Should Employers Be Allowed to Ask About Criminal History?
Should employers be allowed to ask about criminal history?
What’s the story?
- Private employers in Waterloo, Iowa, can no longer ask applicants about their criminal history.
- The ordinance, which passed by a 4 to 2 vote, is commonly referred to as “ban the box” because of the checkbox on job applications asking if the would-be employee has any prior felony convictions.
- Exceptions include, schools, state, and government jobs.
- According to the NAACP, a criminal record can reduce the likelihood of an applicant getting a callback or job offer by almost 50%.
What are people saying?
- Supporters said the measure gives job seekers an opportunity to become a contributing member of the community, instead of being rejected out of hand when looking for employment.
- “All of us can grow and improve regardless of our background and regardless of our circumstance,” a member of public, who declined to give their name, told KWWL
- Presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) also applauded the move, writing on Facebook:
“Congratulations to the city of Waterloo, which yesterday became the first Iowa community to ‘ban the box’ on job application forms so that formerly incarcerated people get a fair chance with employers. I’m proud to support ban the box initiatives around the country, and when we are in the White House we will ban employers nationwide from discriminated based on past convictions.”
- Council members that opposed the measure said that while they supported removing the question from job applications, the question shouldn’t be off-limits during the interview process.
- “I don’t want us to set any employer up for a lawsuit,” Councilwoman Margaret Klein had said while debating the measure in August. “Because if in the end they do not feel in their heart of hearts that this person has recovered from the problems of their past, then they shouldn’t have to hire them even if that’s the only reason.”
- Klein added:
“If it was simply a matter of removing the box from the form, I would support that…I, for one, do not want any employer pressured to hire someone that they’re not comfortable hiring.”
- Some studies show that ban the box laws may have a negative impact for potential applicants instead of a positive one. When employers aren’t allowed to ask about criminal history, they may be more likely to assume certain applicants (notably black and Hispanic men) have a criminal history, and deny qualified applicants that actually have no criminal history.
What do you think?
Do you think that “ban the box” laws help or hurt potential job applicants? Does your state or city have ban the box laws? You can check here. Contact your representatives, and share your opinions below.
(Photo Credit: iStock / KLH49)
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