vera House addressed the complaint about Jackson's access to minors in its statement as well:

On August 15, 2022, as part of our own internal review, Vera House leadership also discovered Mr. Jackson may have broken the terms of his employment and had in-person contact at a local hospital with a 17-year-old, their mother, and nurse in December of 2021. This was a violation of Vera House policy and has been reported to the NYS Office of Victim Services on August 17, 2022.
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