CITIZEN VOICES® Criminal history on job applications?
Mar 06, 2019
This legislative session, your representatives are considering HB 253, which would keep employers from asking applicants about their criminal history on job applications before sitting down for an interview with them.
The person hiring could ask the applicant about their criminal history during the employment interview, just not on the written application.
The bill makes a few specific exceptions where the new law wouldn’t apply:
Jobs in banking and other financial institutions
Jobs for, or related to, law enforcement agencies
Bonded jobs where the applicant’s criminal conviction would prevent them from getting the bond
Jobs in any government agency which requires use of the applicant's criminal background
Jobs that require applicants with criminal convictions be automatically disqualified according to state law
Jobs with an employer who is contractually prohibited from employing anyone with a criminal record.
Legislation in other states
Eleven states – including Massachusetts and Vermont – have passed similar so-called “ban-the-box" laws.
A ban-the-box bill was also introduced on the federal level in 2012 but it was tabled without a vote being taken.
Pros and cons
Proponents of such legislation argue it levels the playing field for those with criminal records. They argue that once a person has served their time and repaid their debt to society, they should be guaranteed a fair chance to get back into the workforce and reintegrate as contributing members of society. HB 253 would not prohibit employers from considering prior criminal convictions; it would only require employers give applicants the chance to explain any criminal history.
Opponents feel businesses have the right to immediately screen out those with criminal histories on job applications. Since HB 253 still leaves room for employers to deny a job to someone with a criminal history, the bill would do little more than create awkward situations during in-person interviews.
Other opponents of HB 253 suggest that the state could take an intermediate approach by requiring job applications to include space for a personal statement or explanation of any criminal conviction.