Criminal Background Checks Off-Limits To Employers In New ‘Ban The Box’ Law

Criminal background checks have been taken off the table for employers looking at qualified job candidates in the San Francisco suburb of Richmond, according to The Wall Street Journal.

City council members from the town of close to 100,000 decided by vote of 6-1 to “ban-the-box,” or remove the common check box from job applications that inquires whether an applicant has a criminal record.

Opponents of the law believe that the move, which mimics decisions from 51 other municipalities throughout the US, will put businesses, employees, and customers at risk, but ex-inmate Andres Abarra of Richmond sees that as a misconception.

In comments reported by Fox News, Abarra said, “Once we pay our debt, I think the playing field should be fair.”

Abarra was released from San Quentin Prison in 2006 following a 16-month stint for the selling of heroin. Now 60 and collaborator with an advocacy group called Safe Return, Abarra states that he was victimized by criminal background checks once he paid his debt to society.

About a month after landing a job at a warehouse fresh out of prison, Abarra claimed, he was let go following a temp agency background check. Abarra said they “let me go on the spot.”

Kelly Knott, senior director for government relations of the National Retail Federation (NRF), told Fox, “We have a responsibility to protect our customers, protect other employees and then the company itself.”

NRF hasn’t taken an official stance on “ban the box” laws, but did caution the federal government on limiting how employers can use background checks.

They may be talking to a wall, however, as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has already gone after BMW and Dollar General for allegedly using criminal background inquiries to unfairly screen applicants.

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It’s not known what the law might mean for ex-inmates, who have been fired in the past once a company found out about their criminal histories. It could potentially pose a problem for hospitals as well, opponents believe.

Do you believe that ban the box laws hinder employers looking to hire new candidates, or do criminal background checks present an unfair disadvantage for ex-inmates, who have paid their debt to society?

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