Group wants to remove criminal background question from job applications

SACRAMENTO - When you apply for a job, you have likely seen the question on the application that asks whether you have ever been convicted of a crime. The "Ban The Box" group wants lawmakers across the country to force employers to remove that question, and give applicants with a criminal background a fair chance.

The movement has been effective to date. In more than 60 cities and 12 states, it is now illegal to ask job applicants about their criminal background. Some of those new laws only apply to state workers and public service employees, but there are some that have extended it to private employers.

Organizers of "Ban The Box" say according to recent U.S. census figures, roughly 70 million adults in the U.S. have a criminal record. One lobbyist for the group said they believe in second chances, and that punishing someone for life is not working and not helping the economy.

Four states have passed laws that forced private employers to get rid of the conviction-history question from job applications. They include Hawaii, Massachusetts, Minnesota, and Rhode Island. But unemployed convicts are hoping it will spread further.

Not all employers are on board with this movement. Some will tell you that the question about criminal history is necessary, and getting rid of it adds expenses, increases liability, and delays them from filling open slots.

California is one of eight states that have removed the question from applications for public or state jobs. There is a bill currently sitting on the governor's desk requiring private employers do the same.


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