Checking Criminal Records: Unfair?

The idea of having your potential employer look at your personal history is a bit freaky. A lot of us go to extensive lengths to ensure our social networking history is private or work-friendly. That's in our power and even though the fun, "quirky", and drunk video of you that your friend so kindly shared on Facebook a few years ago may never be completely erased, you know that's a little harder to find and a little less worrying.

But, having your potential employer look at your criminal history? Well, the majority of people would probably never have to worry about that. It's just a problem for those outlaws, those crazy bastards...


But what if they aren't so crazy? They were just stupid and careless at one point in their lives. They've paid their fines, done their time, and learned from the mistakes. They try to become a part of the general society again as law abiding citizens. But uh oh, their potential employers refuse to hire them based on their criminal history that has nothing to do with the job.

Well, is it unfair? Or do we just move on with a "eh, shit happens" attitude because they shouldn't have committed a crime in the first place?

Let's take the case of Mr. CG as described in the article by James Farrell:
A recent decision by the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has demonstrated the need for stronger laws to protect people who are trying to move on with their lives.
The case concerned “Mr CG”, who had been convicted for a middle-range drink driving offence in 2001 and a low-range drink driving offence in 2008. However, when Mr CG applied for a position as a Market Analyst with Railcorp in 2009 he was advised he was not offered the position on the basis of his criminal record.
This was despite the fact Mr CG had worked at Railcorp for eight years, met all the selection criteria and was the selection panel’s preferred candidate.
The commission found that Mr CG’s criminal record in this case was irrelevant and that RailCorp had discriminated against him. It also recommended RailCorp pay $7,500 in compensation. So far, RailCorp has refused to pay.
Was Mr. CG discriminated against? Or was Railcorp right in their decision to refuse to hire an ex-criminal?

I think topics like this create interesting discussions as they sometimes draw on the opinions that we didn't even know we had, regarding society, morality, and crime. For example, if we allow ex-criminals to freely move on with their lives because they have paid for their crimes, are we essentially arguing that a crime can be paid off with punishment? That an act has an equal punishment that balances out any consequence it may have caused?

In any case, reading Farrell's article gave me something to think about, and I'm still sitting on the fence for this one. I'm interested in hearing what other people think, so please share your opinions in the comments or send me a message!