Searching for a new job can be an exhausting, stressful experience. For those with criminal convictions it adds another layer of difficulty to the process.
The D.C. City Council’s recent decision to “ban the box” is a positive step forward in helping returning citizens re-enter the workforce. The bill is called the Fair Criminal Records Screening Act of 2014 and would remove from any employment application the check box asking if an applicant has ever been convicted of a crime. An employer is still free to conduct a criminal background check on any potential employee once they have made a provisional offer of employment.
Ban the box will allow thousands of returning citizens that are trying to regain productive status in DC a chance. They would not automatically be eliminated based on a simple check mark on an application. Returning citizens would have an opportunity to advance to the interview stage of the process where they could then tell their story; demonstrating to a prospective employer that they have learned from their past and are determined to change their lives . Of course, many employers could still choose to eliminate the candidate based on his/her convictions but at the very least the candidate would be given a chance to compete.
This does not guarantee anyone a job. It does not give an unfair advantage to anyone in their search. What it will do is allow those individuals who have made a mistake – and paid for it – an opportunity to return to the workforce. This benefits us all. Too often, returning citizens are unable to find regular, sustainable employment opportunities and eventually become dependent on social services or return to a life of crime.
We recognize this is potentially controversial because it places a new level of burden on employers. Specifically, the cost of rigorous background checks. However, it also allows for real success stories. Yes, mistakes will be made but if an employer does its due diligence those mistakes can be greatly reduced. In the end an employer could unearth that “diamond in the rough”.
What is your opinion of ban the box? Please add your comments below.
*As of this writing, the measure is awaiting Mayor Vincent Gray’s signature for it to become law.