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Daily Court Reporter - News Bill would nix felony conviction queries on job applications


Bill would nix felony conviction queries on job applications

KEITH ARNOLD, Daily Reporter Staff Writer

A Senate Democrat wants to make it unlawful for private employers to know up front whether a prospective hire has been convicted of or pleaded guilty to a felony offense.

Sen. Sandra Williams of Cleveland says Senate Bill 49 will bring private hiring practices in line with the state's practice for public employment.

She reminded fellow senators seated on the Transportation, Commerce and Workforce Committee that the 131st General Assembly passed House Bill 56, which was enacted to prohibit the state of Ohio from asking about an applicant's arrest or conviction record during the beginning stages of hiring, for those seeking employment with the state.

"This bill will allow for applicants to present themselves and their qualifications as a whole, rather than having their prior conviction end their hope for employment the moment they submit their application," Williams said during sponsor testimony last week.

SB 49, however, would not prohibit an employer from completing a criminal records check or from asking an applicant about prior arrests or convictions during the interview.

"Put simply, this legislation removes the first barrier to employment for convicted felons and those that wish to become contributing members of society," the lawmaker said. "Time and again statistics show that recidivism rates are correlated to limitations in finding employment following release."

Williams cited findings by the National Institute of Justice, its parent organization the U.S. Department of Justice and the Pew Center.

"One study shows that employment was the single most influencing factor on decreasing recidivism, and following two years after release nearly twice as many employed people with records avoided re-incarceration than those that were unemployed," Williams detailed, noting that 75 percent of ex-offenders were jobless up to a year after release. "... Employers were more likely to hire an ex-offender applicant following a face-to-face meeting and were less likely to report the applicant's conviction as the primary reason for not hiring following an interaction.

"SB 49 will increase these interactions and potentially reduce Ohio's rate of recidivism, currently at 27.5 percent, according to the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections 2015 Annual Report."

Specifically, the bill would prohibit a private employer from including on any employment application form any question concerning whether the applicant has been convicted of or pleaded guilty to a felony.

Ohio Legislative Service Commission analysis of the bill found that the measure would apply to convictions in Ohio and other jurisdictions.

"The bill does not include a penalty for violating this prohibition," commission analyst Kelly Bomba wrote. "The bill specifies that nothing in the bill may be construed to prohibit an employer from completing a criminal records check as part of any application process if otherwise permitted by law."

Williams said incarceration negatively impacts former inmates' upward mobility and economic prospects and depresses the total earnings of white males by 2 percent, of Hispanic males by 6 percent, and of black males by 9 percent.

"This depression of economic prospects does not end with former inmates, but extends to their families," she said.

SB 49 will enable former inmates to become contributing members of society, which will not only benefit the individual, and his or her family but communities and society as a whole."

Additionally, the bill would bring the Buckeye State in line with eight other states and more than 100 American cities that extend the protection beyond just government applications.

Five fellow senators have cosponsored the bill, which was introduced in February.

A second hearing before committee members had not been scheduled as of time of publication.

Date Published: December 6, 2017


Copyright © 2017 The Daily Reporter - All Rights Reserved


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