(PIX11) – In August 1972, a vibrant, Vice Presidential candidate named Thomas Eagleton — the U.S. Senator from Missouri — left the Democratic ticket after 18 days. Eagleton was pressured to leave, by powerful party leaders and aides to presidential candidate George McGovern after acknowledging he’d been hospitalized three times for treatment of depression — twice being administered electro-shock therapy.
Just over forty years later, with the Internet playing a huge role in background checks, PIX11 has been reporting on the case of Yasmin Rahman of Queens. She, like Eagleton, has a psychiatric history and it’s kept her from getting the kind of job she feels qualified for. Rahman said she has a degree in psychology from Pace University and would like to work as a counselor or caseworker in a hospital or non-profit corporation. But she told PIX she’s repeatedly been contacted by supervisors and human resources administrators about a suicide attempt she made when she was just 14, by jumping in front of an R train.
Rahman has appealed to the NYPD to have her records sealed, from the incident on June 3, 2001, but Bob Viteretti of Kroll Advisory Solutions said that’s easier said than accomplished.
“You can get records sealed, but it’s not going to get them removed from people’s memories,” Viteretti said. “It’s not going to remove them from old media reports, not going to remove them from the Internet, so in that sense, you’re not going to escape your background.”
Viteretti told us in some states, private investigators get access to police records from local departments, but that’s not allowed in New York. But he points out experts in background checks often rely on specialists with access to collections of information.
A 2012 survey indicated that 69% of employers do criminal background checks. A landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision in 1975 said the checks were allowed to screen job candidates, if employers follow certain guidelines. They are supposed to evaluate the nature of the criminal act, its relation to the potential job, and how much time has passed since the crime was committed.
In Rahman’s case, the debate concerns her psychiatric history. Rahman said she’s made huge strides in the last dozen years, completing her college education and graduating college.
A 29-year-old New York writer, Josh Riverdal — who said he’s recovered from his own bout with depression, after considering suicide — told PIX11 someone like Rahman could have better empathy for her clients. “What I’d like to tell the hospitals, the non-profits, is that we’re normal people,” Riverdal said. “We’re okay. We went through a moment of crisis. We’re fine. You wouldn’t discriminate against someone with kidney disease or heart disease.”