Council Passes ‘Ban the Box’ Legislation

Yvonne Wenger and Luke Broadwater, Baltimore Sun, April 28, 2014

Controversial legislation intended to help ex-convicts find jobs is headed to Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake for her expected signature after the City Council gave the measure final approval Monday.

The “Ban the Box” bill will force Baltimore employers to wait to ask about a job candidate’s criminal history until a conditional offer has been extended. The bill passed despite an intense lobbying effort from business leaders, who said they should have the right to vet prospective employees early in the process.

The legislation requires private employers with 10 or more workers to remove from job applications a box ex-offenders must check stating they have a criminal record. Positions for which a criminal history would bar a candidate are exempt. For instance, a child care center could inquire about sexual abuse convictions, officials said.

In a statement after the Council’s 10-4 vote Monday night, Rawlings-Blake called the legislation “a critical component to not only helping to reduce unemployment, but also improving public safety by addressing recidivism.”

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The influential Greater Baltimore Committee–a network of business and civil leaders–rallied against the bill, urging the council to allow employers to ask about a job candidate’s criminal history during an interview, if not earlier. The group said the measure could discourage businesses from hiring in the city.

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So far, about 10 states and 60 local governments have enacted laws that restrict when some employers can ask a job candidate about previous convictions. Both Maryland and Baltimore already restrict when certain government agencies can ask job candidates about old convictions.

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