‘Ban the Box’ Bill Advances over Opposition from Businesses

Yvonne Wenger, Baltimore Sun, April 7, 2014

Supporters of a proposed law to help more ex-convicts land jobs in Baltimore scored a victory Monday when they fended off efforts by the business community to block the measure indefinitely.

The protracted debate over the so-called “Ban the Box” legislation–which would remove the box ex-offenders must check on job applications–underscores a sharp divide among city leaders over how to help those with criminal records become gainfully employed.

The business community had sought to replace the requirement with voluntary measures, including a pledge to hire a certain number of ex-offenders each year, said Councilman Nick J. Mosby, the lead sponsor of the legislation. And some City Council members warned against putting too many restrictions on the private sector.

But the council agreed to move the legislation to a final vote after amending it to exempt positions for which a criminal conviction would disqualify a job candidate. {snip}

The issue has had resonance in Baltimore, with its sizable population of residents with a criminal record and relatively high unemployment.

Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young said city leaders have spent enough time talking about the problem, and need to take action. Young said he is especially concerned about the hardships faced by African-American men with criminal records.

“I am tired of people who look like me continuing to be discriminated against,” said Young, who is black. “They paid their dues by serving their time. When is enough enough?


The measure would forbid an employer from searching a job candidate’s criminal history until after a conditional job offer has been extended. The legislation would expand upon a similar restriction that prevents city agencies from running background checks on candidates for some government jobs.

About 10 states and 60 municipalities across the country have enacted “Ban the Box” measures that apply to a mix of government employers and private businesses.


Mosby worked behind the scenes on a possible compromise with the Greater Baltimore Committee, a group of prominent business and civic leaders who oppose the legislation, while fighting efforts to send the bill back to committee for further debate.

Mosby said he also talked with the business community about creating scholarships for juvenile offenders and funding job training for juveniles and adults with criminal histories.

But by Monday, he said, they couldn’t come to an agreement, and he decided to push the legislation forward.


But Donald C. Fry, president of the Greater Baltimore Committee, said that the bill would add another burden on city businesses and that “Ban the Box” measures are not a proven course of action to addressing recidivism.

At a minimum, Fry said, the business group wants the council to remove from the bill proposed criminal sanctions companies would face if they violate the law and to allow employers to ask about past transgressions at a job interview rather than waiting until a conditional offer has been made.

“That is much too late in the process,” Fry said. “It takes time and money for any hiring process, and to have to start all over again and lose other quality candidates is detrimental.”


Council members could still move to amend the bill or kill it at the next council meeting.


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