Richmond, Virginia, became the latest locality to join a rising tide of states and cities that have adopted new legal measures to prevent employers from asking job applicants if they have ever committed a crime. Yet the decision might come at an awkward time; as Richmond declared it banned the box, a city official said its background check system needed a serious overhaul.
Unanimous vote ushers in resolution
Recently, the Richmond City Council passed a resolution that would ban the box on applications for city jobs without any votes opposing the measure. Ban-the-box legislation is called so because it eliminate a box on applications for employment that require prospective employees to check it to indicate they had a criminal record.
According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, the resolution was initially advocated by Councilwoman Michelle Mosby, who introduced an ordinance prohibiting questions of criminal history on city applications. The exception to the regulation would be when a pre-existing state, federal or city law requires the question be asked to determine if an applicant has a conviction for an offense that would disqualify him or her from being considered.
The Times-Dispatch reported the ban-the-box ordinance would not apply to safety-sensitive positions like that of police officer, firefighter, animal control and positions requiring workers interact with children regularly.
"I have found myself resorting back to my old ways at times because I felt it was hopeless. … I've never gotten a job when I've checked the box," Kevin Hunter, 46, who was convicted of a felony when he was 18, told the newspaper.
City screening infrastructure lacking
The resolution does not prohibit employers from conducting background checks on job applicants during the interview process. However, firms in the area may want to look for other options to conduct screenings because of the insufficient background check process of Richmond.
Just days after banning the box, Lorraine Adeeb, interim human resources director for Richmond, told the council the city's background check system is flawed and operates according to different standards depending on which department is doing the screening.
In order to rectify the situation, Adeeb proposed screenings include both state and national data and be conducted for volunteers and all finalists in safety-sensitive jobs.
Compliance is essential to business operations, and as more places ban the box, more employers will have to abide by new regulations. In order to maintain legality in background check matters, firms should work with an accomplished HR service provider.
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