Again With the Hair Cuttery

We joke about them all the time, but here's the very serious case of Kelly D. Brown:

Hair Cuttery, a division of the Vienna, Va.-based Ratner Companies, has a blanket policy of not hiring ex-offenders, especially those with felony convictions. But despite that policy, Brown, who was convicted of second-degree attempted murder and served six years of an eight-year sentence, was hired last March. 

At the time of her hiring, Brown, 32, was upfront about the circumstances surrounding her conviction with both the salon manager and a company recruiter. She worked for the salon in Baltimore for seven months and was dismissed only after she asked permission to be photographed for a profile I wrote for The Washington Post. It was the last part in a series I began earlier this year in which I looked at the difficulties ex-offenders have managing their personal finances. 

In a statement last week about the firing, a spokesperson for Ratner said: "Kelly Brown did indicate on her application that she had been convicted of a crime; and yes, she explained her circumstances to the salon leader. Unfortunately for all involved, this information was not communicated to our Human Resources department; had it been, the application would have been denied. 

"Our company does not begrudge any person's attempt to make a positive transition in his or her life, but we have an obligation to ensure the safety and well-being of our stylists and our clients."

I think private companies are well within their rights to consider someone's criminal record, as a factor, when making hiring decisions. Indeed, I think it's quite prudent. Moreover, private companies exist to make money, not to help ex-offenders transition back into society. Still a blanket, no exceptions, policy strikes me as harsh. It strikes as doubly harsh when the policy is enforced retroactively.